I’ve only ever had a Kindle 1, the original. Over the 1.5 years I’ve had it, I’ve used it almost daily, read 25 books on it, and subscribed to a number of news sources and periodicals. And I’ve sold my own novel into the Kindle platform, with decent results.
I skipped the Kindle 2 for a variety of reasons, but basically because I wasn’t unhappy with the original. I saw no reason for spending the extra cash.
It’s a beautiful device with great functionality, an excellent e-ink screen, nice software, and access to a great bookstore.
Sniff. Goodbye, Kindle 1.
Owners of the Kindle 2 are already familiar with the software and hardware improvements the second-generation device delivered, including a more intuitive five-point stylus that lets you skip from story to story with the flick of a finger; better industrial design; and markedly improved screen resolution.
The DX expands on these, literally. All those improvements are preserved, but the screen is larger, the device heavier.
And that weight it the only downside to the device (aside from its US$489 price). It’s about as heavy as a decent hardcover book, and I found my arms doing all the normal things to avoid fatigue while reading in bed. But that felt pretty familiar, so it’s more of a neutral observation — with coated paper, a large paperback could be heavier and even more unwieldy.
The size of the screen has many positives, but one initial negative. Both the Kindle 1 and 2 have screens about the width of a normal reading line. The DX’s screen is much wider, too wide to read comfortably for me. Luckily, Amazon included a way to increase the margins and shrink the reading line length, something that was easy to find and works well. I was very happy to see this thoughtful solution.
For STM publishers, the major positive of the screen is how it handles figures and tables. The New England Journal of Medicine has been available on the Kindle since mid-May, when the DX was announced. In the midst of decent sales of paid subscriptions, the consistent complaint, amid much praise, has been about how awful figures and tables look. The DX solves this problem with an excellent zoom feature that makes our tables and figures looks amazing. Problem solved!
The wireless continues to dazzle. My DX arrived at my office Friday, while I was traveling with my Kindle 1, reading a book on the airplane. I picked up my DX on the way home and started it up in the evening. When I opened the book I’d been reading on the plane, it opened to precisely the spot I’d left off with my Kindle 1. This felt like magic.
The leather case you can order separately for the DX is clever, and uses a hook-latch system to secure the device inside and a magnetic cover to snap to the device or stay out of the way while you read.
One of the highly anticipated aspects of the DX has been PDF integration. While no books or subscriptions are yet offered in PDF, users can send PDFs to themselves for a small price ($0.15 each).
I learned long ago that I (so far) have very good eyes for reading small type. For a journal PDF on the DX, I needed them — at least in portrait mode. And that’s another whiz bang feature of the DX — rotate it, and the document goes wide and zooms to match. Rotated, PDFs become very readable, and the grayscale is lovely and adequate for nearly every use I’ve come across so far.
The implications of PDF integration for STM publishers are worth contemplating. As anyone who has analyzed their download trends knows, PDF is by far the most popular format with our users. Right now, the only choices they have for portable, offline reading are to either print out or save to their local desktop and read on a computer screen. Most users print PDFs (probably the next most-common use-case is emailing them).
The DX should create an opportunity for publishers to offer PDFs to a device that supports it well. But even without this, adoption of the Kindle has been strong, and the DX will likely only expand the popularity of the device among our users owing to the many benefits of the larger screen (tables and figures especially). How PDFs are commercialized on the Kindle will be a question in the coming months and years. As e-readers emerge as desirable and useful tools, it’s a question that demands more than passing attention.