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Got Kindle DX Questions? We’ve Got Kindle DX Answers

With Kindle DX here to stay, it makes sense to address some of the questions that Kindle Nation citizens have been sharing with me and elsewhere about the latest model. My hope is that some of this will be of interest both to prospective DX buyers and to Kindle 1 or 2 owners who are wondering if there is anything in particular about the DX that might drive a new-model purchase.

The Kindle DX Display

The Kindle DX display seems very easy on the eyes, but after taking, magnifying, and comparing screen shots of the same page from my Kindle DX and my Kindle 2, I can say with some certainty that the font size, font clarity, background, and contrast on the two models are similar.

However, there is a specific and valuable kind of serious improvement in the display legibility of the Kindle DX compared with the earlier Kindle models, and it involves all of the non-adjustable fonts to which we have grown accustomed on the Kindle. For those of us who tend to gravitate toward the larger font sizes whenever we are able with the Kindle, it can be frustrating to try to read the Kindle Home screen, the Kindle storefront, and other displays such as menus, bookmark listings, search results, the Settings page and even, for when we want to keep up with Amazon’s touting of titles that are already big sellers from mainstream megapublishers, with the Kindle Daily Post.

On the Kindle DX, all these non-adjustable pages are far more legible and easy on the eyes, especially in less than optimal light.

The actual dimensions of the Kindle DX display screen (5 3/8″ x 7 7/8″, 9.7″ on the diagonal) are a tiny bit smaller than the standard 6″ x 9″ of most trade paperbacks and allow for a printable page that is equal to the printable page in a standard hardcover book whose exterior dimensions are 6 1/4″ x 9 7/16″.

Although I am not impressed with the Kindle DX’s usefulness for viewing PDF documents, the larger display performs beautifully with graphic files embedded in Kindle editions such as those found on Amazon’s special page of Featured Books for the Kindle DX. These includes photographs and other art, graphic novels and cartoons, maps and charts, and more.

Side-by-side with the Kindle 2, the Kindle DX display is consistently a tiny bit slower to refresh. The good news is that the same situation that causes the DX e-Ink display to take a few milliseconds longer to refresh — the fact that it contains more than twice as much text per screen — more than offsets the cumulative effect of slower refreshes. By the time you finish reading any book on a DX you will have spent about half as much time waiting for refreshes as you would spend reading the same book on a Kindle 1 or Kindle 2.

Kindle DX File Managament

There do not appear to be any new developments or features with regard to folders, labels, groupings, etc.

Kindle DX Value: Is the DX worth $489?

It’s such a subjective question. If you are having trouble keeping the wolf from the door, nothing is worth $489. But let me put it this way: if the Kindle 2 is worth $359, the DX is definitely worth $489 for its serious enhancements in display, legibility, and the compatibility between all the content it can display and the way that content looks on the DX. I felt that I needed to purchase a Kindle DX because of my role here with Kindle Nation and my Kindle books, but I was frankly on the fence about whether I would keep it, given how much I like my Kindle 2. Although I have not made a final decision, after 10 hours with the DX I am leaning toward calling it a keeper.

PDF on the Kindle DX

On the plus side:

  • The Kindle DX has native support for PDF files, so that you can transfer a PDF file directly from any computer to your Kindle DX via USB without relying on Amazon’s 15-cent-and-up conversion service.
  • The Kindle DX display has more than twice as much “printable space” as the previous Kindle models, so many PDF files display well.
  • Kindle DX PDF support allows you to search inside a PDF document and bookmark entire pages, if the document is unrestricted and has been created from a text-based rather than a graphic document.

On the negative side.

