- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Amazon.com’s new Kindle DX is a great buy in e-book readers, even if the $489 price is 36 percent greater than the $359 price of its predecessor, which was released in late February.

Its 9.7-inch (diagonal measure) display screen is about 61 percent larger than its 6-inch cousin, while its 3,500-book capacity is 233 percent greater than the 1,500 books the “latest generation” model can hold. Its battery is said to be longer-lasting, too: Amazon.com claims that if you turn off the wireless connection to Sprint’s data network, you’ll have two weeks of reading between recharges.

Of course — and this has surprised some observers — something that’s bigger and has more book and battery capacity will weigh more. The new model clocks in at 18.9 ounces, about 8 ounces more than the regular model. Those weights are without the optional leather cover Amazon.com sells, by the way. The cover, which I recommend to protect the display, is said to weigh 8 ounces. With cover, then, you’re holding about 1.6 pounds.

So it’s bigger and has more physical heft. Does the Kindle DX deliver what readers want? I can’t read your mind, but I have read a few books on the new model, and when you acknowledge the limitations — and improvements — of the newest Kindle software, you can form a healthy judgment.

Along with the greater book capacity and larger screen, the new Kindle DX offers something that was a tad lacking on earlier models: a decent “native” reader for documents in the Adobe Acrobat PDF format. This is a great plus. The earlier PDF reader didn’t handle every sort of PDF file thrown at it with equal aplomb.

I’ve tested the Kindle DX’s PDF power with several PDF files, including the e-edition of The Washington Times, a government report, a PDF-ized magazine and two book-length documents. In every case, the PDFs read perfectly.

Another useful feature, PDF- and bookwise, is the automatic screen rotation when the unit is turned sideways. This makes some PDFs, such as this newspaper’s, easier to view in a larger format. You can disable that rotation if desired through a menu selection on the “type size” command screen.

That’s the good news. The “bad” news — and I use the quotes on purpose — is that determined carriers of PDFs-on-a-Kindle will want to move those files from a computer to the device via a USB cable, which is supplied. Why? Using Amazon’s e-mail-to-Kindle service to send the June 17 e-edition of The Times cost more than $2. Doing it via direct PC hookup costs, well, nothing.

I also loaded a Microsoft Word-formatted document, complete with footnotes, and it displayed perfectly as well. Thus, the Kindle DX might be a great way to take your next speech to the podium, especially if your Teleprompter is in the repair shop.

As others have noted and I concur, the e-newspapers sold on the Kindle platform are OK but could be better. A test of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review brought all the text to my device, but the table-of-contents presentation could have been better and more enticing. Give me a front page with headlines and teasers, please, and not just content categories.

Amazon’s Kindle-formatted books often are quite good in terms of the reading experience. I wish the pricing were a bit lower in some cases, but that’s a function of both the publisher and Amazon, I guess. Many books are priced well below the $9.99 touted for most best-selling titles, and, as I’ve discovered in recent weeks, tons of free titles are available in the Kindle format. A good number of these can be found at www.manybooks.net, and while formatting can be spotty - one title came with all the text underlined - you can’t quibble, given the price.

I’m still concerned about the lack of annotation ability for Kindle-housed PDFs, and the ability to search for specific items in a book is too limited for my tastes. Nevertheless, when stacked against other e-readers, the Kindle DX delivers what it promises, and that’s a good thing.

* E-mail: mkellner@washingtontimes.com