Kindle DX Review 2010

This Kindle DX Review is based on approximately 2 months of use of the International Kindle DX. This includes reading 3 to 6 books and a few short stories on it (Dragon Keeper, City at World’s End, Iron Council, perhaps Scar, perhaps 33 AD, perhaps Brood of the Witch Queen, Overtime) and also playing around a lot with it.

Using the Kindle DX alongside the Kindle 2, the iPad, the Nook, the iPhone, and (rarely) Sony Reader helped paint a very good picture of the Kindle DX’s strengths and weaknesses as an eReader. This Kindle DX review will use all this experience, use the What makes a good eReader? post as a skeleton, and try out some new things.

Well, let’s jump in.

Kindle DX Review – the indispensable eReader functions

Given that the Kindle DX comes with the screen technology, design philosophy (simple and easy), platform, and store of the Kindle 2 it shouldn’t come as a surprise that it does exceptionally well when it comes to the indispensable eReader functions.

Being able to get books on the Kindle DX

There’s a rich range of content courtesy the Kindle Store (over 500,000 books) and free book sources like Gutenberg and the Internet Archive. Combine that with -

  1. Free, quick wireless downloads anywhere in the world. Supposedly now available even if your home country isn’t USA (only confirmed for UK and some other countries – please check details for your country at the Kindle DX product page). 
  2. 3G access which means not having to search for a WiFi network – although you must get decent cell reception in your home/office for it to work. 
  3. The Kindle Store being open 24/7 with easy returns (in the Kindle DX there’s a return option on the purchase confirmation page).

And you have a winning formula.

The Kindle Store still has the largest number of new books and the Kindle DX’s larger 9.7″ screen makes browsing the Kindle Store easier.

A solid 9 stars out of 10.

The book reading experience on the Kindle DX

The Kindle DX shines when it comes to reading books -

  1. The eInk screen works marvellously for reading – the eInk is sharp, it works in sunlight, and there’s no eye-strain. 
  2. The larger screen makes it easier to read – you can choose between getting more text per page or reading in a larger font. 
  3. The battery life is very long. 1 week with wireless on and 2 weeks with wireless off. 
  4. Good solid features – changeable font sizes, accelerometer based screen rotation, and good reference features. 
  5. It’s completely focused on reading.

It was a lot of fun reading on the Kindle DX after a few weeks spent mostly with the iPad. Kindle DX vs iPad is one of those comparisons where you know what’s better for you and what’s more fun to read on – However, if you’re not careful you’re going to invent a non-reading related reason to pick the iPad. Which is perfectly OK if reading isn’t your top priority.

Another solid 9 stars out of 10.

It’s more fun to read on the Kindle DX

Perhaps it’s an individual thing – a combination of which books were read, having just switched from the iPad, and liking the larger screen more. However, the Kindle DX is a lot of fun to read on.

One of my favorite things is driving and in some ways reading on a Kindle DX (or for that matter on a good, dedicated reading device like Kindle or Nook) is like driving a very good car. There’s no substitute for a car that’s built with the sheer pleasure of driving in mind and that’s exactly what the Kindle DX is – it’s built for reading. There are things it could and should do to improve – However, it gets most of the features right.

Perhaps fun is the third indispensable eReader function – Is it fun to read on a particular eReader?

Well, it most definitely is fun to read on the DX – more fun than reading on the iPad. Also, while the Kindle 2 is more convenient and better value for money, the Kindle DX is a tiny bit more fun to read on. Makes you wonder whether the ideal screen size for eReaders is perhaps 8″ or 9″.

Yet another solid 9 stars out of 10.

Kindle DX Review – the hugely important eReader functions

Let’s start with a new criteria that is missing from previous eReader reviews.

Value for Money – Is the Kindle DX worth $489?

There’s an easy answer to this – If you compare it with the $259 Kindle 2 or the $499 iPad it doesn’t match up.

The Kindle 2’s only drawback (if you can call it that) is the smaller screen size. It compensates by being smaller, more portable, lighter, well suited to one-handed reading, and $230 cheaper.

The iPad is not meant for reading and its primary selling points are the excellent screen (though not optimal for reading) and variety of functionalities. It’s hard to compare something that can do 100 or more things well with a device that does one or two things exceptionally well.

Yet the Kindle DX provides a far better reading experience than the iPad and people who want that will pay the $489. Amazon would make things much easier if it dropped the price by $150 to $189.

The answer to the question is Yes and No. Yes, the Kindle DX is worth $489. No, it’s not because by now Amazon ought to have figured out a way to reduce its price drastically.   

A poor 5 stars out of 10.

Screen Quality and Size

The Kindle DX has an excellent eInk screen – it’s very readable and has good, solid contrast. It’s 9.7″ with 1200 by 824 pixels at 150 pixels per inch and has 16 shades of grey.

