Thursday, May 07, 2009

Your morning newspaper and textbooks just got a lot different looking!

Amazon Unveils a Large-Screen Kindle Aimed at Textbooks and Newspapers

Jeffrey P. Bezos, Amazon's chief executive, introduced the Kindle DX at Pace Univeristy in New York on Wednesday. (Ozier Muhammad/The New York Times)

Amazon's New Kindle DX (Ozier Muhammad/The New York Times)

Published: May 6, 2009

Most electronic devices are getting smaller. The Kindle electronic book reader from is bucking the trend.

On Wednesday,
Amazon introduced a larger version of the Kindle, pitching it as a new way for people to read textbooks, newspapers and documents. It also offered limited information about new partnerships that are intended to put Kindles in the hands of more university students and newspaper readers.

The device, called the Kindle DX (for deluxe), has a screen two and a half times the size of those on the two older versions of the Kindle, which were aimed primarily at displaying book pages.

The price tag is larger, too: the DX costs $489, or $130 more than the previous model, the Kindle 2. It will go on sale this summer.

Speaking to a crowd of journalists, Amazon employees and business partners at
Pace University in Manhattan, Jeffrey P. Bezos, Amazon’s chief executive, said the new Kindle was a step in the direction of a long-dreamed-of “paperless society.”

Amazon said it had reached agreements with three major textbook publishers to make their books available in the Kindle store: Pearson Education, Cengage Learning and Wiley Higher Education. It said six colleges and universities — Pace, Arizona State, Case Western Reserve, Princeton, Reed College and the University of Virginia — would begin testing the device with students later this year.

Three newspapers, The New York Times, The Boston Globe and The Washington Post, will offer a reduced price on the Kindle in exchange for a long-term subscription, but only for people who live in areas where their paper editions are not available. Amazon and the newspapers described it as a pilot program.

Amazon already offers Kindle subscriptions to 37 newspapers at about $10 a month.

Amazon does not release financial details about its relationships with newspapers, but newspaper executives say Amazon keeps 70 percent of the revenue — an arrangement the papers have been unhappy with. Those deals are set to be renegotiated this year, these executives said, which could play a role in determining how actively the media companies get behind the Kindle DX. The articles displayed on the Kindle do not have ads.

The textbook publishers and colleges offered few details on their agreements with Amazon.
“We have not had any conversations on pricing at this point with Amazon,” said Wendy Spiegel, a spokeswoman for Pearson.

Ms. Spiegel said Pearson had already made 1,400 professional and technological titles available on the Kindle and would add more textbooks. Like many other textbook publishers, Pearson offers virtually all of its books in digital form already, and Ms. Spiegel said about 25 percent of its sales are digital. Most of those digital versions are read on laptops; more than 80 percent of college students have laptops, according to the Educause Center for Applied Research.

McGraw-Hill, a major textbook publisher absent from Wednesday’s announcement, has been negotiating with Amazon to offer its books on the Kindle. Rik Kranenburg, group president of higher education, professional and international publishing at McGraw-Hill, said the two companies had not yet come to terms.

“It’s obvious a lot of the details are still to be worked out,” Mr. Kranenburg said. “Currently on college campuses, the vast majority of students have computers, most of them laptops, and that’s the main vehicle for digitally accessing our content now. But we are eager to experiment with devices like the Kindle, iPhone and the Sony e-reader.”

Geoffrey Brackett, the provost of Pace, said the university would distribute the new Kindles to about 50 students and compare them with 50 studying the same material using traditional textbooks, to see differences in how the two groups learn.

Mr. Brackett said he expected the university to split the cost of the Kindles with Amazon but said whether the students would get the devices on loan or as a gift had not been determined.
“It is very early in the discussion,” he said.

Amazon may have had good reason to unveil its new device before working out all the details.

Other companies are expected to begin selling portable reading devices in the next year, including Plastic Logic, a well-financed start-up; FirstPaper, backed by the publisher Hearst; and perhaps most significantly, Apple.

The new Kindle will be able to display documents in Adobe’s popular PDF format, which will make it useful for reading business memos and other documents. And as with Apple’s iPhone, the text on the screen automatically rotates when the device is turned sideways.

A version of this article appeared in print on May 7, 2009, on page B7 of the New York edition.
Read the complete New York Times Electronic Edition on computer, just as it appears in print.


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