Magazine article Information Today

Kindle DX: Amazon's Latest Ebook Reader

Magazine article Information Today

Kindle DX: Amazon's Latest Ebook Reader

Article excerpt

Ebooks and ebook readers have become hot items this year for everyone from commuters to students to tool-crazed CEOs.

In June, market leader Amazon released the Kindle DX, which includes some impressive new features. This latest version has a larger screen and better support for PDF files, making it worthwhile for information professionals to take another look at these mobile information tools. The DX is slim (slightly more than one-third of an inch thick) and well-designed. However, Amazon is still faltering as it tries to balance concerns with publishers' digital rights and its efforts to develop new educational markets while broadening Kindle's penetration in the marketplace by providing new content.

Major enhancements include several features: a larger (9.7") screen, a sleek design, a text-to-speech capability that allows users to view the screen horizontally or vertically, a new five-way control button (replacing the slide scroller), increased onboard storage, and the ability to send Word, text, .jpeg, or PDF files to Kindle using the miniature USB port.

Kindle DX also continues the tradition of providing E Ink resolution. Users now have wireless, anytime access to the web, they can play MP3 music, or they can access the Kindle Store to get books, subscriptions to 37 newspapers (often without photos, ads, comics, and crosswords), dozens of popular magazines, and about 1,500 selected blogs.

Comments From the Intended Audience

Since students are a targeted market for the DX, I focused in on a few of them to get their opinions on Kindle's value. I interviewed six college and four high school students who had mixed reactions to the Kindle DX. Students liked the fact that they could listen to music, especially with headphones. Most liked the idea that this might replace some of their heavy textbooks and required readings, and they all liked the screen resolution. Most felt that a hypertext note-taking option was still needed as a more natural way to work with printed textbooks.

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But many students complained about the lack of color. Even textbooks have color, especially for those covering the sciences. Many also asked how websites (both personal favorites as well as those for coursework) would look on the Kindle screen without color.

One important consideration is the price. The DX costs nearly $500, but that's not the only downside. The students also noted that the DX weighs more than previous versions and doesn't allow users to zoom or scroll PDF documents. It also has a poorly designed keyboard that's just too small to use efficiently. Instead of a standard-type keyboard, students suggested that a touch-screen would be better for their use. Complicated web searching was also difficult and note-taking suffered as well.

Kindle DX comes with a miniature USB port and an adapter so users can transfer files to a PC; however, the encoding makes cutting and pasting quotes or other materials almost impossible. On a positive note, your own materials (PDF, Word files, and so on) will transfer back and forth.

Many also wondered about the DX's longevity. Textbooks can be dropped, tossed on a table, or kept in a pile, but what about the DX? As one student said, "[T]his just isn't built for the way I work--unless you get a killer warranty or something." Most felt that a netbook, a low-end laptop, or their existing systems would be a more flexible, cost-effective choice.

Some Additional Notes

For academic audiences, positioning the Kindle DX as a productivity tool is problematic for Amazon. The lack of color and any real ability to organize and search meaningfully through a growing collection of information on the Kindle is a problem that needs to be addressed if Amazon hopes to wean people off their computers (or printed books) for reading.

Page turning on the DX is still slow, and documents feel incredibly static without hyperlinks, color options, easy browsing, and quick targeted searching. …

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