Amazon.com has let loose the latest salvo in the rapidly escalating e-book reader war. The online book retailer will ship the latest version of its high-end Kindle, the DX, on July 7. The new units will sport a range of new features and a substantially lowered price: US$379. Amazon already has lowered the price of its more popular, standard version of the Kindle to $189 after competitor Barnes & Noble dropped the price of its Nook reader to $199.
Among the new features touted for the new DX are improved screen contrast (up by 50 percent), zoom capability for PDF files, a Collections tool that allows users to better organize their reading materials, and the ability to share selections from books and periodicals via social networks using the free 3G service that the unit provides.
Amazon is currently taking pre-orders for the Kindle DX. Orders will be filled on a first-come, first-served basis, said the company.
Competing With Itself?
Perhaps the most interesting part of the scramble to capture avid readers’ hearts is the fact that, at the same time as it’s trying to establish a market for stand-alone book readers, Amazon has been working to extend its reach to other mobile devices as well. For now, the iPhone and iPad are at the forefront of that strategy.
“Upgrades Amazon has made to its Kindle software for iPhone now makes other platforms arguably more compelling than their own branded offering,” Josh Martin, senior analyst with Strategy Analytics, told TechNewsWorld. Thus, while Amazon and Barnes & Noble fight it out in the dedicated reader space, Amazon also is placing some eggs in the mobile basket.
“Seems like the the mobile device (be it phone or tablet) will become an increasingly important component of the e-book war,” Martin observed.
Off to College
Arguably, though, the Kindle DX is a different animal than its more moderately priced counterparts, and it is aimed at college students, who make very lucrative book customers because they are compelled by class requirements to purchase several hundred dollars (or more) worth of textbooks multiple times per year.
Seeking to cater to these readers who must spend long hours poring over sometimes dry material, the Kindle DX sports a larger screen at 9.7 inches. It also now includes some features Amazon calls “experimental.” A text-to-speech tool converts written material into audio. The DX will accept transfer of MP3 files from a computer. A password feature will allow users to lock up their Kindles when they’re not using them.
Among the college crowd, though, the Kindle competes for the loyalty of a consumer segment that tends to adopt the new and the sexy over anything that appears to be stodgy. Multifunction devices are king in this world, as students seek to listen to music, cruise the Web, check their social network sites, and send photographs and videos to each other all on the same compact gadget.
“Kindle was forced to cut prices on DX or see it die on the vine,” Carl Howe, director with Yankee Group, told TechNewsWorld. “It previously cost the same amount as the WiFi version of the iPad, and the two devices don’t begin to compare. All things being equal, would a college student want a black-and-white DX or an iPad?”
The Tablet Is the Future
The tablet is the future of the e-book reader, according to Howe. What gives a dedicated reader an advantage are its price and weight. Thus, Amazon is zeroing in on the tablet competition in dropping the high-end Kindle to a price lower than the iPad.
“However, there may be a group of cheap Android tablets coming that put more pressure on stand-alone e-readers at the low end of the price spectrum, $200 and below,” predicted Howe.
Hmm, all well and good. But until one of these ebook powerhouses come up with the ability to allow buyers to sell their books, just like with real books, I don’t think college students will be interested. When I was in college, I would always purchase used books and sell used, so that, besides my initial investment, I never really had to fork over any dough. I also will not purchase and ereader for the very same reason. Some books I don’t want to keep and would like to sell.