Sarah to Kindle DX: WTF?

The collective WTF? on Twitter in response to the debut of the KindleDX was hi-larious, and I’m cranky enough to admit I’m enjoying seeing Amazon make a big boo boo that echoes their earlier fail-some boo boo.

Don Linn writes, “Product page: 9.7” diagonal e-ink screen reads like real paper; boasts 16 shades of gray for clear text and sharp images (Boasts?)”

Sarah Weinman points out, “Not getting over the $489 price tag. In a recession. Two months after Kindle 2 unveiled. Like reissuing bare-bones DVD w/ one or 2 extras.”

ljndawson: “$489 Kindle with 16 shades of grey and no discounts on subscriptions if you’re in the paper’s area = lead balloon.”

Ooh! And there’s already a hastag for it: get ready…wait for it… #dud

My response to Kindle-Venti: “Keep it coming, Amazon. I’m enjoying this a lot. I can has moar fail please? kthxbye”

If you check out the Kindle DX or Kindle Venti page, well, if you’re like me, the more you read, the more your brain says, “Hur? Wut?”

It’s slim. It has a 9.7” display. That reads like real paper?

Hold the phone a minute. I don’t read e-ink because it’s like paper. I mean, it’s a lot more comfortable to my eyes than backlit LCD, but it’s not like paper. So why would you want to create a device that’s large enough to be potentially impractical to anyone other than newspaper readers, and slim enough to be yet another incarnation of Kindle II: Matzoh Edition (references to oppression absolutely included at .15c per MB)?

So we have a big device that won’t fit in any bag I carry, is slim and appears to be as fragile as the Kindle II, and it “boasts” of 16 shades of grey in its display? Wow. Should I start boasting about how many of my tvs have rabbit ears?

There’s no shade of grey about it: this makes no sense to me.

After the announcement that Amazon was charging people for document conversion at a much higher cost without warning, which followed that whole pesky delisting thing, the decision to come out with a larger format Kindle at a higher pricetag, even if it is aimed at college students and newspaper readers, seems like a giant leap backward.

What bothers me most is the insistence that KindleDX Venti Size mimics the format of paper. Why is there an insistence that digital reading mimic or even emulate paper reading? Inherently they are not the same. Even the words “reads like real paper” bug me because it seems to ignore the fact that digital reading and paper reading are different experiences. I wasn’t seduced away from paper to read digitally while secretly longing for paper in a painful corner of my heart despite years of estrangement and misunderstandings.

Moreover, since when is “bigger=better” a standard in technology? It might be in a romance novel, but in the purse size of your average female romance reader? No thank you.

But, there’s always room for me to be wrong, and just because it doesn’t work for me doesn’t mean it’s not a hopping damn good idea for someone else. So in a casual survey among people who use the Kindle almost exclusively for newspaper reading, I discovered that, aside from the ridiculous pricetag, these anonymous folks think Kindle DX Venti is great – except for one thing.

The larger area for reading means more room for larger text to display, and fewer page turns. Reading charts, graphs, or even examining illustrations on the screen size of Kindle I or Kindle II: Matzoh Edition was not at all optimal or even feasible in some instances. So I get why bigger screen = yay. And certainly college textbooks fall into that audience of chart/graphics-heavy use. But if the Kindle DX is meant for educational audiences, I have to wonder at the profoundly limited and very exclusive group of students who get to test-drive it. (Thanks to Sarah Weinman for the link.)

The point of fail? I’ll give you one guess, and it starts with $. Four Hundred and Eighty-Nine Dollars?! I said the same thing when Apple delivered a keynote and unveiled a $3000 17” laptop with a limited life battery that you couldn’t replace on your own: “Pardon me, but have you seen the economy?”

I don’t see how any aspect of Kindle DX Venti is worth the $130 price increase over Kindle II: Matzoh Edition. Not having to squint at graphics isn’t worth that much, is it? I mean, at that price point, I’d expect color, or free conversion of any and all documents, or at the very least a memory slot to load external content. And breakfast. Every day.

As it stands, I wouldn’t be tempted to upgrade, even if I were a die-hard newspaper reader who thrived on graphics-heavy reading. It’s too big a price jump for to few feature upgrades. Pass me a Sony.


Ranty McRant

Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    Kalen Hughes says:

    If I could have had this for my texts in high school and college I’d have GLADLY forked over the $$$ and saved my back!

    Security word: youre36 (not anymore I’m not)

  2. 2
    Robin says:

    My favorite are the supposed educational applications:  no note-taking ability, no sell-back ability for the textbooks.  Yeah, like I’d have bought into THAT. 

