$299 Kindle DX Sale

Amazon is having a $299 Kindle DX sale today. The sale is on the Kindle DX 2 which has the eInk Pearl screen.

$299 is quite a good price – It amounts to a $80 saving on the regular price. It doesn’t make the Kindle DX a steal, but it certainly puts it into the ‘decent value for money’ category.

Here’s more on the Kindle DX 2 –

  1. Kindle DX 2 Photos
  2. Kindle DX 2 Video.

Pros & Cons of the Kindle DX 2

There are quite a few pros –

  1. Large 9.7″ screen.
  2. eInk Pearl screen which is great for reading and readable in bright sunlight.
  3. Good Battery Life – 2 to 3 weeks with wireless off and 7 days with wireless on. 
  4. The larger screen makes it better for reading PDFs and websites. 
  5. Free 3G wireless which covers store browsing,downloading books you buy, and browsing the Internet via a basic web browser.
  6. Free wireless in 100+ countries. Please note that this global wireless feature is available only for US customers.
  7. Accelerometer.
  8. Text to Speech.
  9. Super Size Fonts.
  10. The Kindle Store – the best range of new books and the best prices (except for Agency Model books which are the same price everywhere).

There are also quite a few cons –

  1. The Kindle DX 2 doesn’t have a lot of the physical upgrades the Kindle 3 and Kindle WiFi have – It’s missing WiFi, the month-long battery life is missing, and there is no secret built-in microphone.
  2. Kindle DX 2 is also missing a lot of the software improvements/additions the Kindle 3 and Kindle WiFi have including Voice Guide, PDF reader improvements (notes etc.), and the new web browser. 
  3. It’s quite heavy. It weighs 18.9 ounces which means you can’t really hold it in your hands for too long before your arms get tired.
  4. It’s a bit awkward. The awkwardness is due to the size – 10.4″ by 7.2″ by 0.38″. The thinness is impressive but the large width and height make the Kindle DX 2 difficult to hold and carry.
  5. Value for Money isn’t as good as the Kindle WiFi – even at the $299 price.
  6. No support for ePub or library books.
  7. Publishers have control over whether Text to Speech and Lending are enabled for a book.

At $299 the Kindle DX is a good option if you’re looking for a large-screen reading device. However, it’s not yet an absolute must-get.

Why isn't there a Kindle DX competitor?

Let’s talk about dedicated reading devices with large screens. There aren’t any except the Kindle DX.

Let’s see what we have –

  1. Kindle DX and Kindle DX 2.
  2. Nothing from B&N.
  3. Nothing from Sony. The 7″ screen Daily Edition doesn’t qualify. 
  4. A dual screen Tablet from Entourage Edge that is more Tablet than eReader.
  5. Nothing else from any big company.

We’re not counting the iPad as it’s not a dedicated eReader.

Large screen eReaders we would have had which either got delayed or got cancelled –

  1. Skiff was going to release a very large screen dedicated reading device but it’s either cancelled or postponed.  
  2. Plastic Logic has delayed the Que ProReader.
  3. Fujitsu’s large screen color eReader hasn’t been released outside Japan.
  4. The Pixel Qi magic screen powered dual-mode Tablets aren’t out yet – Actually, Notion Ink’s Adam has been delayed.
  5. There have been a bunch of companies showing off large ePaper screens but none of them have made it into any actual eReaders.

All of this brings us to an interesting question.

Why are there no Kindle DX competitors?

Let’s explore the possibilities –

  1. Perhaps the Kindle DX is hard to compete against. Well, that’s a little hard to believe. The Kindle DX 2 doesn’t have any killer features other than the eInk Pearl screen and at $379 there’s lots of room. It’s not like the $139 Kindle WiFi where the smaller companies just can’t compete.
  2. Perhaps the larger 9.7″ screen is very expensive. There’s a slight possibility that this is indeed the case. It would mean that any company competing against the Kindle DX would have to come in around the same price and beat the Kindle DX on other areas. Not a very easy thing to do.
  3. There isn’t enough supply of the 9.7″ screens. There might be some truth to this.  
  4. The market for large screen eReaders isn’t very big. Perhaps a lot of companies feel large screen eReaders start competing with tablets and become too expensive and that the market for a $400, large screen, dedicated reading device is very small. This is quite possible.
  5. The risk is too high. It could be that the amount of investment required to create and release a large screen eReader is very high. There are larger costs for everything  – screen, components, shipping, storage. Combine this high cost with a competitor like Amazon and the possibility that the market size is rather small and it becomes too risky to release a large screen eReader.

