Kindle DX: A Spark on the Paper Trail?

The debut of Amazon.com’s Kindle DX electronic book reader Wednesday breathed a little fresh air into the hopes of the newspaper industry. Just a little, but it was a refreshing breath just the same.
Newspaper moguls have been scratching their collective heads for a solution to their dwindling readership and ad revenue numbers and the concept of an electronic book platform that the masses could embrace has been an elusive dream.
The Kindle DX, with its 9.7-inch, 16-gray-scale E-ink display and impossibly slim 0.38-inch profile, goes a long way in providing an electronic book reader that’s as usable for textbooks and technical documents as it is for reading newspapers and blogs. But no, it doesn’t go all the way.
The Kindle DX supports Adobe PDF documents in addition to its native format and can download entire books wirelessly in about a minute. Its 3.3 gigabytes of available storage is enough for 3,500 books. The $489 device won’t be available until this summer, but Amazon.com is already taking orders.

At a well-attended press event at Pace University, which includes a Park Row building which was once home to the New York Times, Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos (above) said the new Kindle DX is meant to blend into the background, letting the user focus on the content.
“It gets out of the way so that you can enter the author’s world,” said Bezos amid the clicking, clacking and clunking of Twittering journalists and trigger-happy photographers. “It doesn’t beep at you. It doesn’t get warm in your hands.”
Bezos noted that newspapers have been “an absolute best seller on Kindle.” Readers can adjust the screen font and the number of words in each line and the unit automatically reorients the text if you turn the unit on its side or upside down.
Bezos said that paper survives today because it provide a better reading experience that most computer screens. “Paper is better. It’s worth the hassle of printing,” he said.
However he said the Kindle’s low-glare paper-like display is easy enough on the eyes that eyestrain is not an issue.
The New York Times, the Washington Post and the Boston Globe have signed on to deliver content to the Kindle DX and to sell the $489 unit at a discount — in exchange for a long-term newspaper subscription. The units would be available in areas outside of a paper’s delivery zone.
“This experiment … demonstrates our commitment to reinvention,” said Arthur O. Sulzberger Jr., chairman of the New York Times Co. He said the Kindle DX combines “the immediacy of the Web with the portability and depth of the newspaper.”
Students at Pace as well as at Princeton University, Case Western Reserve University, Arizona State University, Reed College and Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia will get first crack at the units through a trial program, said Bezos. Amazon.com has also inked agreements with major textbook publishers, he said.
So will the Kindle DX signal the beginning of a new generation of electronic book readers that are user friendly enough to be embraced by the public as well as those still willing to advertise in newspapers? Now there’s a big “Maybe.”
What do you think?
Text and top and bottom photos Copyright 2009 Stadium Circle Features
Middle photo courtesy of Amazon.com
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2 thoughts on “Kindle DX: A Spark on the Paper Trail?

  1. Can’t wait. This is long overdue. Considering what’s been going on at the Boston Globe this week, it’s good to see them finally doing something innovative.

  2. It’s been apparent to me for a few years that newspapers need to take two admittedly difficult and distasteful steps to survive financially in the Web Wide World:1. Don’t just make content available over Kindle-type pads, or offer a discount for the devices — give away the gizmos in return for long-term subscriptions, and layer those subscriptions into different complexities, some of which might be ad free. The cell phone marketing model really pertains, here.2. Start thinking of their organizations as content providers and not necessarily packagers. For instance, move more toward the Associated Press or City News Bureau model of journalism, where a news gathering organization’s unique but unformatted work is made available to repackagers (in the previous era, mostly newspapers!) for a fee. The buyers in this case could be outfits like Google. Or they could be end users (i.e., readers) whose interface devices offer some level of automated layout capability, as we are accustomed to in some RSS schemes.Newspaper publishers have been trapped in the old-school thinking that salvation lies in becoming multimedia outlets, whose portfolios are heavy with radio and TV stations — another set of outlets that will tumble in the face of the Web. If I was still a young, keen-eyed journalist, I’d be looking to ally myself with others like me in a City News Bureau type operation such as the one that served the Chicago dailies, where our collective work would be syndicated to multiple content providers wholesale. Not as glamorous as winning newspaper by-lines or playing Facebook on TV newscasts, but productive, useful, not particulary replicable, very probably sustainable.

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