We’ll handle the negative impact of the Kindle DX’s screen size on portability in the Portability section. As far as reading goes the 9.7″ screen is great – it lets you get a lot on every page, go with very large fonts without making the number of words per page a joke, and has about as much space for words per page as a hardcover.

Kindle DX reviews very well on screen quality and size – 8 stars out of 10.

Kindle DX – Review of Ease of Use

The Kindle DX is very, very easy to use. It would get a very high score if it weren’t for the tiny keyboard with the qwerty keys doubling up to serve as number keys. The other pain point is the lack of page turns buttons on the left side.

7 stars out of 10.

Kindle DX Portability

This is almost a trick question – Compare it with the iPad and it’s lighter and around the same size. Compare it with the Kindle 2 and it’s hardly portable at all.

Here are the upsides – It’s quite thin at 0.38″, the weight is a low 18.9 ounces (given the size), you can hold it in one hand for short stretches, you can fit it into larger bags and it doesn’t add much weight, and it’s easy to hold and carry in your hand. There’s also the great battery life and the large memory (3.3 GB of available memory).

Here are the downsides – At 10.4″ by 7.2″ it’s quite big, you can’t hold it for long using one hand, left-handed reading is ruled out due to the lack of buttons on the left side, and it won’t fit in smaller purses.

6 stars out of 10. Harsh but you’re comparing against some really portable options like Kindle and Nook.

Reference features on the Kindle DX

Kindle DX shines here as not only does it have the built-in dictionary, a good search function, Wikipedia access, and free Internet browsing, it has a large screen which makes everything easier – see more of the website or Wikipedia page on the screen, see more text corresponding to search results on the screen, and so forth.

9 out of 10 stars. At times the Kindle DX misses out because handing out 9.5 or 10 would indicate things are close to perfect and they’re not. A lot of the 9s are more like 9.2s and 9.3s.

Search

The Kindle DX displays as many search results per page as the Kindle – However, it displays much more text which makes it much easier to figure out which search result you want. It’s quite an important change.

Some readers (like Sony Reader) highlight the results in the book itself which means that you can see much more of the text and figure out if it’s the result you want. However, it means that usually only 1 result is shown per page. The Kindle, on the other hand, shows you 6 results per page with 2 lines of text (not sentences, lines) so you have more results per page but less context. The iPad uses a similar model with 6 search results with 2 or so lines per result.

The Kindle DX combines the best things about each to show you 6 results per page with 5 lines per search result. It makes the Kindle DX’s search function arguably the best.

9 stars out of 10.

Kindle DX Review – Content Rights and Content Portability

A lot has changed with this over the last year – The Kindle is not ‘open’ and yet you can access your Kindle books on other devices thanks to various Kindle Apps.

  1. You have Kindle for PC, Kindle for Mac, Kindle for iPhone, Kindle for iPad, Kindle for Blackberry, and soon Kindle for Android. That means your content is readable on a lot of devices.
  2. You can download a book as many times as you like and now for free all over the world (please check details for your country on the Kindle DX product page).
  3. You can share the same book across 5 to 6 devices (Publishers set the number and it’s almost always 5 or 6).
  4. There is still no support for ePub.
  5. Kindle books still don’t work on other dedicated reading devices – not on the Nook, not on the Sony Reader.

PDF support has always been present on the Kindle DX and its larger screen size and landscape orientation both help make reading PDFs much easier. Kindle 2.5 update promises to add support for zooming and panning PDFs.

Kindle DX gets 7 out of 10 on content rights and portability. 9 if you are OK with using Kindle Apps, 5 if you’re anti-DRM.

Kindle DX Review – Annotations

Kindle DX doesn’t have touch, has a Lilliputian keyboard, and has one row of keys serving two purposes (qwerty and numbers) – It makes for a rather unpleasant note-taking experience.

Adding highlights and bookmarks is easy. It’s easy to look at all your highlights and notes in the My Clippings File, transfer them to your PC, or to look at them on kindle.amazon.com. You will also be able to see Most Popular Highlights once Kindle 2.5 is released.

All the great features are limited by the terrible keyboard.

5 out of 10 stars.

Kindle DX Review – Changeable Font Sizes

There are currently 6 font sizes on the Kindle DX and the Kindle 2.5 update promises two more, super sized fonts. Given the larger screen size of the Kindle DX and the accelerometer (which means automatic switching to landscape mode) the variety in font sizes really shines on the Kindle DX.

9 out of 10 stars. This assumes Kindle 2.5 is factored in.

Audiobooks

There are a good set of controls, Amazon owns Audible and supports Audible audiobooks, there are sources for free audiobooks (Librivox), and the stereo speakers work well. You’ll probably have to find someone who listens to audiobooks more (which shouldn’t be difficult) for a better opinion.

