The rumors were true. This morning, at a press event in NYC, Amazon introduced its large screen e-reader device, the Kindle DX, and announced partnerships with higher education textbook publishers, newspapers, and universities. According to the news release and video, the new device is 2.5 times larger than the Kindle 2 with a 9.7 inch E Ink display. In addition to wireless, highlighting capabilities, and all of the features of the Kindle 2, it has a built in PDF reader, auto-rotate capability, and 3.3 GB of storage that can hold up to 3,500 books. In regards to the available content, The New York Times, Washington Post, and the Boston Globe will offer reduced rates for long term subscriptions. But more importantly, three textbook publishers, Pearson, Cengage, and Wiley will make their higher education textbooks available. In the press conference it was noted that the device would have 60% of the titles making up the higher education textbook market. The textbooks will be available in the Kindle Store this summer and in the fall, five universities will participate in a textbook pilot. The press release explains:
“Arizona State University, Case Western Reserve University, Princeton University, Reed College, and Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia will launch trial programs to make Kindle DX devices available to students this fall. The schools will distribute hundreds of Kindle DX devices to students spread across a broad range of academic disciplines. In addition to reading on a considerably larger screen, students will be able to take advantage of popular Kindle features such as the ability to take notes and highlight, search across their library, look up words in a built-in dictionary, and carry all of their books in a lightweight device.”
A posting on Wired features a comment from Jeff Bezos who said, “A particular class of book that shines with this display is textbooks. We’re going to get students with smaller backpacks, less load.” What is not so light, though is the price – announced at $489. It is not clear what price textbooks for the device will sell at compared to traditional textbooks, or whether those textbooks will expire after a certain period of time like many other current digital textbook options. While students may be interested in the Kindle DX, we will have to wait and see if they are really willing to purchase a black and white single-purpose device for their textbooks when they already own a computer. But whether they purchase this exact device or wait for something with more capabilities, we can expect that eventually the large screen devices will offer enough to make the price tag worth it.