by Mielle Sullivan, Janus Networks

Amazon’s latest evolution of the e-reader, the Kindle DX, shipped last week just four months after the Kindle 2 made its debut. In March, I wrote that the improved functionality of the Kindle 2, though impressive, was ultimately disappointing. Consumers seemed to have sci-fi influenced expectations of e-readers. How does the DX measure up? Better, but the cost is probably too high for most to justify the cost.

At the top of the wish list for many e-reader devotees is a bigger screen — for reading magazine and newspaper articles without a loss. The DX has a screen with 2.5 times the display size of the Kindle 2, measuring about 9.7 inches diagonally. But there is still no color. The DX produces impressive monochromatic images, but lack of color renders magazine reading somewhat lifeless. The interface also doesn’t replicate newspaper page layouts, but rather displays individual articles whole, which is convenient, but a bit blocky in appearance at times.

At the release of the last Kindle, users also complained the reader didn’t support enough formats or the ability to edit documents. The new DX does include a built in PDF reader that allows readers to access many more PDF files than previous Kindles. This opens up, among other things, the Google books library. There is still no file editing, but not even the prototypes e-readers offer more than the ability ad “notes” to a displayed document. As I mentioned in my March article, full document editing is probably better left to a laptop than the e-reader.

Amazon says the DX isn’t primarily aimed at consumers, but rather textbook toting students and professionals with lots of business documents. Since these two markets probably have the most demand for the convenience of an e-reader, it is understandable Amazon would want to be the leader in larger e-readers. But at a cost of $490, I think Amazon may have priced themselves out for most people that would be interested in a Kindle DX. Workers may indeed benefit from the 3.3 gigs of storage, but the textbooks have yet arrive for the DX. I don’t see many students shelling out the cash for a product they can’t benefit from yet.

With the competition still lagging behind, it will be interesting to see if this premium-priced device truly establishes the Kindle brand as the undisputed standard for e-readers for consumers, professionals and students. If so, Amazon will benefit down the road even if initial sales are small.

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