Ross Rubin (@rossrubin) contributes Switched On, a column about consumer technology.
Amazon's Kindle DX includes a few tweaks such as automatically rotating the orientation of the screen when it is placed in landscape mode and adjustable page margins because... well, CEO Jeff Bezos seems to like the feature. Literally, though, the biggest change is the new 9.7-inch electronic ink screen, which displays two and a half times more content than the 6-inch screen on the Kindle 2 and Sony Reader. The expanded display allows more detailed graphics to be seen without zooming or panning, and is better suited to a wide range of source material including maps, technical diagrams, and sheet music. But textbooks and newspapers were singled out as two printed sources that are particularly significant for the forthcoming device.
These publications both benefit from the larger Kindle screen size, but each face different challenges in finding success on the Kindle DX. For newspapers, the Kindle DX cuts down on the costs of printing. Newspapers, though, are already struggling against competitors that did away with that expense years ago, including blogs that break stories and online entities such as Craigslist, eBay and Google that have siphoned away advertising revenue. Textbooks, on the other hand, have no major electronic competition, and print still retains advantages such as better readability and color. But digital textbooks must compete with used textbooks, a major market on college campuses, and likely will not be able to be resold if other digital content is a predecessor.
At the Kindle DX launch, representatives from The New York Times Company and Case Western Reserve University both characterized their involvement with the Kindle DX as a trial or experimentation. What's behind the arm's length embrace?