Perhaps 7 out of 10 stars.

Kindle DX Review – Does it have an Easy to Use Store? 

Yes, very much so.

You get all the benefits of the Kindle Store – wide range, easy navigation, good recommendation engine, lots of reviews from Amazon customers and Kindle owners, nice categorization of books, a good search function. You get all of this on a larger, 9.7″ screen.

It’s a very solid 9 stars out of 10.

One Handed Use

The Kindle DX stumbles here since it is heavier and holding it in one hand for longer than 5-10 minutes is very tiring. It’s also not possible to read using your left hand as there are no page turn buttons on the left side and the reverse the screen suggestion is asinine – Who wants to read with a keyboard above the screen?  

Very un-Amazon like to make things complicated for readers and hopefully they change the design back to buttons on both sides for Kindle DX 2.

5 stars for One Handed Reading.

Time and Date on the Kindle DX

Press the Menu button on any screen to see the time. The Kindle’s ‘type in @t on the home screen’ secret doesn’t work here to figure out the date.

6 out of 10 stars since having the time handy is useful.

Language Support

There has been some progress with the Kindle Store now allowing books in French, German, Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese in addition to English. There still isn’t support for languages not based on the English alphabet. There are font hacks – However, they aren’t official and they prevent you from updating the Kindle until you uninstall them.

2 stars out of 10.

Kindle DX Review – Folders and Book Organization

This is a big, big feature arriving in the Kindle 2.5 update. All signs (and the help text) indicate it is done intelligently and in a way that isn’t confusing or overwhelming.

The addition of Folders/Collections will make at least 50% of Kindle owners happier with their Kindles. It’ll also give the Kindle DX and Kindle 2 an advantage over the Nook and negate the Sony Reader’s advantage (it’s had collections for a while). iPhone and iPad get Folders of their own in iOS4 although they are a bit limited and apply to apps and not books.

9 out of 10 stars. This factors in the Kindle 2.5 update.

Kindle DX Review – the nice to have eReader features

The Kindle DX has had some very good scores and only a few poor ones so far. Now we start running into some of the Kindle DX’s obvious disadvantages.

Kindle DX Review – Looks

The Kindle DX shares some of the Kindle 2’s design (white border around an eInk screen, brushed aluminium back, 5-way and similar buttons on the right side) and yet is decidedly different looking. The screen takes up much more space, the keyboard and lower panel take up much less space, and it makes the side and upper panel seem smaller (though they’re not) and gives the screen a lot more prominence.

It’s surprising how much of an effect having a larger screen has on looks.

6 stars out of 10.

Free Internet Access

This is a big feature despite the slow speed of the Internet connection. Combine it with the recently added worldwide free wireless downloads and Amazon are really getting mileage out of WhisperNet and AT&T.

The best way to think of the Free Internet Access is -

  1. There’s no wireless plan. You pay absolutely nothing.
  2. Browsing the store is reasonably OK.
  3. Kindle Store Books download in just 60 seconds.
  4. You can check some basic sites and nearly all mobile versions of sites. Not bad for what you pay.
  5. Speeds are slow – However, lots of mobile sites are optimized so they work fine. Expect to wait 10 or more seconds for mobile versions of sites and 30 or more seconds for non-mobile versions. A lot of the latter will not work – even in the Advanced Mode of the browser.

The browser works pretty well for reading sites that are mostly text and for sites that have good mobile versions. The larger screen of the Kindle DX also helps make using the Internet more enjoyable.

8 stars out of 10.

Color

eInk doesn’t support color and according to Mr. Bezos we shouldn’t be expecting this anytime soon.

Incomplete.

Kindle DX Review – Text to Speech Feature

While some Publishers disable this feature a lot don’t. For the books that have this enabled it’s an extremely valuable feature – despie the fact that the voice doesn’t sound very human and it mispronounces some words. Valuable enough that Apple are pretending their accessibility feature is a Text to Speech feature.

You also have it available on all public domain books and all your personal documents. It’s not available on PDFs.

8 out of 10 stars.

Journal

Kindle DX does not have a journal feature. You do have to think that when the Kindle App Store arrives someone will add one. Having a device with a keyboard and a crisp paper like screen just begs for the addition of a Diary or Journal App.

Incomplete.

Extensions and Utilities

This is another area that the Kindle App Store ought to serve – daily planners, weekly planners, vocabulary games, word games, and other apps that would go well with an eReader.

0 out of 10 stars.

Kindle DX Review – Games & Diversions

There’s minesweeper – Press Alt+Shift+M on the home page. There’s also GoMoKu which is sort of like Tic Tac Toe crossed with a chessboard.

