Peter Kafka

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Amazon Unveils Kindle DX. Big Screen, Big Price: $489.


The new Kindle that Jeff Bezos unveiled today came more or less as advertised–it looks and acts the same as the Kindle 2, but flaunts a much bigger screen.

And a much bigger price tag. The $489 retail price Amazon rolled out today seemed to take some of the air out of the auditorium at Pace University, where Bezos showed off the device. But I’m not sure that anyone was overwhelmed with the DX to begin with. “It’s like the Kindle 2.5,” quipped a publishing executive sitting next to me.

I think the Kindle does have promise as a college textbook replacement, but that’s going to take a while. Amazon and six schools are testing out the gadget this fall, but just barely–an estimated 300 students will get their hands on one.

And if Amazon (AMZN) wants to position the DX as a device to help revive the dying newspaper business, it’s going to have to make sure that the newspapers are actually gung-ho about the idea. For now at least, they seem to have reservations–which is why the Washington Post and New York Times are only willing to subsidize the gadgets for people who live outside of delivery zones.


Big questions at the newest Kindle unveiling at Pace University today:

  • Will the Kindle 3.0 save newspapers?
  • Will the Kindle 3.0 save students money on textbooks?
  • Will the Kindle 3.0 help cement the gadget’s promise as the iPod of e-books?

I can answer some of this in advance:

  • No.
  • Maybe. But not in the near future: Academia moves very, very slowly. So even if the Kindle 3.0 is an instant hit on campuses, it will take a very, very long time for most students to use the gadgets for most of their coursework.
  • Apple’s (AAPL) rumored tablet may have something to say about that.

I’m covering the event live. Please refresh for the newest info, which will appear at the top of my transcript, below.

11:08: Demo’s over. Air is let out of the room with that price.

11:06: Bezos himself has yet to mention price. Other details: 9.7-inch display. 3.3 GB of storage. Native PDF support. There’s the price: $489. Audience: “Ouch!”

11:05: Meanwhile, CNET’s Ina Fried points us to the preorder page, which says the machine will sell for a whopping $489.

11:03: To be clear: The problem was with the projection at Pace, not the Kindle itself.

11:01: “I’m going to choose to find this hilarious.” Screen fixed now. Now looking at a New York Times page. Now the screen is dead again. “You may just have to do your demos outside.” Bezos soldiering through. “I don’t think it makes sense to continue with the demo.” And now it’s fixed again!

10:59: Shows off document on rockets. “I know, I know.” Some tech difficulties with big-screen displays here at Pace. Image is backward. Bezos is game: “That’s not a feature that will be available….Think of yourself as looking through a mirror.”

10:57: Time for a demo. Showing off SEC filings, radar maps, analyst reports. Sheet music. And you know what? They look great.

10:54: New York Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. comes onstage. Our “embrace” of the Kindle DX demonstrates that we’re interested in using all platforms. But this is an “experiment.” “Thank you,, thank you Jeff, for helping to boost [reporters’] book sales.”

10:53: What about newspapers?

This summer, three newspapers have agreed to pilot Kindle DX. They’re going to offer the DX for reduced price in exchange for long-term subscriptions. The papers are the New York Times (NYT), Boston Globe and Washington Post (WPO).

10:50: “We’re going to get students with smaller backpacks. less load. easier access.” Schools testing the Kindle are, as previously advertised, except not Pace University itself. Now Case Western President Barbara Snyder is reading statement, a bit stiffly.

10:47: Most of the documents we read are 8.5-by-11 inches. The information is structured to be read that way. “Even with electronic paper, you need a big display.

“Ladies and gentlemen, the Kindle DX.”

As advertised, it’s a large-format Kindle. Apologies for lag. Wi-Fi problems here at Pace.

“I’m very excited to announce today that we’ve reached agreement with three leading textbook publishers that represent 60 percent of the market: Pearson, Cengage Learning and Wiley.”

10:43: Now on to the problem with paper: “The paperless society never came. We print more paper now than we ever have before. Computers have proliferated. And so have their evil companion, the ink toner cartridge. We sell a lot of these….The reason we print so much is that computer displays are worse display devices than paper. Paper is just better. It’s worth the hassle of printing.”

10:41: Next, a sales pitch reiterating Kindle’s advantages. Some head-nodding in the audience.

10:37: Bezos onstage. Kindle book sales now account for 35 percent of all book sales for titles available in both e-book and physical forms. This is up from 13 percent. A spike occurred when the Kindle 2.0 launched.

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