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Amazon Enlarges the Kindle, And Maybe Its Prospects Too

Amazon introduced the latest version of its Kindle electronic book reader today. The new Kindle DX features a 9.7-in. screen, not much smaller than a regulation 8.5-by-11-in. sheet of paper. It will sell for $489, starting sometime this summer.

The DX's display, like an iPhone's screen, automatically changes its orientation from tall portrait mode to wide landscape mode if you hold the device sideways. But it still only displays shades of gray, not color -- and just 16 of those, like the Kindle 2 Amazon shipped in February (here's my review of that model). The DX screen's resolution, in terms of pixels per inch (ppi), is a little duller than the Kindle 2's: 150 ppi versus 167 ppi.

According to multiple liveblogs of the Amazon's unveiling event in New York, the demo Kindle DX's screen briefly hiccuped, showing an image in reverse.

Inside that bigger screen, the just-over-1-lb. DX features more memory (3.3 gigabytes of available storage, which Amazon says should accommodate 3,500 titles) and the ability to display PDF documents without prior translation or reformatting.

With the new device will come a couple of new business models. This fall, Amazon will test its use as a textbook reader at five schools -- Arizona State University, Case Western Reserve University, Princeton University, Reed College, and the University of Virginia's Darden School of Business. That makes an enormous amount of sense to me; as I've noted before, the heavy weight and rapid depreciation of textbooks makes them almost the ideal e-book.

Amazon has also signed up three newspapers -- the Boston Globe, the New York Times, and The Washington Post -- to sell discounted Kindle DXes to readers who agree to sign long-term e-paper subscriptions.

(Note: I suppose today's event would've been mighty awkward if the NYT had shuttered the Globe first.)

(Another note: No, I didn't know we were working on any such deal with Amazon. Nobody tells me anything around here!)

But Amazon's press release describes a limit to this Kindle DX deal that looks like a mistake to me:

The New York Times, The Boston Globe, and The Washington Post will offer the Kindle DX at a reduced price to readers who live in areas where home-delivery is not available and who sign up for a long-term subscription to the Kindle edition of the newspapers.

I've heard from many readers who say they would gladly take such a deal -- see, for example, the comments on this blog post. But not all of them live outside the D.C. market.

In the Post's case, only a subset of out-of-town readers will be eligible for a DX discount. The subscription deal will start in "the Baltimore area," said Steve Hills, president and general manager of Washington Post Media. Hills said that "details are being finalized" about such issues as the exact boundaries of this test and the discount provided to these subscribers.

I have to worry that this geographic restriction risks repeating the principal mistake of the movie industry: imposing artificial limits on an electronic market to preserve an existing, but fading business model.

Hills, for his part, suggested seeing this situation as a case of the Post reaching out to readers that it hasn't been able to connect with before. "I'd rather think of it as, We're trying it for some people who are unable to get the home-delivered version of the Post."

We'll have to see how that pans out in practice. It may be that, like the Kindle's unnecessarily strict usage controls on purchased e-books, this restriction is something that many readers don't even notice. Or it may be that the Post and other newspapers will have to rethink this policy after getting enough reader complaints. What do you think about that? If you pay for paper delivery of the Post today, would you rather drop that for Kindle delivery? Would it depend on the discount available on the DX?

By Rob Pegoraro  |  May 6, 2009; 12:23 PM ET
Categories:  Gadgets  
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Comments

I had the first post in the Faster Forward entry you linked to, and my views there still hold.

I live in McLean, and would love to convert from dead tree delivery to electronic. As long as the comics and Toles cartoon are in there. You could make the comics readably large, too, without adding cost.

I travel to Ocean City every weekend in the summer, and Utah twice a year to visit family. An electronic paper would be really convenient for me.

WaPo on Kindle is a win all the way around.

Or I'll just get the Apple tablet/netbook/gaming pad/iPod Touch Xl/whatever it is going to be, cancel the dead tree subscription, and read it all online, for free.

Posted by: wiredog | May 6, 2009 12:34 PM | Report abuse

As a Kindle user and a daily Boston Globe subscriber, I would have ordered a Globe-subsidized one today, but I'm not eligible because I live in the circulation area? Typical newspaper hubris; The execs just don't get the digital age.

This is botched announcement on two levels:
1) Nobody can buy or pre-order the Globe or WaPo or NYT sponsored version -- should have been available today for us gadget freaks to create even more demand.
2) People like me will delay ordering the the straight Amazon version because we know there will be subsidized ones available at some point. I'll have my sister order from New Hampshire or something. Bizarre.

I'm sure we'll read Amazon had boffo sales on Day 1. Could have been a shared win all around with their newspaper partners.