    Also, my Sony is NOT just like paper; it’s better in some ways, not as good in others. Way less eye strain but can’t circle a word or jot a thought in the margins.

    When will we get away from the idea that e-reading and paper reading are competitive activities.  They are different and each has its strengths, and neither has to reign supreme over the other.

  3. 3
    Rick O says:

    My initial reaction was much the same, and I’m not completely sold on it, but to play Devil’s Advocate:

    1. It now has a built-in PDF reader, so people that use it to read lots of PDFs (such as @jane_l, IIRC) will no longer have to spend money to have them converted.

    2. A bigger screen means I’m more likely to buy it as a gift for my grandmother.  It’d need to be in the sub-$300 range and the per-book price would need to be cheaper, but I like having the option of a larger screen.

  4. 4
    Kwana says:

    For 500.00 you should be able to download every textbook for free. And I agree have the paper delivered with Venti Mocha Latte.

  5. 5
    Chicklet says:

    Why would I buy the KindleDX for $489 when for around $300 or $350 I could buy a netbook computer? Mine, from Asus, has an eight-inch COLOR screen. For the fail, Bezos!

  6. 6
    Rob says:

    Rick, you’re right.  The Kindle DX offers native PDF support, as well as:

    2x the storage of the Kindle II

    a rotating display

    Is the Kindle DX worth $489?  For me, it isn’t.  However, some have said it’s better for reading magazines and newspapers than the Kindle or the Kindle II.

    Also, I think Amazon wanted to announce this larger Kindle and get as many people to pre-order it before Apple announces it’s (rumored) larger iPhone/tablet.

  7. 7
    Silver James says:

    *perks ears* Apple iPhone/tablet? Uhm…glad I didn’t bit the apple for an iPhone this month. I’ll definitely wait now.

    #dud – LOL, Sarah! That rocks.

    spam word: million33 Uhm…no. If they sell a million thirty-tree, I’ll be surprised!

  8. 8
    Jessica G. says:

    My two cents: I actually do think eink is like paper (at least paperback paper). I didn’t notice much of a difference until I held them up to each other. Well, it’s a good substitute.

    Good point on the selling back textbooks. Knowing the publishers (I worked for a college bookstore when they started doing digital textbooks), the ebook will only be a few dollars less, and without the ability to sell them back I can see a lot of students passing. Yeah, you can carry all your books in a small bag, but college students=cheap.

    Not to mention the real killer on the price is the $50 not included cover. That device absolutely positively needs a cover. I think amazon did this with Venti and 2 so people could stomach the price better. And I agree, why not get a netbook with more capabilities and less the DRM infestation? Not to mention cheaper, a lot of the time.

    Maybe I shouldn’t give my opinion, since I got my Sony for “recreation reading,” and quite a few people are eating this up on my forum, but I really just don’t see the big deal. Especially two months after K2 release. Clearly Amazon is terrified of Apple kicking their ass with their upcoming giant iPod touch.

  9. 9
    bonnie says:

    Uhm…glad I didn’t bit the apple for an iPhone this month. I’ll definitely wait now.

    It’ll always be something new.  We simply can’t keep up.  Once you buy your apple whatthefuckever, it’ll be something better.

  10. 10
    Obskuretris says:

    To bonnie: word!

    I don’t own a kindle and prolly never will. Price tag aside, it’s not technology that makes me go goo goo ga ga and sends drool rolling down my chin (i.e. apple tech). And given amazon fuckery recently they are totally on my evilcorpthatmustbebroughtlow list.

  11. 11
    LDH says:

    This MIGHT not actually be a terrible idea…. -

    Context matters:
    In an often-cited experiment in the early nineteen-nineties, people were first asked whether they preferred a $110 microwave oven made by Emerson or a $180 oven made by Panasonic. Only forty-three per cent chose the Panasonic. But when a higher-priced Panasonic model, costing $200, was introduced into the mix, people’s choices changed in a curious way: suddenly, sixty per cent wanted the $180 oven. Changing the context by adding a more expensive model made the medium-priced version look more attractive and boosted Panasonic’s total sales. Change what surrounds a product, in other words, and you can change what people think of it.

    Noted author Barry Schwartz, writes in The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less, how “anchors”, as he terms them, affect our perception of a bargain, sometimes driving people to buy something that was previously unattractive.
    “Is $279 a lot of money to spend on an automatic bread maker? When Williams-Sonoma first marketed these then-novel gadgets more than 20 years ago, no shopper knew what a bread maker ought to cost, and Williams-Sonoma didn’t sell a lot of them. Then it introduced a deluxe, $450 model. The company didn’t sell many of these either, but sales of the $279 model went through the roof. The deluxe bread maker made the regular one seem like a bargain. Conclusion: We are affected by anchors whether it’s rational or not, whether we want to be or not.”

