Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos today unveiled the eagerly awaited large-screen Kindle ebook reader in a lecture hall at Pace University in downtown New York. Called the Kindle DX, the new device is geared toward readers of personal and professional documents, newpapers and magazines -- and textbooks, potentially a huge target market.
According to Amazon's Kindle DX page, the device has a 246mm (9.7-inch) display with 16 shades of grey (the standard Kindle has a 152mm (6-inch) display). It can hold up to 3,500 books, periodicals and documents, and an auto-rotating screen shows them in either portrait or landscape views. There's also a built-in PDF reader, 3G wireless network support with no monthly fees or annual contracts, enough battery capacity to "read for days without charging" and text-to-speech abilities to read publications aloud.
Several of those features are shared with the current Kindle 2, but several are unique to the Kindle DX: the native PDF reader that doesn't require the files to be converted, the rotating display, the 3,500-publication capacity compared to 1,500 for the Kindle 2, and of course the larger screen.
"You never have to pan, you never have to zoom, you never have to scroll, you just see the documents," Bezos said.
The Kindle DX retails for $489 (£325) -- the standard Kindle is $359 (£240) -- and is available in the US only for pre-orders now on Amazon. It'll ship this summer, but there's still no word on a European launch.
As expected, education is a key target market for the jumbo Kindle. Amazon has partnered with textbook manufacturers Pearson, Cengage Learning and Wiley to bring textbooks to the Kindle -- which Bezos says make up 60 per cent of the textbook market -- as well as Arizona State University, Princeton University, Reed College, the University of Virginia and Case Western Reserve University to launch a Kindle DX pilot programme this autumn.
"We're going to get students with smaller backpacks, less load, easier access," said Bezos, and introduced Case Western president Barbara Snyder, who said that the university would be seeing how study habits and the learning process change with the use of Kindles as textbook replacements.
Many predicted that the Kindle DX would be geared in part towards helping out the struggling newspaper industry, and indeed, three US newspapers will also be testing out the Kindle DX this summer in exchange for future product development help. The publications participating are the New York Times, the Boston Globe and the Washington Post.
Arthur Sulzberger Jr, chairman of the New York Times Company, said that the Times and the Globe will first be available on the Kindle DX in markets where home delivery is not available.
The Kindle DX showcases "our commitment to reinvention and to taking full advantage of digital media," Sulzberger said, "which are providing a compelling laboratory for entrepreneurs, for technologists, and of course for journalists. The new Kindle DX is an important milestone in the convergence between print and digital."
"Newspapers have been an absolute bestseller on Kindle," Bezos said. "People love waking up in the morning to find that their New York Times, their Washington Post, their Wall Street Journal have been 'automagically' delivered overnight. They like the fact that when they travel their subscription follows them around."
In addition to launching the new device, Jeff Bezos hailed the rise of the Kindle phenomenon in general, and its lofty goal of working toward "every book ever printed, in any language, all available in less than 60 seconds."
"Eighteen months ago, we launched Kindle, and at the time we had 90,000 books available for Kindle. (We had) 230,000 books just three months ago when we launched Kindle 2," Bezos said. Now, the count is 275,000 books. "We've added another 45,000 books in just the last three months. We're actually accelerating."