  • The Kindle DX does not support “zoom,” “pan,” or magnification for PDF files, so if the display size (about 70% the size of an 8×11 sheet) is too small, you are stuck. Based on my first impressions I’m not optimistic that the DX will be much a solution for technical PDFs, PDFs with charts, etc.
  • The highlighting, bookmarking, annotation and clipping features that provide important functionality for other Kindle documents in an academic setting are virtually useless with PDF files, so that the promise of being able to use PDF files for academic courseware is unfulfilled.
  • Despite claims at Location 670 of the Amazon’s Kindle DX User Guide, the Kindle DX does not consistently make optimal use of landscape-view rotation to magnify PDF files for easier viewing.
  • The weakness of the aformentioned features such as annotation and search is the same for PDF files regardless of whether you transfer them directly from computer to Kindle via USB or send them wirelessly via the Whispernet. When you send a PDF to your @kindle.com email address Amazon does not put the file through any conversion process, and it is impossible to have Amazon convert a PDF file to an .AZW Kindle file. Some technophiles will want to explore the potential for converting their own PDF files backward to .DOC, .TXT, or .MOBI files so as to convert them forward into a more useful format to take advantage of Kindle DX features. We will consult with friends who are more technologically advanced and revisit these possibilities in a future issue of Kindle Nation.

Portability, Use and Carrying Ease

This is another highly subjective matter. The Kindle DX weighs a little less than twice as much as a Kindle 2, and its heft, feel, and solidness is much the same as the Kindle 2 across a larger mass. If you are used to carrying a hardcover book, or a briefcase or moderate-sized backpack or purse, or a 7 x 10 planner, the Kindle DX won’t bother you. It’s easier to lug around than any netbook, laptop, or tablet computer or most hardcover bestsellers. I like the way it carries, opens, and performs both home and away, especially in the moleskine-like leather Kindle DX cover that Amazon manufactures and sells for it. I am finding it easy to use for one-handed reading.

I also expect that some of these issues of weight and heft may be different to different users. I’m a big, strong guy, and the idea of exercise or walking with, say, 2- or 5-pound weights would seem silly to me. If you are someone who would find it useful to carry 2-pound weights on a power walk, the Kindle DX might seem more burdensome to you. I also suspect that, at least for a while, I might be annoyed by the right-side control placement if I were lefthanded. The Amazon explanation that this annoyance would by mitigated by using the DX’s ability to rotate to an upside-down display strikes me as a Youtube parody video waiting to happen.


I lack the courage to put my new Kindle DX through any drop-testing research, but I will say this. The DX feels every bit as sturdy as the Kindle 2, but I am sure that, if I decide to keep it, I will spring for the 2-year extended warranty. I did not purchase the extended warranty for my Kindle 2, and the difference is based on three things:

  • Since the Kindle DX is larger and heavier, I believe that the prospect of some mishap is naturally greater, assuming the same care.
  • I think the DX is likely to be my e-book reader of choice for the next three to five years, whereas I got the Kindle 2 with a strong expectation that there would be a compelling upgrade coming in behind it within a year.
  • For whatever reason associated with my household budget, there is a significant difference to me between $359 and $489.

The Kindle DX Web Browser

Primarily because of the size and automatic rotation of the Kindle DX display, it is far superior to its predecessors in its capacity to display web pages in an appealing and useful way. Whereas the Kindle 1 and Kindle 2 offered a choice between “basic mode” and “advanced mode” with the web browser, the Kindle DX toggles between “basic mode” and “desktop mode,” and the combination of “desktop mode” and landscape orientation (see below) shows most web pages in a relatively impressive and useful way compared with earlier Kindle models.


One of the first things I did with my new Kindle DX when it arrived was to transfer and listen to the MP3 of last week’s podcast of The Kindle Chronicles, and I noticed right away that the smarter placement of the two Kindle DX speakers on the bottom edge, where they are never covered by a Kindle cover or by laying the Kindle flat, makes for a greatly enhanced listening experience. Whether the audio is any different when conveyed over a headset or external speaker is a question I have yet to research.

When asking an author if her ebook has also been published as a "real" book will be like asking a musician if her album has been released in vinyl

I recently noticed an interesting Tweet that gets right to the heart of so many issues that authors are thinking about when we try to make decisions about publishing for the Kindle and other new technologies:

kaytee4ever: my gf thinks Kindle isn’t “realpublishing. Help! Know anyone who got a print deal after starting on Kindle?Any good arguments to tell her?

The Kindle is at the forefront of technological change that opens all kinds of new doors for authors, publishers, and anyone who likes to make reading an interactive experience. As with every medium, channel, or form of communication or commerce, there will be dreck (as there is plenty of dreck available from mainstream publishers).

But yes.