The 4th and 5th points are probably the big ones. Let’s dive deeper into these.

Is there a market for a large screen eReader?

First, let’s consider what a large screen reading device would be used for – reading and browsing websites, reading newspapers, reading magazines, textbooks, perhaps comics and graphic novels.

In each case eInk makes the reading great and everything else terrible. The slow refresh speed of eInk, the lack of color, and the lack of evolution in general means that LCD screen devices are much better suited for the non black and white text components of these pursuits.

Please Note: We’re assuming that the 6″ eReaders have large enough screens for reading books.

It’s quite remarkable that eInk seems almost perfectly suited for only one activity – reading books.

Let’s say the market for people who want a device to read online articles, magazines, textbooks, and comics and who are willing to pay $400 to $500 is 20 million people a year. A large screen dedicated eReader would be competing against tablets of all sorts, netbooks, rival ePaper technologies, and smaller screen eReaders. There doesn’t really seem to be a big, huge market for a large screen dedicated reading device.

If eReaders get adopted in education because they are less distracting than multi-purpose devices then we have a huge market – However, that’s not very likely. The most likely outcome is that we’re looking at a 5 million devices a year market as long as the price is around $400.

What’s the risk to reward ratio for bringing a large screen eReader to market?

We have a market of around 5 million units a year. Let’s see all the risk involved –

  1. You have to put in a lot of investment to come up with a large screen eReader (same as for any new product).
  2. You have to negotiate screen supply with eInk and components from other vendors. There are probably contracts and minimum purchase agreements involved.
  3. If you don’t get the #1 spot your sales are 2 million units a year or less. 
  4. You’re aware that Tablets are going to get cheaper and cheaper so you must have a plan to cut prices yourself.
  5. Amazon might decide to start taking a loss. 
  6. Since you’re marketing the device to demographics that either don’t have money (students) or have lots of options (sources for textbooks and newspapers, piracy) you might not have a long-term revenue stream.
  7. The risk of accidents and failures is much higher – The yield for large screens is usually a lot less than for smaller screens, larger eReaders will be tougher to store and ship, and the cost to users if they break an eReader is much higher for large screen eReaders.

The last point brings up something interesting – Not only are the risks high for manufacturers the risks are higher for customers too. This risk adds to the high price and further narrows the market.

The reward just isn’t there

Let’s assume a company risks all of this and becomes a success and is selling 3 million large screen eReaders a year. It’s selling them for $400 and after everything is said and done it’s making $50 profit per eReader. That’s $150 million in profit a year.  We’ve already talked about there not being another revenue stream (since there is so much competition and so much piracy). So $150 million profit a year is all we have.

This might seem like a lot. However, contrast this against the investment required and the risks.

Perhaps $50 million in investment to get everything set up and bring the large screen eReader to market. All the risk factors we’ve discussed above. The big giants i.e. Apple and Amazon, will definitely attack your market share. Companies will try to take over your device and probably kill any possibility of creating a second revenue stream from sales of books and newspapers.

Investing $50 million, figuring out all the agreements and nuances, and fighting this grand war with Apple and Amazon in return for a 10% chance of a $150 million a year profit stream isn’t very enticing. It’s even less enticing when you realize that even if you get to the $150 million a year profit stream Amazon will take a loss to cut into it and Apple will keep trying to steal away the most profitable part of your customer base.

Kindle DX 2 Review

The Kindle DX 2 is a very interesting eReader which occupies a very unique niche in the reading device market. Hopefully this Kindle DX 2 Review can paint you a good picture of the DX 2’s strengths, weaknesses, and unique status.

Kindle DX 2 Review – What makes it unique

Kindle DX 2 is the only large screen eReader (9.7″) available from the top 3 eReader brands (Kindle, Sony Reader, Nook). Since nearly every other eReader company is far behind the top 3 it’s perhaps your only choice if you want a top-notch large screen eReader.

The 9.7″ screen means you get 2.5 times the screen area you would from a 6″ Kindle 3 or 6″ Nook. It makes a pretty big difference with PDFs and newspapers and websites and is quite pleasurable even when reading. It also becomes your ideal eReader if you need or like rather large font size and still want lots of words on every page.

