Kindle DX / Kindle 3 – Textbook Reader or Newspaper Reader?

Now that a Kindle 3 related Wednesday news conference at a university has been confirmed, the main question is whether this 10″ Kindle 3 (to be exact, 9.7″ Kindle 3) targets -

  1. Newspapers and Periodicals, which newspapers and blogs, including NYTimes, are hypothesizing. OR
  2. Textbooks and the textbook market, as ZDNet and several other sources think.

Here are some signs that point to what the Kindle 3 might be targeting -

Indicators Kindle 3 is Kindle Textbook Edition

  1. The press conference is being held at a University (Pace University in New York). This factor is offset by the fact that Pace University is headquartered at the old site of a newspaper – the New York Tribune.
  2. There are reports that there might be a trial and that there are six universities involved (including Pace). See WSJ for more details -

    Beginning this fall, some students at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland will be given large-screen Kindles with textbooks for chemistry, computer science and a freshman seminar already installed, said Lev Gonick, the school’s chief information officer… Amazon has worked out a deal with several textbook publishers to make their materials available for the device, Mr. Gonick added. The new device will also feature a more fully functional Web browser, he said. …
    Five other universities are involved in the Kindle project, according to people briefed on the matter. They are Pace, Princeton, Reed, Darden School at the University of Virginia, and Arizona State.

  3. As opposed to news, where the market is dying and not getting replaced by online news revenue, textbooks are still making money.
  4. The prices and margins in the textbook industry are HUGE. The opportunities for improving on costs (helping students) and eliminating the huge used textbook business (good for publishers and helps them lower prices) make textbooks very appealing.
  5. Its a captive audience – textbooks can’t go out of fashion because they’re essential for education.
  6. There are two big markets – school children and college students.
  7. Apple’s large-screen MediaPad launches this summer or fall – perhaps just before Holiday Season. By launching now, Kindle 3 gets a big lead – a chance for students to actually use a Kindle 3 and make up their own minds before Apple’s ‘Be Cool’ ads brainwash them into buying a ‘cool’ gadget (that they’ll probably play more games on than read textbooks on).

Indicators Kindle 3 is Newspaper focused

  1. Pace University’s Headquarters were, in 1906, the site of the New York Tribune building (courtesy Wikipedia) –  

    Taking a loan of $600, the Pace brothers rented a classroom on one of the floors of the New York Tribune building, today the site of the One Pace Plaza complex.  

  2. Plastic Logic’s electronic Reader, targeted at newspapers and business documents, releases 2010 so a May release would give Kindle 3 a big lead.
  3. The newspaper industry is desperate and Amazon could get a lot of good deals.
  4. There were signs in 2008 that newspaper subscriptions even on the small 6″ Kindle screens were doing well (last year there was a leak (via Neiman Journalism Lab) that 10,000 NYTimes Kindle Subscriptions were active).
  5. Kindle ownership skews to an older audience that is more likely to use newspapers (not to mention pay for them). 
  6. Kindle’s WhisperNet updates allow for 5 am automatic delivery, and the possibility to stream news articles as they are finished. An obvious technological advantage even the newspaper industry would be hard pressed to mess up.

A last thought is that The New York Tribune didn’t really have a happy ending – it closed down in 1967. Announcing a newspaper-focused Kindle at Pace University might not be the best idea -

The New York Tribune was an American newspaper, first established by Horace Greeley in 1841, which was long considered one of the leading newspapers in the United States. In 1924 it was merged with the New York Herald to form the New York Herald Tribune, which ceased publication in 1967.

Closing Thoughts

Looking at the bigger picture, it makes sense for Amazon to target reading in general. While my personal opinion is that Kindle 3 is going to be the Kindle Textbook Edition, it also becomes the only newspaper reader available. Its a device that meets the needs of 3 particular demographics -

  1. College Students. Very well. Also, any college students who read books in addition to course work will love Kindle 3. 
  2. School Children. Pretty well. Not to mention encouraging a love of reading.  
  3. Older newspaper readers who want a bigger screen. With the added benefits of Read To Me, changeable Font Sizes and cheaper prices than newspapers.

I’m going to buy one to put up a Kindle 3 Review and ‘Kindle 3 Vs Kindle 2′ videos. Kindle 3 is going to be the version that really takes the Kindle mainstream. By getting a jump on its rivals and releasing in May, Amazon is ensuring that Kindle 3 gets all the mind share and publicity it needs to be a big success.

2 Responses

  1. The problem with the new Kindle as a textbook platform is that most college students already own a PC and more likely a laptop or netbook (plus a cool cell phone). So why one more electronic device to raise the cost of education? Many campuses have wifi connections, why can’t digital textbooks be provided already via the Web to the students’ laptops?

    Digital textbooks should require a lot of interactivity features that just work a lot better on a real Web browser rather than the limitations of the Kindle in handling CSS/XHTML and related technologies.

    With all that in mind, I see the new Kindle as more for the general reader, including newspaper readers.

  2. Kindle has one huge benefit – battery life – and over time the interfaces will improve – but laptops and ipads etc all are restricitive due to battery life – you end up being plugged in too much

    I have knidle, ipad and laptop

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