Amazon yesterday launched the $489 Kindle DX, the big screen version of the Kindle 2, but the puzzle is who the target for the rather large portable book reader actually is. The big 9.7 inch diagonal e-ink screen makes the Kindle DX pretty bulky for merely a ebook reader, but Amazon has announced new deals with for magazine and newspaper publishers which presumably are a better fit for the format.
In fact, the New York Times, Boston Globe, and Washington Post will subsidize the Kindle purchase price if you live in an area where they do not offer home delivery and purchase a Kindle DX and an electronic subscription.
Another target market for the Kindle DX is college students as Amazon also announced deals with textbook publishers for Kindle versions as well as trials at major universities:
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.
Time will tell how well that works out – I think I would still prefer a paper textbook. However, one market where the Kindle family seems to be a definite success is in good old fashioned books for reading. According to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, Kindle sales are now 35% of book sales when Kindle editions are available and there was a huge jump in February when the Kindle 2 went on sale.
We first mentioned the Sony Reader for eBooks back in January because the E Ink paper-like display was incredibly slick and might actually make reading books on an electronic device a reality. At the time it was supposed to come out in April, but April came and went and then we heard that the launch had been pushed off until fall.
Well, fall is here and so finally is the Sony Portable Reader System PRS-500 which is available at a rather pricey $349.99 (although there is currently a $50 promotional credit towards eBook purchases). Nothing seems to have changed – it has a 6 inch diagonal screen and is only 0.5 inches thick and weighs 9 ounces. The rechargeable internal battery is good for 7500 page turns (turns are all that count for E Ink displays) and you have to load content from a PC via USB. It has 64MB of internal memory plus it can take Sony Memory Sticks or SD memory cards to hold more.
As far as content goes, the eBook Connect store is also open and the titles all seem to be 1-2MB in size while the prices seem fairly reasonable given the outrageous prices of new hardcovers and paperbacks these days. Clicking on a title (e.g. Angels and Demons by Dan Brown) conveniently shows you the discount off the print retail price which was 20% on all titles I checked. Of course, as I mentioned in my original review, most printed best sellers get discounts of that order at the big chain stores so the discount isn’t overly compelling. Besides the premium content, you can also use the Reader for files in BBeB Book, Adobe PDF, TXT, RTF, and Microsoft Word formats although the latter requires Word installed on your PC to do a conversion. The Reader also has a feature for downloading RSS content so you can read news, blogs, or whatever at your leisure.
I still think there’s a place for something like the Sony Reader, but I’m afraid that the price (Reader plus eBooks) is going to scare off a lot of folks. What may save it is the ability to read free content – think of it like an iPod, only for text.
Back in January, we mentioned the Sony Reader for eBooks as one slick gadget with its E Ink display. It still is slick, but Sony seems to have real problems getting it out the door:
One of Sony’s most recent sought out devices, the PRS-500 eBook reader is going to be delayed once again. Sony Electronics brought the PRS-500 with them to CES this past January and had announced a Spring 2006 launch but then pushed it to the summer of 2006. Sony is now saying a fall launch seems more likely.
No word on the reason for all the delays, but supposedly it will be ready for Holiday shoppers.