The other thing that makes it unique is the $379 price which is closer to the iPad than to eReaders. This balances out a lot of the positives and firmly cements it as an awkward caught-in-the-middle device. If the Kindle 3 and Nook are for people who love to read the Kindle DX 2 is for people who love to read and love it more than the next 5 things combined.

Kindle DX 2 Review – Top 3 Killer Features

The Kindle DX 2 really shines in some areas –

  1. eInk Pearl Screen – Electronic Ink is particularly suited to reading as it’s easy on the eyes, has great contrast, and only uses energy when refreshing the page. eInk Pearl is the latest generation eInk and it has 50% better screen contrast than the previous generation. It’s basically very close to print on paper and great for reading.
  2. Large Screen Size – The Kindle DX 2 has a large 9.7″ screen that makes it great if you want a lot of words per page or a larger font size or want to read newspapers and PDFs and magazines and websites that are all better suited to a larger screen. Plus you can put DX 2 in landscape mode for even better viewing of PDFs and websites. The screen size is 2.5 times the screen size of a 6″ eReader and a big plus. 
  3. Pairing with Amazon Kindle Store and Whispernet – Since the Kindle Store has a lot more newspapers and magazines and blogs than Sony’s Reader Store or the Nook Store it goes particularly well with the Kindle DX 2. Kindle DX 2’s large screen is great for reading websites so it’s fortuitous that Amazon has WhisperNet and offers free Internet browsing to US Kindle DX 2 owners and also to DX 2 owners in some other countries. The Kindle Store also has the best range of books and some of the lowest prices on non Agency Model books.

These are the 3 main super killer features that set DX 2 apart. There are a lot of opportunities for Amazon to add to this list – opportunities it hasn’t yet taken advantage of.

Killer Features Amazon could and should add to Kindle DX 2

There are 4 promising possibilities for the future and hopefully Amazon adds these so we can have a longer list of super killer Kindle DX 2 features –

  1. Potentially all of the Kindle 3 software improvements – Kindle DX 2 would add quite a few killer features if it got Kindle 3’s software improvements which include a new WebKit Browser (that would go superbly with the DX 2’s large screen), better PDF support, Voice Guide for full accessibility, tweaks for sharper fonts, 3 font choices, faster page turns, and lots of other smaller improvements.    
  2. Full-fledged PDF support – Kindle 3 added contrast settings and the ability to add notes and highlights to PDFs but it didn’t do a complete job. Kindle DX 2, due to its screen size, is particularly well suited for PDF reading and Amazon needs to add reflow support, proper highlighting, and various other features that would make DX 2 a full-fledged PDF reader.   
  3. $250 Price – Amazon could eat up the entire large screen eReader market if it can hit a lower price point. A price between $200 and $250 would be perfect.  
  4. Kindle Apps focused on (or suited for) Kindle DX 2 via Kindle App Store – The larger screen and wireless capability make RSS readers, Email Clients, and Read It Later type apps a big potential draw. The lack of WiFi is a handicap here but there are still a lot of possibilities.

Basically, the Kindle DX 2 is a very good eReader that has a lot of potential and room to grow. The Kindle 3 software improvements are quite likely to make it to DX 2. If the Kindle App Store takes off some valuable apps will make it to the DX 2. The other two will take more time – the PDF support might evolve to the point that the DX 2 can function as a full-fledged PDF reader but it might take 9 to 12 months, Kindle DX 2 pricing will probably hit $250 but not in the next 6 months.

There are also two potential killer features Amazon should consider for Kindle DX 3 –

  1. Writing Support – Sony 350 has shown that touch can be added to eReaders without compromising readability and it’s time the Kindle DX line added writing support.  
  2. WiFi Support – WiFi opens up a lot of possibilities and would also let Amazon cut down on price i.e. they could sell a cheaper Kindle DX WiFi.

There’s no way these could get added to Kindle DX 2 so please don’t factor these in when evaluating the DX 2.

Kindle DX 2 Review – Top 5 Weaknesses

The DX 2 has some significant weaknesses –

  1. It’s too expensive. $379 is a lot to pay for an eReader – even one that has a huge 9.7″ screen.  
  2. It doesn’t have the software improvements that Kindle 3 has – There are lots and lots of great improvements missing including faster page turns, voice guide, additional PDF features, and the WebKit Browser. This is a particularly surprising omission given that Kindle DX 2 is ideally suited for PDFs and better suited for web browsing.
  3. It’s too big and a bit heavy. It’s hard to carry and pack and one-handed reading is out of the question. It’s 10.4″ by 7.2″ by 0.38″ and weighs 18.9 ounces.
  4. No support for ePub or library books.
  5. It doesn’t play to its strengths. PDF support isn’t good enough to make it a solid PDF reader. There’s no writing support to make it ideal for students. The browser isn’t very good and prevents it from being great for web browsing. Basically, it misses out on being great at some things it is particularly well suited for.