Posted by: intrepid | May 6, 2009 12:45 PM | Report abuse

Another thought: Which unions deliver the papers? Maybe they had an influence on the decision to limit availability to outside the delivery area?

Posted by: wiredog | May 6, 2009 12:46 PM | Report abuse

The concept of the Kindle is a good one and the so-called bargain price and convenience of publications sounds good. The first cost of the Kindle itself seems to defeat any bargain thinking.

Posted by: ronjac761 | May 6, 2009 12:56 PM | Report abuse

The geographic restriction is lame!

Posted by: subwayguy | May 6, 2009 12:59 PM | Report abuse

The textbook side looks good, though I wonder about the lack of color. We live in an age when even scientific journals are publishing quite a bit of color.

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | May 6, 2009 1:15 PM | Report abuse

Seriously, the geographical limitation is such a backwards way of thinking. I live in-market, yet am frequently out of town. I canceled home delivery a long time ago--I got sick and tired of having a stop and restart delivery all of the time. The Post would be able to get money from me (and I bet many more transient Washingtonians) if they allowed locals to participate in the reduced pricing.

Posted by: tj722 | May 6, 2009 1:49 PM | Report abuse

The DX screen didn't flip the image; the feed from the camera to the projector flipped the image, unless Amazon manufactured a product with Kindle written backwards.

The price seems high at first. But consider this: You don't pay any recurring fee. You pay a monthly fee for iPhone and internet access. Phone service with a data plan usually hits $100 per month. Include your phone purchase and you're looking at spending $200 plus the service. So for the year you're spending $1400 bucks.

I think it's a pretty good device and it will do well on the University level.

Posted by: mattdevir | May 6, 2009 1:54 PM | Report abuse

I won't pay to transfer files I OWN from my computer to my Kindle.

That means, I won't be buying a Kindle. Amazon's, Googles, Uncle Wiggly's, or anyone's.

Poor me.

Thanks much. Businessman

Posted by: HLBeckPE | May 6, 2009 2:01 PM | Report abuse

@HLBeckPE
You don't have to pay. The Kindle has a standard USB port. Plugs right in to a computer. Mounts like a flash drive so it's usable on Win, Mac, and Linux. Copy your files right over. It reads several open formats. All of Gutenberg.org is readable on a Kindle.

Posted by: wiredog | May 6, 2009 2:07 PM | Report abuse

The limit you describe in how the newspapers have treated sounds like a classic innovator's dilemma--and we see the same move over and over again, not just in newspapers and film. Established companies always see innovations through the prism of their existing business model--and are tempted to use them to sustain what they already do and just add on/improve. It's awfully hard for them to create a model that will disrupt themselves.

Posted by: michaelhorn1999 | May 6, 2009 2:22 PM | Report abuse

I have lived outside the WaPo home-delivery area for over ten years, and visit the website several times a day. If there were a mechanism to financially support the company through the website, I would do it. With the Kindle DX, I could get this paper every day, pay for it, and read it in a mobile and eco-friendly form! It's too bad that they are restricting this test to Baltimore-area readers (I'm in Colorado).

I also hope that Amazon is developing a color version, especially for textbooks - as a previous poster noted, it will be especially difficult for science and math texts to translate well into the grayscale format.

Posted by: klewis1 | May 6, 2009 2:25 PM | Report abuse

Rob-

Like the first commenter, I've asked this before: is a Kindle edition of the Post with comics going to happen? People may not tell you anything but it would seem to me that you can *ask*.

Also, I'd be halfway tempted to get the Times edition to get the subsidy if I can't get it from the Post... This is going to save the Post major publishing costs I don't see why they're trying to discourage locals who want to be environmentally conscious!

Posted by: arlingtonian4 | May 6, 2009 2:29 PM | Report abuse

Kindle's useless. The batteries go, you can't start a campfire with it, or use it for TP.

Posted by: UnPatriotic | May 6, 2009 2:33 PM | Report abuse

The geographical restriction is incredibly stupid, if not all that surprising. It echoes the tentative, clumsy behavior of the music and movies industries. Locals will just have someone else order it for them anyway. And the quote from Hills is another priceless piece or rationalization. Let's hope these restrictions disappear quickly.

Posted by: mindkiller1 | May 6, 2009 2:38 PM | Report abuse

I would love to get either a Kindle 2 or the Kindle DX, but I cannot afford to right now. It would be great to be eco-friendly when reading a newspaper, book, or magazine. I think the WaPo is missing the boat with the geographic restriction on the DX. The more people that buy the DX and use it for reading the WaPo, the better idea they will get of whether a technology like the DX is a viable alternative to publishing via paper. Someday paper distribution will completely go away. The WaPo and other publishers need to be testing other ways of publishing.

