Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The new Kindle wants to offer students an offer they can't refuse

Amazon introduced today the Kindle DX, a larger version of the Kindle, targeted at readers of textbooks, newspapers and documents.

It is definitely larger than Kindle 2 - Kindle DX’s display has 2.5 times the surface area of Kindle’s 6-inch display. It's also more expensive - the DX costs $489, $130 more than the Kindle 2.

The new addition to the Kindle family is mainly focused on students and newspaper readers. When we talk about students, we talk of course about textbooks. And there's a good reason for that - the $9.8 billion textbook market which Amazon is hoping to penetrate.

According to
Wired, Amazon said it had reached agreements with three major textbook publishers representing 60% of the higher-education market books available in the Kindle store: Pearson Education, Cengage Learning and Wiley Higher Education. Amazon also collaborates with six colleges and universities — Pace, Arizona State, Case Western Reserve, Princeton, Reed College and the University of Virginia — to test the new device with students later this year.

The new Kindle is expected to face couple of challenges, especially when it comes to students. Firstly, it competes with laptop, a device more than 80% own and allow you to buy, download and read e-textbooks, usually on a larger screen. Also, the Kindle can't show video or color images, which is a big disadvantage especially with the growing power of video content (the Kindle DX is designed to mimic the experience of reading printed black ink on paper).

Another challenge is pricing. e-textbooks are usually cheaper in 50% than paper textbooks, so how much will Kindle's textbooks cost? will they also have price advantage in comparison to textbooks you can download to your laptop, or there won't be any difference. In the meantime, there's no information available yet -
the Wall Street Journal reported that a spokeswoman for Pearson said its education division, which publishes textbooks for all grade levels, hasn't yet decided how many titles will be available or how much the Kindle versions will cost.

Besides convincing students why they need to buy Kindle in addition to their laptop (no student will buy the new Kindle instead of laptop), Amazon is facing competition from couple of other companies, as the
New York Times reports today. Few companies, according to the NYT, are expected to begin selling portable reading devices in the next year, including Plastic Logic, a well-financed start-up which we wrote about last year, FirstPaper, backed by the publisher Hearst; and Apple.

Jeff Bezos said today that the new Kindle is a step in the direction of a long-dreamed-of paperless society. His vision of paperless society is definitely one we can identify with as it will be also an important step towards sustainable reading.

Nevertheless, we're still waiting for more assurance that Kindle is the right tool to achieve this goal, and that it doesn't have any environmental impacts that would be greater than its positive contribution to the environment. As soon as we'll have more conclusive data with regard to this issue, we will be able to look at the Kindle as a green solution, but at the moment we will lack the necessary information to be able to determine that.

More posts on Amazon:

Amazon did great on the first quarter. Can it also help the book industry to go green now?

Kindle2 series:
Part 1 - David Pouge and the final battle

Part 2 - Bezos on the Daily Show

Part 3 - How much money it will make?

Part 4 - Authors Guild and the read-aloud feature

Part 5 - Did you kindle today?


Raz @ Eco-Libris