Those are the biggest reading specific weaknesses. The next section will look at big weaknesses unrelated to reading and smaller reading related weaknesses.

Additional Kindle DX 2 Weaknesses

  1. It’s only great for reading. If you want a do-everything device or even a do-10-things device the DX 2 isn’t right for you.
  2. It doesn’t have touch.
  3. It doesn’t have a color screen.
  4. The page turns/refreshes take a bit of time. Around 0.9 to 1.1 seconds though those are rough measurements.
  5. It gets tiring to hold it for longer than 5-10 minutes – Ideally you want to be using both hands and even that can get tiring after a while and then you need something to rest it against.
  6. Not having all the software improvements added in Kindle 3 means a whole host of small negatives – no WebKit browser, no Voice Guide, and so forth.
  7. It doesn’t have WiFi.
  8. It’s only available in Graphite. Some people find that a white case is easier to read on (personally, don’t find a difference) and some have mentioned the case getting hot when it’s very hot outside.
  9. You’re locked into the Kindle Store as DRMed books from other stores don’t work. So your only options are the Kindle Store and stores that sell DRM-free books.

The list might be missing some weaknesses but suffice to say Kindle DX 2 isn’t perfect.

Kindle DX 2 Review – Additional Strengths

Here are some more Kindle DX 2 benefits –

  1. It’s focused on reading. It doesn’t compromise on the reading experience and that’s a big win.  
  2. It’s very easy to use with close to zero learning curve plus you don’t need a computer to use it. 
  3. It’s readable in direct sunlight. The eInk Pearl screen is also pretty readable in early evening type lighting conditions. You definitely need a reading light in the late evening and at night. A Kindle Lighted Cover for DX 2 would be perfect – Hopefully, Amazon makes one.
  4. There are no distractions – You can use the slow browser and that’s pretty much it. This advantage might disappear once the Kindle App Store opens.  
  5. Kindle DX 2 has really good battery life – 2 weeks with the 3G off and 1 week with the 3G on.
  6. You can start reading your book on DX 2 and continue on your phone (if it’s Blackberry, Android, or iPhone), then continue on your PC at work, and come back home and finish on the DX 2. Your position in the book, your notes, and your highlights are all saved and carried over.
  7. Free Store Browsing and books in 60 seconds.
  8. Text to Speech feature that reads your documents and books to you. Publishers sometimes turn this off.
  9. Accelerometer for auto-rotation of the screen which is more annoying than useful. You can set orientation manually and lock it.
  10. Wireless coverage in 100+ countries. Browse the Kindle Store for free in all these countries. For US Kindle DX 2 owners free Internet in all these countries.  
  11. It has 4 GB memory which is quite good.
  12. The Graphite case helps bring out the screen contrast of the eInk Pearl Screen better.

Kindle DX 2 definitely delivers all the advantages of the Kindle ecosystem – a focus on reading, strong infrastructure, great store, free Internet, 60 second downloads, and constant evolution and improvement.

Kindle DX 2 Review – A very good, work-in-progress eReader

The Kindle DX 2 is a very good eReader with some killer features and also some significant weaknesses.

  1. If you want a large screen dedicated eReader it’s the only option and a very good one.
  2. If you want a device for textbooks or PDFs or newspapers or reading websites it’s a decent option but needs some solid work from Amazon to become a very good option.
  3. If you want a dedicated eReader primarily for reading books the Kindle 3 might be a better option.
  4. If you want a device that does more than just read or perhaps one whose specialization is something other than reading then DX 2 is definitely not the right choice.

Do take a look at the Kindle DX 2 Video page and the Kindle DX 2 Photo page to get a better feel of what you’d get for your money. The Kindle DX 2 videos and photos include size and screen comparisons with Kindle, Nook, and Sony Reader.

The Kindle DX 2 is a few features and a price cut away from being the perfect large screen eReader. Given Amazon’s history it’s likely to reach there in 4-10 months and if you have a strong need for a large screen eReader you can get a Kindle DX 2 and be reasonably confident that Amazon will keep improving the DX 2 and the Kindle Store.