This is yet another category that would be well served by apps. You do have to wonder how much of a distraction it will be – just figured out that GoMoKu isn’t half bad and there may very well be games and apps that are quite a diversion from reading.

3 out of 10 stars. Not sure whether a high rating here would be good for eReaders (and reading) or bad.

Background Music

Kindle DX has pretty much the same background music support as a Kindle 2. It allows playing music, pausing the current song, and jumping to the next track.

5 stars out of 10.

Device Lock, Lost and Found options

The addition of a password lock feature in the Kindle 2.5 update (detect a theme ;) ) will be a valuable addition. There is still no option to lock purchases (as opposed to the whole Kindle).

4 out of 10 stars. Yet again we’re factoring in the Kindle 2.5 update.

Personalization

Kindle DX, like the Kindle 2, does not provide any customization options – not even custom screensavers. Your only option is to get 3rd party skins, covers, and cases, or to add-on your own stickers or whatever else you might like – glitter, unicorn horns, shrunken heads.

5 out of 10 stars.

Kindle DX Review – Overall 7.75 Stars Rating, Recommended with reservations

The Kindle DX gets straight 9s on ease of getting books, the book reading experience, and being fun to own and read on. There’s little doubt it’s an excellent eReader and it aces the indispensable eReader functions.

The first downsides begin to appear when we look at hugely important eReader functions. It only scores 7 out of 10 despite a bunch of 9s (screen quality and size, search, reference, folders, easy to use store) because it does badly on Value for Money and really badly in areas like annotations, one-handed use, and language support.

It scores only 5 stars out of 10 in the ‘Nice to Have eReader features’ category though an eventual Kindle App Store would improve that to a 7 or perhaps even higher.

We end up with an overall rating of approximately 7.75 since the first two categories of features hold a lot more weight than the nice to have category. It’s hard not to think of the crucial importance of three factors -

  1. The Kindle 2.5 Update. This is arriving soon and is already factored in – without it the Kindle DX wouldn’t remain competitive. 
  2. The price Amazon decides to sell Kindle DX and Kindle DX 2 at. Value for Money is perhaps the biggest weakness of the Kindle DX at the moment.
  3. When the Kindle App Store will open and what apps it will provide. This could be a game changer – at best it could add a couple of killer features that other dedicated eReaders don’t have and at worst it would give the Kindle DX a better score in the ‘Nice to Have eReader features’ category.

The Reservations have to do almost entirely with these three things. If Amazon addresses two out of these three well the Kindle DX is a strong buy. If it addresses all three then the decision is a no-brainer.

The final caveat is that this entire Kindle DX review supposes that reading books and reading are your main priorities. If you are looking for something that ‘also can be used to read books’ you would be better served with a netbook or an iPad.

Kindle DX vs iPad Review

This Kindle DX vs iPad review compares the Kindle DX and the iPad as reading devices. It focuses solely on the reading experience.

If you don’t read much or want a multi-purpose device then please pick an iPad.

Kindle DX vs iPad Review – Areas the iPad wins

The iPad clearly wins some areas -

  1. A very high quality screen with brilliant color – this makes the iPad much prettier. If visual and aesthetic appeal are crucial to you then get an iPad.
  2. The Touchscreen of the iPad makes it very convenient to use when browsing through ebook stores, when taking notes, and in certain other situations. For actual reading itself the convenience of the iPad is the same as that of the Kindle DX.
  3. Use any reading app and thus access Kindle Store, B&N store, and other stores all from one device.
  4. You can buy an app that reads PDFs well.
  5. It’s accessible. Everything (menu, interface) is read out.
  6. There is Text to Speech although it’s not really good text to speech. You can buy an app that reads free public domain books to you if Voiceover doesn’t work well enough for you.
  7. A markedly better browser. 
  8. Backlight and ability to vary screen brightness.

iPad holds some important advantages over the Kindle DX – color, touch, access to every ebook store, accessibility, backlight.

Additional iPad advantages

The iPad also beats the Kindle DX in certain other areas -

  1. It does more than just read. In fact, there are over 5,000 iPad apps and 200,000 iPhone apps that can be used although they don’t work that well on iPad.
  2. Since it does more than just read the iPad might represent more value for money if you want a device that does things in addition to reading.
  3. iPad is a status indicator – which may or may not hold significance for you.
  4. ePub access via iBooks.
  5. Apps like Stanza that provide a lot of customization.
  6. Wireless access is included in the data plan or in your WiFi access cost. WiFi is faster than 3G. You do pay for the plan.
  7. Larger memory – the cheapest iPad model has 16 GB which is much more than the Kindle DX’s 4 GB.
  8. Lots of reference apps like dictionary and thesaurus.
  9. Animated page turns on most apps.
  10. Quickly jump to any spot on the page.
  11. Some iPad reading apps have page numbers.