First, there have been people who got print deals after starting on Kindle, and here’s one of the most thoughtful and interesting analyses of the most recent big deal: A Kindle Success Story: How to Promote a Kindle Ebook

Second, you may not see it coming yet, but we are approaching a time when a confluence of sea changes in reading habits, consumer practices, and technology will mean that asking a Kindle book author if her book has also been published as a “real” book will be like asking a musician if her album has been released in vinyl. Serious authors from Joe Konrath to, well, me are already making a decent living from the Kindle editions of our books.

Third, all of this will work best when it works as it often works with indie music and indie movies, with readers lighting the way for other readers so that the feedback becomes the filter.

Fourth, just to take it back to the totally understandable vanity issues that are implicit in the original tweet, I hope you will enjoy the bit of dialogue included in my post The Romance of Submission, a chapter excerpted from my book Beyond the Literary-Industrial Complex.

Update: In case you were wondering if the Boyd Morrison book described in the above-referenced post really existed, here’s proof:

Between Morrison, Amazon, and his new publisher, they have endeavored to wipe out all traces of the Kindle edition, but entering the ASIN from Amazon’s main page still gets you this search result that links to a 404-page ghost.

Throw Out the Kindle Baby, But Keep the Bathwater

Technology blogger Mike Elgan posted a very smart piece – Elgan: Why the iPhone doesn’t matter – in which he argues a strong point, much more elegantly, that I have been making since the Kindle first appeared: that the device is almost always secondary to what it connects us with. While he focuses primarily on the iPhone, he carries the point over to this smart observation about the Kindle and its baby-faced assassins:

A similar phenomenon is happening with other devices. For example, the Amazon Kindle is by far the best selling e-book reader. But the Kindle hardware device is nothing to write home about, especially the first one, which was a piece of junk. What’s great about the Kindle, and the thing that makes it “better” than the Sony Reader and even better than all the color “Kindle Killers” that have been demonstrated in the past year, is the Amazon Kindle Store. Hardware doesn’t matter. Network is everything.

Wire Up and Tag Kindlepedia to Educate Yourself Any Time on Any Topic

First, a tip of the hat to Edukindle creator Will DeLamater and Kindle Formatting author Joshua Tallent for creating the Kindlepedia tool discussed here and for Kindle Chronicles podcaster Len Edgerly for bringing it to my attention by featuring it on his program recently, and to old friend, author, teacher, fellow traveler and classmate of Len’s and mine Ned Stuckey-French for getting my thoughts percolating about the pedagogical possibilities here.

I can’t imagine that there is a single Kindle owner anywhere in the world who is not already familiar with Wikipedia, the online crowd-sourced encyclopedia with over 13 million collaboratively written articles, about 2.9 million of them in English. In addition to the fact that it is the 7th most popular website in the world according to Alexa, Wikipedia is a very high-profile part of the Kindle experience already, since it is featured as a prominent channel for any user-initiated Kindle search along with Google, the Kindle Store, the Kindle’s onboard dictionary and its library of ebooks and other documents:

The opportunity for readers to move quickly and easily — using the Kindle’s absolutely free wireless 3G web browser — between content on their Kindles and the kindof supplemental references and information that they will find on Wikipedia is bound to enrich the educational usefulness of the Kindle, and not just for college students. My 11-year-old son moves seamlessly between his life and Wikipedia explanations of the few remaining things he does not understand, and I am learning more slowly to do the same. By leaving the door constantly cracked between any content that we are reading and Wikipedia’s rich universe of information and content, the Kindle offers astonishing potential for us to place the words that we read in the kinds of rich historical and cultural contexts that makes them more vivid than they could ever be in a traditional book, no matter how much we may love print on paper.

But Wikipedia is more than just a place to visit for a few seconds here and there in the margins of one’s reading experiences. The rich and extensive content to be found there is worthy of reading time all its own, and offers inquisitive readers an opportunity to move organically — or whimsically, for that matter — across dozens or hundreds or thousands of “articles” in ways that allow the construction of remarkable aedifices of personal knowledge and contextual understanding. Thomas Wolfe may have arrived at Harvard in 1920 with the dream of reading every volume in the university’s Harry Elkins Widener Library, but I cannot help but think that he might have enjoyed his self-education more, begun it earlier, and avoided the constant need to wash the dust from his hands if his times had allowed him access to a Kindle with an always-on Wikipedia connection.

