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Wednesday, May 6, 2009

First E-reader for Textbooks has Arrived

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.


Anonymous said...

This will be a great way to avoid bookstore markups and eliminate the middleman. Finally, this market will begin to evolve to a comsumer (student) driven market. Thank goodness.

Anonymous said...

You do realize that the average markup (20-25%) most University bookstores put on textbooks is about 15-25% less than the national retail market for most items you buy on a dialy basis (usually 35-55%).
If you don't like textbooks prices maybe you should think about not supporting Pearson, Cengage, and Wiley (amazingly all supporters of this device) the true culprits behind high textbook prices.

NC Book Guy

Anonymous said...

I work in the business and the 20% markup you mention is nonexistent. The publishers take on all the expenses in the publishing process (author advances, development, production, marketing and sales). I do not support the 3 conglomerates that you mention, nor do i support college stores. As publishers continue to become less relevant, bookstores are destined to become irrelevant.

Jason Darko said...

This is a great item for people of all walks of life! I am a Licensed Practical Nurse and have considered going back to get my Registered Nurse License, but there was something holding me back. I was diagnosed with a Learning Disability as a child and problem that I have is that I am not a fast reader. I got through school with extended time on tests and had peope read chapters to me. There were some problems with this. The people reading to me were not in the health care system and so they had difficulties with pronunciation of medical terms. The other issue I had was that I was imbarressed that I can't read as fast as others. I know that I am not the only person in this world who has these issues and your company seems to know this. I am very greatful for this.

Anonymous said...

From what I hear Amazon will have to work out some engineering issues with the Kindle DX. Seems it is a very fragile device from the reviews I've read.