The Kindle DX, released in June 2009, has quickly dominated the previously much more expensive large eReader market with this widely functional, fairly priced device. Unlike the Kindle 2, the screen automatically rotates from portrait to landscape when you turn the device--perfect for viewing maps, graphs, tables and web pages. Also unique to the new device, you can zoom fully--essential for technical diagrams in pdfs and such. It also has a built in PDF file reader, perfect for reading personal and professional documents.
Though the viewing area is two and a half times as large as the Kindle 2, the device size itself has not expanded much, because much of the gain has been due to fitting the keyboard in a smaller space at the bottom (which is fine with us--we don't use it that much anyway, and it prevents the device from being unwieldy). The dimensions are 10.4'' tall by 7.2 inches wide, and .38 inches thick. To put it in pixel terms, the DX has 1200 x 824 resolution compared to the Kindle 2's 600x800. The new design has one drawback for left-handed users--the page flip buttons on the DX are all on the right side, unlike the Kindle 2 which has them on both sides.
Like its smaller cousin, the Kindle DX is as thin as a pencil and lighter than the average paperback. You can easily hold it in one hand, but it is noticeably heavier than the Kindle 2. There is a 5-way joystick-like controller allowing you to easily select from menus--while this is no mouse, it is an improvement in pointer function. We're very excited about the basic web browser (which no other reader besides the Kindle 2 has) though it is best for simple, text-centric sites. Though it is a reader first and foremost, we like the idea of being able to check our email on the go, for free, without having to lug around a laptop.
The memory storage has been expanded from the Kindle 2's 2GB (or some 1,500+ average books) to 4GB (3.3GB of which is available for user content), or 3,500 books. in actuality, few people will have this many ebooks or pdfs, so the space will likely be taken up by music and such. Imagine carrying around stacks of tech manuals or textbooks, accessible at a click. One downside is the memory cannot be expanded via cards, unlike most readers. Battery life is very good, so you can read for perhaps two weeks without recharging, if you have the wireless functionality off (which you should if you're not downloading or surfing, as it devours power).
Unlike many e-readers, the Kindle DX has a fully functional QWERTY keyboard on the bottom. This is probably its most most divisive feature, with some wanting it to be all ebook display and less cluttered with buttons, and others appreciating the flexibility. Again, on the DX they have at least made the keyboard smaller in relative terms as compared to the Kindle 2. You can argue that they should have put in a touchscreen and charged a bit more (like the Sony PRS-700 and PRS-600), but personally we think adding a touchscreen means sacrificing readability, a reader's main function. This will be an individual preference, probably the deciding one for most people on which reader to go with. At least the Kindle DX is easy to type with, more so than screen buttons. You can add notations and save them, just like writing in the margins of a book or writing a sticky note.
The Kindle's e-paper itself must simply be seen to be believed. It is sharp in a way that computer screen are not, and the screen has no glare or backlight. You can read it in direct sunlight, even on a beach, in a way you simply cannot with a laptop or mobile phone display. It also does not get warm, so there are no unpleasant issues from a late night reading session. The Kindle DX boasts 16 shades of gray for more realistic images.The DX is also the first Kindle to feature accelerometers, meaning you can tilt the display and it will automatically shift from portrait to landscape orientation (see picture below).
Needless to say, if you like listening to music as you read, you can play mp3 or AAC files in the background, either via built-in stereo speakers, or through earphones. You can adjust the text size--particularly valuable for older readers or if your eyes are tired.
There is even access to experimental features like "read to me," in theory turning just about anything into an audiobook. You can choose male or female voices and vary speed. It can even read blogs, magazines, or your own personal documents. We have to admit it still sounds a bit "computery"--not like the 80s Stephen Hawking voice, but you do get that metallic edge. This will be very useful for reciting lists and recipes, or continuing a page-turner novel as you drive home, but we think it would be grating to listen to a whole novel. For that, you can also use Amazon's Audible.com service to access some 50,000 audiobooks to buy or rent.