  12. 12
    Bonnie says:

    Well, to be fair, I have a Kindle 2 and had a Kindle 1.  I loved the first one and love the second one even more.  And frankly, I don’t understand the apparent hate Sarah has for it, when she loved it initially.  But then, maybe I missed something.  That’s entirely possible. 

    ps… w

  13. 13
    bonnie says:

    Oh, and sorry… ignore the “ps…w”

  14. 14
    Suze says:

    I dig the bigger size, actually.  I can see it going if a school or faculty hand them out as part of a program (in which students have to receive huge amounts of info—nothing comes to mind, but it could happen).

    However, taking away BOTH the sell-back AND the ability to make notes in the text means that I have no use for it.

  15. 15
    CT says:

    Color can be important to the pedagogy of a textbook, so a grayscale reader aimed at textbook users is stupid.

    Additionally, one of the most exciting possibilities for e-textbooks is the ability to integrate multimedia experiences (videos, photos, integrated glossaries) into the content for a well-rounded educational experience. The Kindle DX does not allow for ANY of these possibilities. The lack of a touchscreen for annotations is also extremely limited for students.

    I’m an ebook adopter who works in educational publishing, and I think Amazon has jumped the gun in an attempt to be the first kid on the ereader block for textbooks. Stupid move. They would have been better off creating something worth the money and actually useful for the educational market.

  16. 16
    CT says:

    Forgot to mention, ebooks for educational publishers hold the possibility for tons of profit, because they cut down on used book sales and cost nearly nothing to make (after the print product is produced, of course). So it’ll be interesting to see how many jump on this Amazon bandwagon in the interest of profit.

  17. 17
    Madd says:

    iRex Digital Reader has a 10.2” diag. display supports PDF, TXT, HTML,
    Mobipocket PRC, plans to add further format support in future, shows
    JPEG, PNG, GIF, TIFF and BMP images and you can use the stylus to make notes in your documents. Unfortunately someone over at iRex has been smoking the pipe. No other way to explain their pricing. Their e-reader, iLiad, is $699. The Digital Reader? It’s it costs $859.

    I’d rather lug the books than spend that kind of cash. Pay for the reader, pay for the text and then not be able to sell them off when you’re done? No thanks.

    Plastic Logic is coming out with their reader next year. If the price is right, Kindle might just get blown out of the water.

  18. 18

    I’m surprised at the negative reaction, but I do agree that the price tag is way too steep for the times.

  19. 19
    san_remo_ave says:

    I love ebooks and my 1st gen Kindle. I just downloaded the Kindle for iPhone (which is totally awesome—automatically attaches to archived books and even picked up where I left off on my Kindle so I can interchange devices mid-book! 

    The DX sounds neat for a few select things (pdfs, graphics, etc) but not enough enhancements to warrant an upgrade when I’m more than satisfied with the original.

  20. 20
    megalith says:

    Any mention if this is aimed at the large-type reader or the visually impaired? That would make the most sense to me as a selling point for a larger format. They may also be hoping to attract a slightly older demographic, like the boomers, who might appreciate a larger type size. And have the disposable income to indulge themselves.

  21. 21
    terri says:

    I’m a late boomer, and the larger type concept has become my new thing.  I even have disposable income for this price tag – but there is no way I’m giving it to this NEW reader.  I have $$ because I’ve been in the tech industry long enough to have “retired” and know not to toss $$ at the newest, latest, greatest…  How many times in the past 15 years did someone toss that at me – and I blew them up within minutes…  LOL! 

    Maybe “e” reading will be the new thing, for the moment, it’s the “how can we profit” thing.  Ebooks and legitimate Epubs became an opportunity – ten years ago – to bypass the “gatekeepers” of the publishing world and present something to readers they would not get elsewhere.  Yet, epubs understand there is a tactile and personal connection between readers and the printed words on a page – so POD’s were born.

    If I want to read a newspaper, I can, on my 17” screen, in color, it’s called a laptop/notebook/computer.  Since I recently returned to college, yeah, I’d rather download all textbooks than carry them.  But there’s a huge difference between reading a textbook or newspaper on a computer – and a novel – on an ereader.  So it would be nice if Amazon would just quietly tuck its tail between its legs and curl up in the corner. 