It’s amazing to see the proportion of iPad advantages that stem from the app store. It certainly shows the power of the app store model – power that the Kindle DX might be able to harness itself when Amazon releases the Kindle App Store (the program is currently in Beta – has been since February).

The role of Kindle for iPad

It would be remiss to neglect mentioning that Kindle for iPad provides a lot of benefits to the iPad -

  1. Kindle Store has the best selection of new books. Kindle for iPad means you can access these through the iPad.
  2. Kindle Store has 20 or more new free book offers every month. Kindle for iPad gets you these offers on the iPad.
  3. Kindle Store has the cheapest prices.
  4. Kindle for iPad has some of the best themes and arguably the best font.
  5. Kindle for iPad is very easy to use and designed to focus on reading – something most serious readers will love.

Getting Kindle for iPad is yet another benefit of the App Store model. Without it the iPad would not compare as well against the Kindle DX as it currently does.

Kindle DX vs iPad Review – Areas the Kindle DX wins

The Kindle DX holds some powerful advantages of its own –  

  1. eInk is great for reading. It has higher pixel density and is easier on the eyes. For a large section of people reading on LCD screens for longer than 20-30 minutes causes significant eye-strain – for them LCD screen eReaders are pretty much ruled out. This may or may not apply to you.
  2. You get a Focus on reading and a device that is optimized for reading.
  3. A lack of distractions – on the iPad it’s easy to get side-tracked by email and apps and games and surfing the Internet. With the Kindle DX reading is the only thing it does well.
  4. You get a good reading software and the best eBook Store on the device and you don’t have to keep switching between different apps.
  5. Readability in sunlight and next to no glare when there are bright lights or sunshine.
  6. Amazon promotes cheaper $9.99 prices while Apple promotes $14.99/$12.99 prices and the Agency Model.
  7. Free Internet access – although with a very basic browser. Free store browsing and downloads in over 100 countries (If your home country is US – free Internet too).
  8. Better International Availability and Service – Available in 150+ countries, Whispernet in 100+ countries, free downloads in all WhisperNet countries, and so forth.
  9. The Kindle platform and service – Apps for iPhone, iPad, PC, Mac, Blackberry, and soon Android. Sync last page read, highlights, and notes across all your devices.
  10. Ridiculously good battery life – 1 week with wireless on (more like 4-5 days) and 2 weeks with wireless off.

Kindle DX holds some strong advantages over iPad – eInk, focus on reading, readability in sunlight, free Internet and store access in 100+ countries (for US owners), the Kindle platform and service, and great battery life.

Additional Kindle DX advantages

These are also some Kindle DX advantages that you might find appealing –  

  1. Lower price for a device with 3G access ($489) as compared to the iPad 3G which retails for $629. Plus you might not have to pay sales tax on a Kindle DX purchase in your state.
  2. Lower weight than the iPad (18.9 ounces compared to 1.5 pounds) although one-handed reading is still uncomfortable.
  3. Physical keyboard although putting number keys on same row as qwerty messes it up.
  4. Less effort on page turns.
  5. Easier to understand.
  6. The Text to Speech works in a much more intuitive way than on the iPad. iPad is basically pretending its accessibility feature is a Text to Speech feature. If you need accessibility – go with the iPad. If you want a good Text to Speech service – Consider the Kindle DX first.

The Kindle DX is a very good reading device. If you want a device primarily for reading then this is the device for you. It, however, doesn’t make much sense if you read less than a book a month.

Kindle DX vs iPad Review – What makes a good eReader

This What makes a good eReader? post is the one my eReader reviews are usually based on. Looking at the criteria of this post (please do note that it only covers reading) we can compare the Kindle DX and the iPad more extensively. 

Indispensable eReader Functions

  1. Being able to get books – A tie. Kindle Store is the best store and it’s on the Kindle DX. iPad has various stores but your books are distributed between apps which is an inconvenience.
  2. Being able to read books – Kindle DX wins. It has a more readable screen, a better battery life, and it disappears and there are no distractions.  

Kindle DX holds the advantage.

Hugely Important eReader Functions 

  1. Screen Quality and Size – Since it’s ‘screen quality for reading’ the Kindle DX’s eInk screen wins. It has better readability and is not affected by bright light or sunshine.
  2. Ease of Use – This is a tough one. The iPad probably gets the edge because of the Touch Screen.
  3. Portability – The Kindle DX is lighter and has better battery life. Kindle DX wins.
  4. Reference – A tie as both have access to the Internet and Wikipedia.
  5. Search – A tie.
  6. Content Rights and Content Portability – iPad wins as it has apps from most major stores and supports ePub.
  7. Annotations – iPad has touch while Kindle has syncing across devices. Perhaps the iPad is a little better.
  8. Changeable Font sizes – With the newer font sizes promised in Kindle 2.5 this becomes a tie.
  9. AudioBooks – You can get pretty good apps for the iPad. Kindle audiobook support is pretty good. A tie.
  10. Easy to Use Store – A tie as both have the Kindle Store. Browsing Kindle Store in Safari on the iPad is probably a tiny bit better but the lack of tabs and having to leave and re-enter the app negates that advantage.
  11. One Handed Use – Kindle DX is slightly less worse.
  12. Time and Date – Tie.
  13. Language Support – iPad wins as it has lots of apps which add lots of features like support for hyphenation (Stanza).

