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Amazon's big-screen Kindle DX makes its debut

The e-commerce giant unveils its new, larger-screen Kindle e-reader at a press conference in New York.

Caroline McCarthy Former Staff writer, CNET News
Caroline McCarthy, a CNET News staff writer, is a downtown Manhattanite happily addicted to social-media tools and restaurant blogs. Her pre-CNET resume includes interning at an IT security firm and brewing cappuccinos.
Caroline McCarthy
3 min read
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos shows off the Kindle DX Sarah Tew/CNET News

NEW YORK--Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos unveiled the much-anticipated large-screen Kindle e-reader in a lecture hall Wednesday at the downtown Pace University. Called the Kindle DX, the new device is geared toward readers of personal and professional documents, newspapers, and magazines--and textbooks, a potentially huge target market.

The debut of the bigger Kindle wasn't exactly a secret: rumors of a larger-screen Kindle had been around for quite some time, and concrete reports began to surface earlier this week.

Amazon's Kindle DX
Amazon's Kindle DX Amazon

According to Amazon's Kindle DX page, the device has the following:

• A 9.7-inch display with 16 shades of gray. (The standard Kindle has a 6-inch display.)

• Capacity to hold up to 3,500 books, periodicals, and documents.

• An auto-rotating screen to show either portrait or landscape views.

• A built-in PDF reader.

• 3G wireless network support with no monthly fees or annual contracts.

• Battery capacity to "read for days without charging."

• Text-to-speech abilities to read publications aloud.

Several of those features are shared with the current Kindle 2, but several are unique to the Kindle DX: the native PDF reader that doesn't require the files to be converted, the rotating display, the 3,500-publication capacity compared to 1,500 for the Kindle 2, and of course the larger screen.

"You never have to pan, you never have to zoom, you never have to scroll, you just see the documents," Bezos said.

The Kindle DX retails for $489 (the standard Kindle is $359), and is available for pre-orders now on Amazon. It'll ship this summer.

As expected, education is a big market for the bigger Kindle. Amazon has partnered with textbook manufacturers Pearson, Cengage Learning, and Wiley to bring textbooks to the Kindle--which Bezos says make up 60 percent of the textbook market--as well as Arizona State University, Princeton University, Reed College, the University of Virginia, and Case Western Reserve University to launch a Kindle DX pilot program this fall.

"We're going to get students with smaller backpacks, less load, easier access," said Bezos, who then introduced Case Western president Barbara Snyder. She said that the university would be seeing how study habits and the learning process change with the use of Kindles as textbook replacements.

Bezos shows off a newspaper view on the Kindle DX. Sarah Tew/CNET News

Many predicted that the Kindle DX would be geared in part toward helping out the struggling newspaper industry, and indeed, three newspapers will also be testing out the Kindle DX this summer in exchange for future product development help. The publications participating are The New York Times, The Boston Globe (owned, and recently nearly shut down, by the New York Times Company), and The Washington Post.

Arthur Sulzberger Jr., chairman of the New York Times Company, said that the Times and the Globe will first be available on the Kindle DX in markets where home delivery is not available.

The Kindle DX showcases "our commitment to reinvention and to taking full advantage of digital media," Sulzberger said, "which are providing a compelling laboratory for entrepreneurs, for technologists, and of course for journalists. The new Kindle DX is an important milestone in the convergence between print and digital."

"Newspapers have been an absolute bestseller on Kindle," Bezos said. "People love waking up in the morning to find that their New York Times, their Washington Post, their Wall Street Journal have been 'automagically' delivered overnight. They like the fact that when they travel their subscription follows them around."

In addition to launching the new device, Jeff Bezos hailed the rise of the Kindle phenomenon in general, and its lofty goal of working toward "every book ever printed, in any language, all available in less than 60 seconds."

"Eighteen months ago, we launched Kindle, and at the time we had 90,000 books available for Kindle. (We had) 230,000 books just three months ago when we launched Kindle 2," Bezos said. Now, the count is 275,000 books. "We've added another 45,000 books in just the last three months. We're actually accelerating."

Photos: Amazon Kindle DX

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Last updated at 8:20 a.m. PT.

CNET News reporter Stephen Shankland contributed to this report.