Editor's Note: When do you think that e-readers will be a viable alternative to print? Full disclosure - my sci-fi novel Cyberchild is available on the Kindle, too.
Amazon has begun taking orders for its new Kindle DX e-reader, which is slated to begin shipping on Wednesday. The device has enough storage capacity to accommodate 3,500 books, the company said.
The wireless device -- which sports a big 9.7-inch diagonal screen but is just one-third of an inch thick -- delivers instant access to magazines, newspapers and more than 285,000 books without users having to pay a monthly cellular bill. Amazon says e-books purchased for the device are delivered in less than 60 seconds over a built-in 3G wireless link that is widely available in all 50 states.
Still, analysts note that the new device's purchase price is hefty. "The Kindle DX retails for a whopping $489," said Forrester Research analyst Sarah Rotman Epps. "While other premium products will launch in the price range of the DX, there will also be a race to get to a $199 price point with simpler models."
Hope For Struggling Newspapers
The Kindle DX arrives at a time when analysts say the e-reader market is poised for liftoff. "By 2011, we expect five million U.S. consumers to own an e-reader," and "by 2013, we expect 13 million U.S. consumers to own" one, said Rotman Epps.
Struggling magazines and newspapers such as The New York Times, The Boston Globe and The Washington Post are hoping to counter slowing ad sales and subscriber growth by jumping on the Kindle DX bandwagon. "By offering a subscription through the Kindle DX to readers who live outside of our delivery areas, we will extend our reach," said Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr.
USA Today also remains on track to begin delivering an electronic edition of its national newspaper by e-mail to paperless subscribers on Aug. 3, said the daily newspaper's Director of Communications Alexandra Nicholson. The Kindle DX offers native PDF support, which means users will be able to carry and read any content in this format, including newspapers, magazines and even college textbooks.
"The DX is Amazon putting a stake in the ground saying, 'We're going after the textbook market,' hoping to shore up their claim as the market leader before new competitors enter the market later this year," Rotman Epps said. "There will also be a student market for textbooks on e-readers, but we don't see that taking off until 2011."
Amazon's apparent lock on the electronic newspaper market with its large screen isn't expected to last. Plastic Logic, which will begin conducting trials of its new large-format e-reader later this year, announced a strategic partnership with the Detroit Free Press and The Detroit News last March under which Michigan's largest daily newspapers will be delivered electronically beginning next year.
The Kindle DX also will have to contend with growing competition from lower-priced gear. Earlier this month, U.K. startup Interead began shipping its new Cool-er e-book reader for $200.
Additionally, the Kindle DX faces growing competition from e-reader software for smartphones and netbooks. "There will be some dampening effect of e-reader sales due to device convergence -- sales of smartphones and netbooks -- but there is still a market for dedicated devices that are optimized for reading," Rotman Epps said. "That's why the target market for e-readers is frequent book readers -- people who read a lot and buy a lot of books."