    Amazon and Kindle(s) has its place, but let the others who are trying to innovate a new connection between readers and authors, do so.  Books and story are not about the bottom line, profit margin.

  22. 22
    AgTigress says:

    Count me amongst those who are genuinely interested in the larger format.  This is because the vast majority of the books I read are non-fiction, and always include illustrations – photographs, drawings, plans, diagrams (and I always carry a bag big enough to contain a book larger than a mm paperback anyway).  BUT – to tempt me (and this is all hypothetical, since none of the Amazon e-readers are available here) it would have to do colour, not monochrome.  The pdf reader facility could also be useful, though for things like checking proofs, which these days are usually received, for non-fiction at least, in pdf form, a computer makes better sense, as one needs to be able to annotate and to print out.  But a mini laptop does not actually substitute for an e-reader if all one is doing is reading, because it still really needs a flat surface:  it is not hand-held like a book.

    I can also see real potential, as others have noted, in the possibilities of enlarging the text size to a serious degree.  Those whose eyesight is failing, such as elderly people with macular degeneration, often need a print size significantly larger than that of available ‘large print’ editions, and if this could go even larger, on a page that is big enough so that the text is not too broken up at a point size of about 30, that alone would make it useful for many people.

    I do understand many of Sarah’s points, but I presume that what Amazon is trying to do here is to extend the concept of the e-reader way beyond the paperback-fiction constituency.  That includes not only the educational/textbook applications that have been mentioned, but also a lot of ordinary leisure reading.  Just look in any bookshop at the numbers of highly illustrated popular books on art, antiques, history, natural history, travel, gardening, crafts… 

    Increasing miniaturisation is always appealing, on some instinctive level (and I would love to have a really small notebook laptop), but I don’t think Amazon are mistaken at all in investigating the market for a larger e-reader.

  23. 23
    MichelleR says:

    I read about that in a book I read, ironically, on my Kindle—Yes!: 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive.

    The new doesn’t bother me at all, because I don’t think that DX is meant to compete with K2. Bigger is not automatically better—just different. Should I have the decision to make today, I’d still pick the K2, because it still has more of the features I want and suits me on a day to day basis. If the DX had been released first, I’d be longing for the days when there was a smaller model.

    In truth, the K2 is still a little big for my tiny hands. A DX would limit the positions in which I could read.

    The most I could imagine was getting a DX for the NYT dl and for cookbooks and I’d still use my K2 most of the time. But that will also be the day I start wiping my butt with dollar bills. Now, I’m not opposed to contests to win one…

    That’s me.

    I get how other people would have liked to know that the DX was coming out, because it would indeed suit them better, but that’s a separate issue of choice, not genuine upgrade.

  24. 24

    I completely agree that eInk and actual paper are different reading experiences.  For me, I don’t see that difference so much when we’re talking about mass market paperbacks, because I don’t read fiction critically.

    But I thought I would want to use my Kindle to carry around 1000s of documents for work instead of stacks and stacks of paper, and that hasn’t worked so well.  EInk doesn’t operate for me like paper would, because without the ability to easily jot down my thoughts, I read differently (and less critically).  Reading with a pen in hand is a different experience than reading without.  Not a problem if I’m reading fiction; a bigger problem if you’re reading, say, case law or an opponents briefs.  And I can imagine, from SB Sarah’s point of view, that reading for a review also means you want to interact with the text of the book in a more substantive way than the Kindle allows.

    What disturbs me most about this latest offering by the Kindle is that it feels like it encourages people to approach their textbooks passively, as if they were nothing more than a mass-market paperback.  (And no, I am *NOT* trying to diss the mass-market paperback; I write them, and if someone told me that they had to study my romance novels as if they were a textbook I would feel singularly uncomplimented.)  Textbooks are not just books you read.  They’re not books where you immerse yourself in the story.  Textbooks are not meant to “disappear” the way that novels and fluffy nonfiction should.  They should not swallow the reader; instead, the reader should be constantly present, always aware, always questioning and asking and thinking.  Textbooks must be read critically, and I don’t think eInk is a good critical thinking medium.

    The main difference between text and eInk is the ability to edit—to write margin notes (especially for textbooks!), to underline important passages (especially for textbooks!), and to sketch out solutions to problems (did I mention this is especially true for textbooks?).  That’s why I would never tap a Kindle DX to replace a textbook, even though I spent years schlepping around pounds and pounds of books and paper.

    It’s also why when I saw that iRex had come up with a new replacement for the iliad, my ears perked up.  Yeah, so it’s almost $1000.  But . . . damn, have you seen the youtube videos for it?  You can actually annotate that stuff.  It’s not quite real-time; there’s a miniscule lag.  But if I have to take another working vacation I would love to pack along one of those instead of the 50 pounds of paper that I currently bring along.

