Last night I was following the launch of Amazon new e-book reader on the Internet through Twitter and Engadget’s live blog. The new e-book reader was named Kindle DX and is much bigger than the original Kindle. It seems to be especially designed to read newspapers and magazines on it.
As regular readers know I have been using e-book readers for several years already (I used to have a Sony e-book reader and am already using my second iLiad), and I am a big fan of this product. From the first time I used them I believed they would be the future of publishing, but I also realized it would take years to convince people how good e-paper really is. Amazon made a big difference for the industry when it launched the Kindle in 2007, and now it make another big splash by introducing a big screen version of its e-book reader.
My first impression of the new gadget: pretty good. The design is a lot better than the original Kindle (which was plain ugly) and the Kindle 2 (a little better), but is not up to what Apple would have approved had they designed it. There is still a keyboard below the screen for example, which looks a bit awkward. The screen size is a lot better than the original Kindle, which I felt was way too small, but is 9.7 inches big enough for the average consumer to read a normal paper or magazine on? That’s what Amazon’s Jeff Bezos is betting on, together with a whole bunch of newspapers that will be available for this e-book reader. For all of you in Shanghai, the Shanghai Daily is one of them.
I have been using an iLiad reader for over a year now to read the Dutch NRC newspaper (not available on the Kindle by the way, shame on NRC!), and for me the 8 inch screen is big enough to read the paper as long as it is properly reformatted. Note that it took NRC almost a year to get that right, although there are still articles that are messed up. If you want to read the original formatted paper, such as on PressDisplay, you need a bigger screen. And in that case i think the Kindle DX is not big enough. I assume, however, that all newspapers do their own formatting, so then that problem should be resolved.
iLiad manufacturer iRex already has a product that has an even bigger screen than the Kindle DX, the iRex Digital Reader 1000. The screen is 10.2 inches and the device is a lot better looking than the Kindle. It has been offering 800+ newspapers on it through PressDisplay since late last year, but for some reason the product did not break through. The reason: the high price and very bad marketing. The Digital Reader costs EUR 587, which is just too much for the average reader. The Kindle is not cheap either at USD 489, but at least they got the marketing right. Just compare the iRex website with the Kindle site on Amazon: iRex is only looking at the product and its technical specifications, not at trying to sell it to consumers. You need to show customers what you can do with it and what content is available. iRex was the first to offer tons of newspapers on its device, but it’s not using it to market its product. Now Amazon plays the game right and markets its product as a breakthrough for the newspaper industry. Smart move and a huge missed opportunity for iRex.
I think the Kindle could be a big success despite its high price tag and despite the fact that it is lacking both a touch screen (which means you cannot underline things or write notes in books) and wifi. Amazon is getting pretty good at hyping its products and creating a buzz. Despite having a better product iRex won’t be able to be beat Amazon with its current marketing strategy. The only real threat for Amazon would be if Apple would come up with its own e-reader, but so far there are no signs of that. I am still hoping that will happen one day!