Bezos' Folly

Who would pay over $400 to read the newspaper?

If you're Jeff Bezos, you're banking pretty heavily that most people will. At $489 Amazon's Kindle DX packs a punch on the wallet, but does it pack a better punch with a feature-rich user experience?

I've contacted Amazon public relations about a review unit. Until I hear back from them, here are some of my observations.

An improved screen - The Kindle DX has a screen display 2.5 times the surace area of the orginal Kindle. With 16 shades of gray paving the way for graphic-rich content, it opens the door for a much broader application in education, business and reference content environments.  At almost 8.5" by 11", the DX is a much larger representation at a much higher cost.  I cannot see the practicality of lugging around an electronic document reader of this size, as thin (fragile) as it is.  At the cost of a much smaller screen, the Kindle 2 is a more practical alternative, along with Kindle Reader for the iPhone and iPod Touch.

Electronic content delivery - Several pilot programs are launching this summer, namely from the New York Times and The Washington Post, that will allow electronic subscriptions for readers who do not live in those publications' delivery areas.  It's a god-send to those like me, outside of a service area like the Times, but at a $489 price point plus the cost of an electronic subcription seem hardly worth it to much more practical delivery methods such as RSS feeds and the paper's website.  Wireless delivery of up-to-the-minute content is nice, but the costs for this feature greatly outweigh the benefits at this point in time.

New Built-In PDF Reader - I know you will probably hate me for what I'm about to say, but I'm going to put it out there anyway.  This is probably the best selling point of the Kindle DX, but for what is probably the most unorthodox reason.  Piracy.  In today's digital age, books of all kinds can be converted to PDF format and made widely available on the Internet, whether through legal means or not.  Take for example a copy of David Pogue's book Windows Vista: The Missing Manual.  Before this book was released, Pogue's critics challenged his thinking on open-sourcing the book as a freely available PDF document via the Internet.  Initially, he was hesistant to do this for obvious reason but eventually tested this theory.  Over all, the results were that they were both right.  While the book became the most pirated version of Pogue's work, his book sales had improved dramatically.  (This was based on his own admission during a recent episode of This Week in Media #135.)  It seems as though while he lost income initially, over the long term he's benefited more as new readers become acclaimated to his style of writing and do see the value in the purchase price.  I think you'll see the same principle applied to the Kindle DX.  While it may not be a trend setting device due to its massive size, it can actually help book sales over the long term by allowing "not completely legal" copies of written works to be distributed and broadening the horizons of it's users.

Again, I hope to review a unit from Amazon and will let you know if I should have the chance to do so.  Right now, this article is based on what I've observed and what my opinions are regarding this device.  As always, your comments are welcome.