The iPad wins in 4 areas while the Kindle DX wins in 3.

Nice to Have eReader functions

  1. Looks – iPad easily wins.
  2. General Internet Access – iPad has a much better browser. Kindle has free Internet Access in 100+ countries for American Kindle owners. A tie. 
  3. Text To Speech – Kindle has a much better TTS feature. iPad has apps that provide this to an extent and better accessibility. Perhaps Kindle DX is a bit ahead.
  4. Journal Feature – Kindle DX probably won’t get it till the Kindle App Store opens. iPad has more journals than you could fill up. iPad wins.
  5. Extensions and Utilities – iPad easily wins. Kindle App Store will help the Kindle DX catch up a bit – However, it’s doubtful iPad will ever lose its advantage here.
  6. Games & Diversions – iPad wins. It’s almost too good with games and diversions.
  7. Device Lock and Lost&Found feature – both devices are terrible at this. Just password protection (counting Kindle 2.5).
  8. Personalization and Customizability – iPad wins.

When it comes to ‘nice to have’ features the iPad really cleans up – It wins 5 areas while the Kindle DX only wins 1.

Kindle DX vs iPad – Review Summary + Recommendation

We arrive at a very interesting conclusion -

  1. The Kindle DX is clearly better for reading books – the reading experience is better, it’s readable in sunlight, the screen quality for reading is great, and it’s a dedicated eReader. If you want a device for reading then the Kindle DX is the one to go with.
  2. There’s a huge middle ground – At the very edge (reading is more important than any other function) the Kindle DX is the clear choice. However, very quickly the iPad becomes the #1 choice. The minute you say – Reading is one of the two main purposes of my device – the iPad becomes better. The reason this switch happens so quickly is that Kindle for iPad is an excellent reading app and that there are lots of reading apps from lots of companies on the iPad.
  3. Then we get people who say – Reading is not the main thing I want from my device. For them the iPad is absolutely the better choice.

The Kindle DX does not have the low price, portability, one-handed reading, etc. of the Kindle and therefore it has a narrower band where it’s the better choice than the iPad. Kindle DX vs iPad is a very tough review – If you love to read or are looking for a device that is primarily meant for reading then the Kindle DX wins over the iPad. The minute you start getting multiple priorities for your device the iPad beats the Kindle DX.

Why is the Kindle DX $230 more than the Kindle?

There’s a thread on the official kindle forum wondering – When will the price of the Kindle DX be reduced? 

There’s another question worth asking – Why is the DX $230 more expensive than the Kindle 2?  

Trying to find the $230

What are the differences/bonuses that the Kindle DX has and what is each of them worth?

  1. The larger screen of the Kindle DX. It’s 2.5 times the size of the Kindle 2’s screen. Let’s say it costs an additional $50.
  2. The accelerometer. It probably costs $10.  
  3. Larger amount of material and higher manufacturing costs. Let’s say $10 per Kindle DX.
  4. Higher Shipping Costs – again let’s assume it’s $10.
  5. Larger memory – Let’s say it’s $15.  

Those are generous estimates and they add up to $95. That still leaves $135.

Why isn’t the Kindle DX at $359 instead of $489?

Our generous estimate gives us a $95 price difference. Amazon should be cutting costs and using economies of scale and getting the price of the Kindle DX to $359 or below. There’s no way to justify the Kindle DX at a price $230 higher than the Kindle 2.

Perhaps more importantly, you can’t sell the Kindle DX at $489 when the iPad is going to start at $499. There just isn’t enough of a price advantage in favor of the Kindle DX – even with the free internet access.

When will the price of the Kindle DX be reduced? Will it work?

My money is on us seeing two price reductions for the Kindle DX this year -

  1. A drop in price to $399 around the time of the iPad launch. 
  2. A further drop in price to $329 or $349 before Christmas season. This will probably be in conjunction with a new model of the Kindle DX.

The price drops would improve the Kindle DX’s chances against the new wave of large screen eReaders and multi-purpose devices.

Could a $399 Kindle DX compete with the iPad? What about a $329 Kindle DX?