Posted by: bradto2 | May 6, 2009 3:05 PM | Report abuse

No one will pay $500 for a crappy black and white screen to load $40 "books" that may or may not be transferable on anything else. Out of business...now that is a business model.

I can get a net book for half the price. Dinosaur.

Posted by: Fascist_Nation | May 6, 2009 3:43 PM | Report abuse

No one will pay $500 for a crappy black and white screen to load $40 "books" that may or may not be transferable on anything else. Out of business...now that is a business model.

I can get a net book for half the price. Dinosaur.

Posted by: Fascist_Nation | May 6, 2009 3:43 PM

-------------------------------------

Kindle, or electronic media in general don't work well backpacking either.

Like the Twain's often cited line about his death, reports about the demise of print books are premature.

Posted by: UnPatriotic | May 6, 2009 3:51 PM | Report abuse

I also think the geographic restriction is short-sighted and I predict it won't last too long or will be modified to allow for print and Kindle bundled together. My copy of the POST is often late, for one thing, which drives my husband wild with frustration. I have offered to subscribe only on my Kindle but we would need two Kindles to be able to read it together! Either that or we will go with a subscription to the TIMES if it happens too often.

Believe me, they will have color Kindles as fast as its feasible and economically viable. I don't know if folks realize it, but there is ONE patent for e-ink technology right now, which is why the screens on Kindle, Sony, and even the not-released yet Plastic Logic device are all black and white and all virtually the same as far as resolution.

eReaders are selling because they work for books; they are much easier on the eyes for long-term reading than laptops or netbooks, and most books don't need color. Newspapers had only black and white for a long time, so they will probably make the switch to digital sooner than magazines.

But the digital age has dawned for the written word. It's just that balance between what technology can do and what it costs to to it that determines how fast the pendulum will swing.

Posted by: karenwesternewton | May 6, 2009 4:20 PM | Report abuse

I'll gladly pay for online content- I read the NY Times and Post every day, but I'm not about to pay for them through Kindle. I just want to purchase a reader. I would want get on line through a 3g or WiFi connection I already subscribe to. I'm not paying Amazon every month. I'll send the money directly to the papers if they ask. Why don't they get together in a consortium of some kind and make each of their websites available that way? They'll have plenty of revenue and support for their news gathering- a more robust business model to replace their printing presses.

Posted by: roblevi | May 6, 2009 4:41 PM | Report abuse

I was raised on the Washington Post and the Washington Star, and even helped deliver the Washington Star (I've never been enough of a morning person to deliver a morning paper) - at least back then the papers were delivered by paper boys, no union.

As an expat DCer living in CA, I read the Post's online edition and receive the national weekly edition - I have to wonder how an electronic Kindle edition of the Post would compare to what is online - will it offer easy addition of comments such as these? Apart from that, I only take a Sunday local paper - the San Jose Mercury News - aka the Murky - for the coupons, to place under my kids' art projects, and wad-up to use in the chimney starter of my charcoal grille. Somehow I don't see a Kindle working as kindling. Can you hide behind one on the subway? Can you roll it up to swat flies or perhaps in this case computer bugs? Can you let it dry in the oven if it gets left in the rain, or accidentally dropped while you are reading it in the tub?

Posted by: perfgeek | May 6, 2009 5:10 PM | Report abuse

I'm fascinated by the idea of an electronic book, and as a student, I would love to have my textbooks on it.

However:

$500 is way too much money. That's my entire textbook budget for a YEAR. That means, even had I bought it as a freshman and been able to buy every textbook for every class at say, 50% of the original cost:
$500 for 4 years: $2000

$500+250x4 = $1500.

Now, lets be realistic and realize that half of my books aren't available in a kindle format:

$500+ 125x4 ($500)+250x4($1000) = $2000.

Great. it costs exactly the same, and I can't sell off the books I hate.

I understand that its a new format and therefore not necessarily going to be financially viable, but if its not financially viable, surely it has other benefits?

The idea is great, but all the details from price, to legal restrictions, to issues with technology mean I'm unlikely to ever buy one.

and I'm a person who very much prefers to read things on my laptop instead of printing off articles.

Posted by: kaths11 | May 6, 2009 6:38 PM | Report abuse

As HAM RADIO operates no longer need to know Morse Code, soon Americans will also no longer need to know how to read.

Perhaps a nice device for the car or the physically challenged, but for school, college or even a Ph.D. candidate, I must be missing something.

Oh yea.m It will also translate English into English, unless we first push [1.] LOL.