Amazon has an ambitious aim with the Kindle, aiming to change the way we read printed material. Will it transform mainstream book reading habits in the next couple years?--probably not, but it already is attracting mobile professionals, bibliophiles, and technophiles in droves. The Kindle has scored well with the mobile professional crowd, especially for frequent fliers and commuters. And the mainstream TV ad campaigns have certainly broadened its appeal.
Unlike the Kindle 2, which went all-international in late 2009, the Kindle DX is as yet still sold and wireless available only in the US. However, Amazon has announced the DX will have international connectivity sometime in 2010.
Connecting:Any eBook reader must be judged on the basis of its access to actual ebooks, not just its capabilities. On this front, no other reader even comes close, as Kindle links directly to over 390,000 books from Amazon's own catalog, and you can download a full book in under a minute. The Kindle Store includes all the latest popular fare (101 of 112 books currently found on the New York Times bestseller list), though the back catalog of course has more gaps. Still they're adding new books all the time (we count an average of 10,000+ per month thus far). Unlike some of the other players in the eBook reader business, who may be small or just dabbling with eReaders (and might not stick in the market), Amazon clearly see its future, decades out, in digital book distribution.
And best of all, Kindle is the only reader that has a built in mobile 3G EVDO modem which uses Amazon Whispernet--essentially high speed cellular internet signal with no charge for use. This of course is not present everywhere, and in some rural locations it falls back on a slower 1xRTT signal, and in some remote locations has no signal at all. With this capability, almost wherever you are in the US, you can go right to Amazon's online store and download a new book in under 60 seconds.
Again, there are no wireless charges or monthly fees, yet you also have access to Wikipedia and a dictionary built in. Just highlight any word, and you get the definition. As mentioned the basic web browser also allows you to view basic web pages, and for many of those who have access to text based email readers, you can even check your email on the go. We know it is no smartphone, but unlike an iPhone, you're not paying $40+ per month for the privilege of mobile internet. Also, web pages look much better on the large DX screen than the Kindle 2. We've certainly used our Kindle more than once on the road to look up a phone number, check Wikipedia, or do other simple Google queries. You can also manage your personal documents; each Kindle gets a customized email address, and for 10 cents you can email a document (like a Microsoft Word or web page) to yourself. Or, you can connect it to a computer via USB cable and transfer as many documents as desired for free.
There are other advantages to Kindle downloads, for instance, you can try the first chapter of any book for free and decide if you want to download the rest. We find this allows you to browse and try different genres than you might normally experience, as you can do so risk free.
Like Apple's successful iTunes (and let's face it, Amazon is trying to make an "iTunes for books"), any titles you purchase from Amazon can be re-downloaded to your Kindle at any time, on the off chance you lose your memory or manage to fill it up and need to delete items to make space. Speaking of Apple, if you own an iPhone, you can download the Kindle for iPhone app and share your Kindle ebooks--even keeping your reading location and picking up where you left off when you switch devices. There is also free Kindle software for PC, Blackberry, and a Mac version is in development.
Amazon does not publicize it well, but of course the Kindle can read all manner of free (or cheap) ebooks available on many sites without needing to purchase them through the Kindle Store. We love the Amazon store interface, but we do recommend readers take a look at other sources for ebooks, particularly for classics in the public domain. Of course, you'll often have to email them to your Kindle, but this isn't too onerous. Another thing Amazon wasn't too good at was footnotes; they are a bit difficult to access.
Accessories: If you are traveling with the Kindle DX you simply must get a cover for it (the standard leather one
to the right is $49)--throwing it in a suitcase, briefcase, or pocketbook is simply a recipe for damaging the screen. You can even get a studier M-Edge cover which flips back to form a "bookstand" for even cheaper, $45.
Unfortunately, the charger that ships with the Kindle does take a lengthy 4 hours to attain a full charge (this is par for the course for other readers though--you can also charge from a computer via included USB 2.0 cable). If you're in a hurry, there are third party chargers which will charge a Kindle 2 or DX from the wall ($24--including international adapter plugs useful if you travel) or car ($20) --well worth the extra. You can also get other accessories like a snap on reading light ($20).
Price: The Kindle DX sells for $489--considerably more than the $359 for the Kindle 2, but it doesn't sound so bad when you consider you're getting two and a half times the screen area.