    But I wouldn’t want to read on one of those things.  And it doesn’t look as if it’s particularly Mac friendly.  So…. sigh.

  25. 25
    Elaine says:

    I use a Kindle 1.  I didn’t buy it, but appropriated the one my husband bought for himself.  I love it, but think that it has multiple problems.  I am not sure if any of them are addressed by the DX.

    1).  The Web Browser is unusable, even to a site optimized for mobile devices.  I use my laptop instead, but would love to be able to leave the heavier laptop at home when traveling.

    2). There is no way to rapidly flip through a book in chunks.  Want to check something out mid-way through the book when you are almost done and then go back.  Good luck with that if you haven’t book marked it.

    3). Amazon DRM.  Problems with any sort of DRM have been discussed elsewhere.  And Amazon has not shown a lot of tact in dealing with its captive audience.

    4) It is already at the upper limit of a size I want for casual reading.  Bigger screen would be nice, but not a bigger or heavier form factor.

    5)  Why is there so much whitespace between paragraphs for Kindle converted books (the AMZ format?)

    6) The controls are clumsy.  I still hit the wrong one occasionally (ie back) and have been using the Kindle fairly extensively.

    7) My feeling is that a lot could be done with the software of the device to improve the reading experience even with the clumsy controls.  However, Amazon does not seem interested in improving the software of the Kindle 1, which leads me to believe they won’t be interested in improving the software of subsequent devices either.

  26. 26
    Rox says:

    I’m not understanding the hate on the new Kindle.  It offers a larger format for users who need/want it.  Why shouldn’t it cost more?

    When I got my Kindle 2, I had my husband and daughter both try it, particularly with the larger font sizes.  They both have tracking issues when they read.  Both found reading on the Kindle much easier.  My daughter kept reading until I finally demanded she give it back. My reaction to that was to hope that they would come out with a larger format e-reader by the time my daughter hits college (in about 3 years) so that she could get her text books on the e-reader.  My other hope is that having a textbook available electronically would mean that updates and corrections to a text would be readily available.

  27. 27
    AgTigress says:

    Courtney’s points on ‘critical reading’ are dead right, of course:  reading a textbook, or reading a book of any kind for review, both require some easy way of taking notes or annotating.  Same for proof-reading.

    But I am a bit surprised that I am the only person who has even mentioned casual leisure reading that is not focused on fiction, but on illustrated non-fiction books.  That is where I see the larger format really coming into its own, though only if and when it has colour.  In fact, many of the illustrated non-fiction books that I read for pleasure have features that make them quite impossible to carry around for holiday/travel reading, and can even be a problem for some readers at home:  they are physically quite large, and because they are printed on high-grade coated paper, they can also be extremely heavy to handle.  An example I have just picked off the top of a pile here in my study – page format about 14” x 11”, weight, at a guess, over 5 pounds.  Many books on the visual arts and archaeology fall into that sort of category, and it would be such fun to be able to take them with you when travelling and visiting places.  Ordinary travel guides would be useful downloads for the larger format e-reader too.

    Honestly, I think there is a future for it, and not just (or even mainly) for ‘educational’ books.

  28. 28
    Erica says:

    I am actually excited about the Kindle DX.  No, its not for the average reader and they should back up and change marketing directions right now.  However, think about your kids and their large and heavy backpacks.  The DX needs to be paired with the McGraw Hills and Prentice Halls of publishing in order to become a Textbook e-reader.  That is where I think it will be most lucrative and most valued. 

    To me, amazon is setting the stage for the next generation of e-books for more than just the casual, or hard core novel readers.  There is a market in education, even in the recession.  Though since I just finished school, I won’t be buying one until I decide to go for my PhD, that is.

  29. 29
    Carrie Lofty says:

    I wasn’t seduced away from paper to read digitally while secretly longing for paper in a painful corner of my heart despite years of estrangement and misunderstandings.

    Despite your denials, I bet there’s a secret baby involved.

  30. 30
    Kalen Hughes says:

    Good point on the selling back textbooks. Knowing the publishers (I worked for a college bookstore when they started doing digital textbooks), the ebook will only be a few dollars less, and without the ability to sell them back I can see a lot of students passing. Yeah, you can carry all your books in a small bag, but college students=cheap.

    Where I went to school there was no option to buy used text books, so this wouldn’t have mattered to me. Cheap is great, but not lugging books around is PRICESLESS!

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