With a reading area that measures some 9.7 inches diagonally, the latest in Amazon.com’s line of e-book readers is targeted at the company’s most voracious customers. But the larger screen (which is roughly 62 percent bigger than that of the Kindle 2’s reading area) comes at a cost – both literal and figurative.
Let’s get the literal out of the way first. The DX is expensive: $489 to be precise. (A protective cover will run you an extra $50.) That’s a $130 premium over the Kindle 2. And the price pushes the DX far out of the reach of the typical Amazon customer.
That’s a shame, because the DX rights several shortcomings of previous Kindles. The larger screen lets you see more text at once – which makes it feel more like you’re reading a book – and works better with newspaper and magazine content than the 6-inch screen on the Kindle 2.
It also has a bigger memory (with the ability to store up to 3,500 books, magazines or newspapers).
The ability to store and display PDF files is a handy one, but it’s here that the Kindle DX begins to stumble. The inability to zoom in on a document is a bit frustrating. And Amazon charges 45 cents for you to email yourself a PDF. It’s pocket change, but it feels a bit like gouging after paying so much for the device.
(Sure, you can dock your Kindle to your PC and manually transfer PDF files, but it’s a hassle – and doesn’t mesh well with the Kindle’s ‘go anywhere’ vibe.)
Like its predecessors, the Kindle DX uses a display technology developed by e-Ink. There’s no backlight necessary and the result is a very readable surface, whether you’re indoors or in the sun. It’s not paper, but it’s very close and mercifully doesn’t use much power. The battery on my Kindle DX lasted over a week with light- to moderate-use.
Not everything is perfect with the battery, though. Failing to recharge it before it depletes entirely will erase your library from the device’s home screen. Any books you have purchased remain archived, but will need to be downloaded (free of charge) again. It’s another small, but notable, inconvenience.
If you’re a fast reader, eInk might get a little frustrating after a while, as the refresh time between pages is just long enough for you to notice. And it can become aggravating as you read.
With the bigger screen comes a heftier unit. The DX is roughly the same size as a sheet of paper and nearly twice as heavy as the Kindle 2 (or, if you’d prefer, roughly the same weight as a 350 page hardback book). If you’re holding it upright, you may notice the strain faster than you would with earlier versions of the device.
Design wise, Amazon made some curious choices, the most prominent of which was the decision to do away with the next and previous page buttons along the left hand side of the device. Right-handed owners may not care, but if you’re left handed, the new Kindle is a little less convenient than it used to be.
The workaround for this is the DX’s orientation sensor, which will rotate the text depending on how you are holding the device. Unfortunately, the sensor is much too sensitive. Should your arm shift slightly, you’re quite likely to see the text completely realign on screen – which quickly becomes frustrating.
It’s possible to lock the screen in one position, but doing so takes some searching and, like the battery issue, takes away from the simplicity of the device.
Individually, any of these criticisms might be nothing more than a little annoyance, but when bundled together, they become more glaring. Add in the startling high price and it all becomes a bit too much.
Make no mistake, there’s a lot to like about the Kindle DX, but with its flaws and price, the device remains something that’s just not ready for widespread acceptance yet. (Even the Kindle 2 remains out of many people’s reach at $359.)
Once the company is able to produce less expensive models, it could quickly dominate the e-book market, as Apple has done with downloadable music. For now, though, paperbacks can rest easy a little while longer.