Cheaper Kindle DX Still Has Challenges
A little over a year ago, Amazon.com released the Kindle DX -- an e-reader with a big 9.7-inch display and a big $489 pricetag. The DX hasn't changed since then, but the world around it sure has. For one thing, the price premium over the smaller Kindle keeps growing -- it started out costing $130 more, but last month's Kindle price cut left the DX costing $300 more than the little guy. Oh, and the DX cost only $10 less than the cheapest version of the similarly-sized, far more colorful and versatile iPad.
Now the Kindle DX is evolving to reflect the e-book landscape as of mid-2010. Amazon plans to start shipping a new version on July 7 with a graphite-colored-case and an improved E-Ink screen with 50 percent better contrast. I've always had issues with the E-Ink displays on Kindles and other devices: For all their power-efficient, non-reflective virtues, they've always looked like dark gray ink on light gray paper...sort of like a poorly-printed paperback on cheapo newsprint. So I'm curious to see how much better the new DX screen is at doing the thing that Amazon has always claimed Kindle displays do: read like real paper.
Amazon is also chopping $110 off the DX's pricetag, leaving it at $379 -- a lot more expensive than the small Kindle, but meaningfully cheaper than the iPad.
When I reviewed the original DX, my biggest reservation was the fact that newspapers and magazines didn't really take advantage of its larger display to look, well, more like newspapers and magazines. They pretty much just splayed plain text over a larger amount of real estate. I'm not sure whether their presentation has improved over the past year -- the Washington Post image here is fancier than anything I saw back then -- but the iPad sure has raised the bar for repurposing of print content into electronic form. I wonder how much of a market there will be for an e-reader that lacks both the temptingly low prices of the small Kindle and the Nook and the visual splendor and Swiss Army versatility of the iPad?