A long-predicted update to the Amazon Kindle, with the key feature being a significantly larger screen, is due as soon as this Wednesday. The hottest discussions center on how Amazon's Kindle 3 could help boost sales of newspapers.
Amazon is holding a press conference on Wednesday morning in New York City, but no exact details on what they plan to announce are available. A story by The New York Times writer Brad Stone, about "big screen" e-readers in general, says that, "Amazon will introduce a larger version of its Kindle wireless device tailored for displaying newspapers, magazines and perhaps textbooks." Stone then drives the point home by suggesting some very big name papers are on-board—including his own. A spokeswoman "could not comment on the company’s relationship with Amazon."
A big-screen Kindle 3 has been rumored for awhile—it's a natural progression. The initial Kindle had a 6-inch e-paper display, and pretty retro-looking features. The Kindle 2 updated some internals and tweaked the style a bit, but it kept the same screen size. Meanwhile, upcoming e-readers from the likes of Flepia, Plastic Logic and Fujitsu offer much larger screens, color e-ink, and other features that make the Kindle seem old fashioned. For Amazon to make a bigger version that competes with these is just good business sense. And a larger screen offers a better reading experience, and is a more natural fit for magazine or newsprint-style content. As such, the Kindle 3 is being touted as a way to save the beleaguered newspaper business. The latest big city daily paper on its death bed is The Boston Globe, which may close as soon as this week.
But can the Kindle save the newspaper? It's impossible to tell, of course—that's a question of corporate will, high finance, pin-point timing and luck. The existing Kindle's demographic is made up of people who are more into newspapers than iPods, which is a good sign. And if there are some big-name newspapers involved at launch, their heritage could certainly push a Kindle 3 into better sales. The only trouble is that blogs can also be read on the Kindle, which means the battle for eyeballs could just be moving to a different screen.
The real issue here is going to be the price. The Kindle's expensive, and a larger screen Kindle 3 will be even more so. Forking over hundreds of dollars for an e-reader, and then having to pay a big chunk for an electronic paper subscription will put many customers off. A subsidized price for the reader, and a low-cost long-term subscription to the newspapers would be much more sustainable, but that's not likely to be the model at the outset.
Related: Amazon Kindle 3 Rumors Surface: Bigger, Better (Of Course)
Related: Should The New York Times Ditch Paper, Distribute Kindle E-readers?
Related: Kindle 2 Won't Change Your Life, but the Next One Will [review]