The first thing to keep in mind is that the Kindle DX and the iPad target different audiences -

  1. Kindle DX targets people who read books and newspapers and textbooks.  
  2. iPad targets people who want a multi-purpose device.

The Kindle DX vs iPad comparison at current prices ($489 vs $499) is rather favorable to the iPad as it has so many possible uses. A price difference would make it a tougher decision – especially for people who want to read.

  1. A $399 Kindle DX would mean that most of the reading focused people prefer the Kindle DX.
  2. A $329 Kindle DX would begin to eat into both the Kindle 2 and the iPad’s constituencies.

A $329 Kindle DX might not happen as it requires a lot of cost cutting and it prices the Kindle DX too close to the Kindle 2. A $359 to $399 Kindle DX is very likely.

Kindle DX needs a price-cut asap

The arrival of the iPad for $499, the Entourage Edge for around $500, and of other large screen eReaders puts a lot of pressure on Amazon to improve the Kindle DX while simultaneously cutting its price by $100 to $150.

We’ll probably see the first price cut in March and another one before the end of the year. A sub $350 Kindle DX in 2010 is a distinct possibility.

Kindle DX University trial data from UWashington

The Princeton Kindle DX trial data was released 2 days earlier and it certainly had some interesting feedback from students evaluating the Kindle DX as a textbook reader. Today the University of Washington Kindle DX trial results are out so let’s take a look.  

Kindle DX in Education – Brilliant for Books, Terrible for Textbooks

The recurring theme was that the Kindle is great for leisure reading and long-form reading and terrible for textbooks -

“Comparing it to textbooks, it kind of sucks,” CSE graduate student Ryder Ziola said … “There are a lot of things it is good at, if you are reading a novel, where you consume in a linear fashion. It’s really good at stuff [like] that, but when it comes to actual textbooks, it’s a failure.”

“It’s a fantastic personal pleasure-reading device, but textbook reading is different, ” Lazowska said. “You want to take notes, and Kindle needs some adaptation for that.”

The article basically says Kindle DX can’t replace textbooks -

Overall, the responses of CSE graduate students highlighted just how often students take for granted the layout and effectiveness of regular, physical textbooks.

Kindle DX isn’t a good textbook reader mostly because of a lack of good note-taking

The article has numerous mentions of this -

Most CSE students agreed that taking notes on the Kindle paled in comparison to the effectiveness of laptop Word documents or a basic pen and paper setup.

The Kindle has highlighting capabilities, but the keypad itself has buttons that are less than half a centimeter in diameter, making note-taking difficult and slow.

While the lack of easy note-taking was the main complaint there were also numerous other complaints.

Kindle DX in Education – The Bad

Here’s the long list of complaints -

  1. No physical clues what a book is like. 
  2. The keyboard has tiny keys and it makes note-taking slow and difficult.
  3. Can’t take notes on the side.
  4. Painful to copy files since you have to find and use the cable. 
  5. No zoom capability for PDFs.
  6. A little difficult to move forward and back across pages (think they mean you are forced to go one page at a time).
  7. Can’t do anything beyond reading.

This comment from a student reminds us that the Kindle is terrible at text input -

CSE graduate student Andrew Hunter said. “You cannot write code or papers or produce something on the Kindle. I still have to have the ability of doing these things on the computer.”

It also suggests that a Kindle with added writing functionality and a notebook feature might be a huge hit

Overall, it’s quite interesting to see the complaints and contrast them against the complaints Princeton students had.

Kindle DX in Education – The Good

 The article also lists quite a few positive comments from students, including -

“In general, the best thing about it is that it’s a lot easier to look at than a computer screen.” (CSE graduate student Adrian Sampson)

I got it for convenience,” said Andrew McKenna, a student who owns the device for pleasure reading. “The books can be downloaded in 30 seconds. You look up a book, it says if it has a Kindle edition, and you can download it to your computer, e-mail, or download it wirelessly.”

The complete list of pluses -

  1. Saves time and money since you don’t have to print pages. 
  2. Easy access to all the pages/documents.
  3. You can scan or download PDFs for the Kindle. 
  4. 60 second downloads.
  5. Very convenient. 
  6. Easy on the eyes.
  7. Portrait and Landscape modes.

It’s nice to see multiple mentions of eInk being easier to read on than a computer screen – especially given that the NY Times would have us believe there’s no difference between eInk and LCD.

Kindle DX in Education – Thoughts

There’s a lot of good feedback from the Kindle DX University Trials (for Amazon and for other eReader makers) -

  1. Make a device targeted at students and designed for them.
  2. Make a really good note-taking function when targeting students.
  3. Add in great PDF support.
  4. Stay wary of the National Federation of the Blind and be mindful of various rights groups and their concerns.   
  5. Move quickly and be prepared for and bypass the slow pace of Universities.