Posted by: brucerealtor@gmail.com | May 7, 2009 2:15 AM | Report abuse

In addition to the comment I made above, I just want to say that I agree with an earlier comment concerning late paper deliveries. With the DX, you would not have to worry about late deliveries or wet papers. These past few days I have been experiencing either late newspaper deliveries or no deliveries at all. Today my paper is late. Also like any other new technology, the price of e-readers like the DX will go down over time. No technology is perfect. There will be advantages and disadvantages to using an e-reader just as there are advantages and disadvantages to reading a newspaper. Someday newspapers will not be used to deliver news. E-readers, or some other electronic method, will replace newspapers. It is just a matter of time.

Posted by: bradto2 | May 7, 2009 5:42 AM | Report abuse

I'm more than ready to get the Post on my Kindle, and entered a "placeholder" order yesterday for a DX. Lots of talk about business models, but what about graphic design? The WaPo on the website has a great Front Page - get an idea of what's new and important, go right to it. The e-mail WaPo is acceptable with hyperlinks and headlines; I get News and Opinions daily. On the Kindle, I get dropped into whatever is the prime story of the day, and have to select section by section to dig out what might interest me. I think the Kindle DX is the way to go, but some careful fusion of the graphic design of the Web version and the available Kindle technology is required. Plus, a way to pull the ads across to the Kindle, so there's a revenue source. Saving tons of paper, keeping chemicals out of the water, and other "green" savings means that the techo-change has to come.

Posted by: FedEducatorWV | May 7, 2009 10:42 AM | Report abuse

How well will the Kindle work after my kid spills my morning coffee/juice/milk all over it?

Is it true that you need an active Amazon account in order to use this thing? And you lose access to your paid content if your Amazon account gets deactivated?

The model for all these great new devices (I-Phones, Kindles, Satellite radio, etc.) are the techno equivalent of crack - if you like it a lot you have to keep on paying over and over again for as long as you want to use them. It's a good thing that I don't have to keep paying for my old books, LPs, and CDs again and again just to keep using them....

Posted by: boboran | May 7, 2009 12:50 PM | Report abuse

Someone above made brief reference to this, but here goes: Let's say we have a family of four who devour the newspaper each day at the breakfast table (or other time-limited situation). Now, what do they do with this new technology? Pay US$2,000 to get four of these devices? This is a single-person's solution, not a family reader's. Let's go whole hog and say you've got a family of more than four. It gets ridiculous very quickly.

Or say the main breadwinner takes the device to read on the train. That leaves the home without a reading solution all day long.

Any comments on this kink, Rob? Others?

Posted by: RHMathis | May 7, 2009 4:36 PM | Report abuse

In the prior comments, 2 persons just had to blame their perceived shortcomings of the Kindle/newspaper deals on the Unions. I am sure it is the management making those decisions; unions tend to react later to new ideas.
Please stop trying to blame everything on unions - they only represent about 7 Percent of the non-government workforce [WP,2008-12-08]. Thus, they have not been powerful enough to stop the government from pushing all our jobs OffShore to India and China.

Posted by: EirikThorvaldsson | May 8, 2009 1:39 AM | Report abuse

Thirty years ago the USA was a profitable exporter of newsprint paper, because it is a highly mechanized, automated process. I believe this has dropped-off as third-world countries have built modern papermills, but we still make most of our own paper. The papermill where I worked is still partly running, though it is owned by Canadians now.

I presume the Kindles, like most of the PCs, are made OffShore???

Posted by: EirikThorvaldsson | May 8, 2009 1:56 AM | Report abuse

I think the Kindle DX MAY have some real utility as a mechanism for delivering textbook content, but ONLY when it has color. Especially in the biological sciences and health professions, textbooks w/o color are just not going to cut it.

Posted by: skrabacz58 | May 8, 2009 2:13 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Wiredog, I'm waiting also. Either PlasticLogic.com or the New Apple bright and shiny thingy I'm thinking is the way to go.
I'm not really into games though, but I do enjoy the occasional time waster. Of course the third option is a netbook running Windows XP. With an extended battery you get all day life (I don't think anyone NEEDS a battery life measured in weeks unless you're posted in the Gobi where an outlet is 200 miles away), a color display and it can dance backwards in heels.
I'm still scratching my head and waiting to see the price point that Plastic Logic and Apple come in at.

Posted by: Phoghat | May 10, 2009 9:51 AM | Report abuse

Oh, BTW, I stopped in at a Radio Shack the other day and the are offering a MSI Wind Netbook, running XP, with 3G At&T built in, for $50 and an all you can eat data plan for $60 monthly.
I said innocently to the salesman "But you can't make phone calls" and he said "No cough Skype, cough"

Posted by: Phoghat | May 10, 2009 10:00 AM | Report abuse

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