At an event in New York City today, Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos introduced Kindle DX, a large-screen version of the popular e-reader device priced at $489. It will ship this summer, and is available for pre-order today.
Bezos began by trumpeting Kindle electronic book sales: since the sleeker Kindle 2 was introduced in March, Kindle sales have more than doubled as a percentage of Amazon's book sales. In the spirit of preserving a winning formula, the Kindle DX is a carbon copy of the Kindle 2 device, simply with an 8-inch by 11-inch screen format screen. The screen size itself measures 9.7 inches diagonally.
The use of the A4 Letter-sized format, Bezos explained, means that PDF documents and textbooks don't need to be reformatted to fit the screen. Indeed, Kindle DX is optimized for sending, receiving and displaying PDF files; like the iPhone, the screen size can be maximized by turning the device to the left or right; an accelerometer in the device will auto-rotate the document. The device retains the QWERTY keyboard at the base of the screen, as well as options for changing text size and line length.
In addition to 3G access to Amazon's 275,000 books and space for 3500 of them—that's 3.3 gigabytes—Kindle DX will also be a part of a pilot program at six universities across the country: Arizona State University, Reed College, Pace University in New York, Princeton University, Case Western University, and my own alma mater, the University of Virginia. Case Western University President Barbara Snyder was on hand to congratulate Bezos on the announcement.
At Pace, about 50 students total will get the devices to test, beginning in fall of 2009, said Pace Provost Geoffrey Brackett. The university has yet to decide which departments will receive the Kindles, but Brackett intimated that the Master's in publishing program would be a top choice, as would the business and environmental law programs. "I'm also interested in bringing the Kindle to the sciences in because of the graphic ability," he said. (Below, Bezos on stage with the device.)
Also involved in pilot programs: The New York Times, Boston Globe and The Washington Post, will all provide $10 subscriptions—down from $13—to customers, targeted especially to areas without available home delivery. Times Chairman Arthur O. Sulzberger, Jr. gave a brief speech trumpeting the advantages of the device, and thanking Bezos candidly for coming to the aid of his industry and his writers.
Midway through an on-stage demonstration of the Kindle DX's apt handling of scientific documents, newspaper articles, SEC filings and textbook entries, the projector powering the presentation inadvertantly flipped the image backwards. "I'm going to choose to find this hilarious," quipped Bezos. He went on to reiterate his broader vision for the Kindle: every book ever printed, in every language, all available via 3G download in less than 60 seconds.
Asked if future Kindle devices would feature a touchscreen, Director of Product Management for Kindle Charlie Tritschler said it was unlikely. "To do touch, we'd have to put a layer on top of the screen," he explained. "That wouldn't make for an ideal viewing experience."
The original Kindle 2 will remain available at it its current price point, $360.