Digital life: When 10" just isn't enough...
Amazon Kindle DX, €440: What a difference a week makes. If this review had appeared last month, it would have had an entirely different complexion. Now we're in the post-iPad era and everything has changed.
Perhaps it's unfair to compare Amazon's super-sized Kindle ebook reader to an Apple product as yet unreleased, untested and unproven. But the international launch of the DX, a Kindle with a substantially larger screen than the original, has run slap-bang into the wave of hype surrounding the iPad.
But let's first consider the Kindle DX for what it is, rather than what it isn't. Apart from the enlarged screen, the DX is substantially identical to its little brother.
Thus it inherits all of the goodies that make the Kindle the best e-reader on the market. Naturally, though, it comes with the same weaknesses.
So you get the largest ebook catalogue with the lowest prices -- more than 300,000 titles, not counting the several hundred thousand out-of-copyright books also available free.
The built-in internet connection enables you to buy and download books anywhere you can get a mobile phone signal. Additionally, the Kindle gives access to almost 100 worldwide newspapers and 40 magazines on a subscription basis.
No more hunting at the newsagent for the last copy -- each digital edition is delivered automatically to your DX every morning (or weekly/monthly in the case of magazines). The convenience is phenomenal.
The DX differs in just a few key places from its smaller sibling. Most obviously, it has a 10-inch screen versus just six inches. It's also equipped with a slightly better keyboard and a sensor to rotate the orientation of the screen.
But battery life seems to have suffered in the process with longevity down from a week to just three or four days if you download stuff regularly.
The benefits of the larger screen come into play only if you view a lot of your own documents, such as PDFs. Seasoned book readers will hardly notice and the extra bulk makes the DX definitely less portable. Certainly, the screen size would be more valuable if the digital newspapers and magazines came with photos, as they do for Amazon's customers in the US. The damn Yankees also get access to the Kindle's web browser, which we don't. Both restrictions are to do with the cost of providing the internet connection, which Amazon would have to absorb. We Europeans are still second-class citizens as far as Kindle is concerned.
The other Kindle downsides still stand: no lending, borrowing or selling ebooks. The titles also cost about €2 more than in the US, which effectively pays for the internet download.
Even with a catalogue of 300,000 (including many Irish authors), it falls well short of the breadth of paper-based books. Notable absentees picked at random include the Harry Potter series, JD Salinger and Cormac McCarthy.
But it's the iPad that casts the greatest shadow across the Kindle DX and ereaders like it. While the Kindle arguably performs better as an ereader than the iPad ever will due to its high-contrast screen, it's beginning to look like a one-trick pony beside the multi-faceted Apple machine.
With that in mind, the €440 price of the DX looks unsustainable. Its smaller brother, priced at €230, remains the better choice.