It’ll be interesting to see what the next few attempts to get eReaders into education will be like. It might be a dedicated eReader based on eInk with a touchscreen and much better note-taking or it might be something like the Entourage Edge which adds on a second color LCD screen. You also have the iPad and Tablets and Netbooks trying to muscle their way in.

The Entourage Edge really does look like a pretty great textbook reader at the moment. The eInk screen looks to have pretty good touch and writing support (from the videos that are out) and there’s the LCD screen for times when eInk just won’t do.

Kindle DX Study Data released by Princeton

The Daily Princetonian covers the just released data from Princeton’s Kindle DX study.

Kindle DX Study – The Good

Let’s start with a few of the good things -

… reduced the amount of paper students printed for their respective classes by nearly 50 percent …

Wilson School professor Daniel Kurtzer, who taught WWS 555A, said he found the Kindle conducive to the format of his class because it consisted of “very traditional reading.” (Class discussions were a problem though)

Survey participants cited the Kindle’s battery life, wireless connection, portability, search feature and ability to consolidate all course documents in one place as convenient features.

The article has a bunch of positives scattered throughout and they include – 

  1. It reduced paper usage by approximately 50%.  
  2. Students liked Kindle’s long battery life, wireless capability, portability, search capability, and ability to have all course documents in one place. 
  3. Ability to download notes and highlights to PC.  
  4. Lots of availability of books without having to carry a lot physically.
  5. 35% of students said they would buy a replacement eReader if their free eReader (free in return for participating in the study) broke.
  6. Professors of all 3 classes testing the Kindle said that with improvements they’d be willing to do another trial.

While there were positives listed the article mostly focuses on the negatives.

Kindle DX Study – The Bad

The Kindle DX comes under a lot of fire. The strongest negative reactions include -

“It’s not very well designed for academic use, it’s not very helpful in page-turning or note taking, and the annotation software is very poor,”

Because there are no page numbers, I also had no conception of how much reading I had to do,”

I found it disappointing for use in class because I emphasize close work with the text, and that ideally requires students to mark up the text quite a bit,” Professor Katz said. “Though it doesn’t prevent highlighting, the annotation function is difficult to use, and the keyboard is very small,” he added.

The complete list of negatives -

  1. Ill-suited for class readings. 
  2. Lack of page numbers.
  3. Difficult to highlight and annotate.
  4. Tiny keyboard.
  5. Difficult to use folder structure (think they mean lack of proper Folders feature).
  6. 65% of participants said they wouldn’t buy a replacement eReader if their free eReader broke.
  7. May be more suited for leisure reading. 

The article paints the Kindle DX as not up for the task of being a textbook reader – unfortunately there is a lot of truth to it.

One student’s assessment is, in my opinion, spot-on -

“I think the only way the Kindle can become suitable for academics is if Amazon makes a specially designed device for use in the classroom that would allow easy and seamless annotation and notetaking.

Amazon can’t expect to just increase the screen size of the Kindle 2 and add rudimentary PDF support and pass it off as a textbook reader.

Kindle DX in Education – Where do we stand now?

Amazon moved too fast with its University Trials and ran into numerous problems including the National Federation of the Blind shutting down trials in some Universities.

The main problem though is that the Kindle DX is just a large screen ebook reader. It’s not a textbook reader and the trials clearly showed that.

The upside is that Universities are now more aware of eReaders and open to improved eReaders that are actually optimized for textbooks and college education.  

In a sense Amazon did a great thing for eReaders’ future in colleges while hurting its own cause.

What are the killer features for a textbook reader?

The feedback clearly shows that the main issues with the Kindle DX during the study were -

  1. The difficulty in taking notes and making highlights.
  2. The device not being designed as a dedicated textbook reader.  

There are also some features that are borderline necessary -

  1. Color screen for textbook illustrations. 
  2. Excellent PDF support. 
  3. Page Numbers.
  4. Folders and other ways of organizing documents.
  5. Education related apps like Flash Cards and a Journal/Notebook.

It’s tough to decide whether the ideal is an eReader that almost approaches a laptop in functionality or whether the ideal is a dedicated textbook reader.

Don’t really have an answer

The textbook reader market has so many landmines it’s perhaps best left alone -

  1. Textbook publishers have way too much power. 
  2. Students are pretty demanding.
  3. Various Rights Groups (like the NFB) have their own axes to grind.
  4. Each University wants to do things at its own pace.
  5. Each University has its own expectation of what an eReader should be.

At the current moment eInk just isn’t that suited for note-taking. This might change when Mirasol, Pixel Qi and Liquavista arrive.

There probably won’t be a viable solution for reading textbooks and taking notes for at least the next 6 months. In the worst case it might take a year and a half to get a real solution.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 9,857 other followers