Now, Edukindle creator Will DeLamater and Kindle Formatting author Joshua Tallent have collaborated on an extremely useful and elegant new application, called Kindlepedia, that allows Kindle readers to create a Kindle “book” within a few seconds from any Wikipedia listing and transfer (download) it to a Kindle either via USB or Whispernet for offline reading and research at one’s leisure. Not surprisingly, given Joshua’s virtuosity with Kindle formatting issues, the resulting Wikipedia-based “book” arrives on a Kindle in an elegantly formatted, easy-to-read state, with external web links intact so that a reader is never more than a click away from extending one’s research even further, including references beyond Wikipedia. Here are the steps, and just for fun I’ll use the Wikipedia article on one of my favorite underappreciated baseball players, Bernie Carbo:

  • On your computer, go to the Kindlepedia page on the Edukindle website at http://www.edukindle.com/downloads/kindlepedia/. (No need to try to do this Kindlepedia procedure directly from your Kindle; I have already tried and it does not work).
  • Type in the URL of the Wikipedia entry from which you wish to make a Kindle “book” in the entry field in the center of the screen or, if you are relatively certain that a brief keyword or phrase will produce the desired article, you can try that:
  • Click on the “Create Kindle Book” button, and within a few seconds you will see a new screen with these buttons in the center of the display:
  • Click on the “download” button and note from your computer’s dialogue box (or a quick file search, for, in this case “Bernie_Carbo.mobi”) the location to which the downloaded file is being be served on your computer.
  • Transfer this “Bernie_Carbo.mobi” file to your Kindle either by sending it as an attachment to your @kindle.com email address (in which case Amazon will charge you 15 cents per megabyte rounded up and send the converted file to your Kindle via Whispernet) or, for free, by connecting your Kindle to your computer via USB, copying the saved file from your computer to the “documents” folder in your Kindle’s main directory via Finder, My Computer, or whatever file management program you use with your computer, and using the “Eject” Kindle command to disconnect the Kindle from your computer.
  • You should now find the Kindle-formatted “Bernie Carbo” book at the top of your Kindle’s Home screen if your Home display is organized to show all documents, most recent first:

As with any other Kindle book, click on “Bernie Carbo” and begin reading or let your Kindle read the content aloud to you. While reading, you’ll be able to click on any live web link such as the Baseball-Reference link shown here

to extend your research to, say, viewing Carbo’s lifetime stats:

Okay, if you are thinking that this great new research tool is going to curse you with an unmanageably long list or catalog of “books” on your Kindle, let’s revisit a Kindle Nation piece from March 9 (which referenced a Kindle Chronicles podcast from March 6) on A Brilliant Way To Apply Tags To Organize Your Kindle Content:

Amazon’s failure to provide user-defined content management folders or labels is one of the major disappointments offsetting the many improvements that we have seen with the Kindle 2, but a Kindle owner named Larry Goss has developed an elegant work-around system that allows him to “tag” any title on his Kindle. To hear his approach, check out the March 6 edition of Len Edgerly’s Kindle Chronicles podcast. Larry’s idea is detailed in the show comments section a little over two-thirds of the way into the podcast. The gist of it is that you can use any Kindle’s annotation feature to “tag” your content by genre, status, or any other qualifier as long as you create “words” that would not otherwise be found in your documents. For example, I might create two tags for science fiction novels on my Kindle, and thus annotate the first page of each either with SWSCIFIREAD or SWSCIFINEW, to signify Stephen Windwalker’s science fiction novels read or unread. Once the annotation is saved, books with a particular tag will display in the search results whenever you enter that tag. Yes, it is a work-around, but I hope you will agree that it is brilliant in its elegant, workable simplicity, and join me in thanking Larry and Len.

For my purposes, I just create a tag, er, annotation, at the beginning of each of these Wikipedia-based books. The first four letters are always “swkp” for “Stephen Windwalker Kindlepedia” and subsequent letters are the briefest and most simple tag for the content, so that for the Carbo content, I simply open the file on my Kindle, choose “Add a Note or Highlight” from the Menu, type in “swkp carbo,” and click on “save note” at the bottom of the dialogue box. Then I will find the content anytime by typing in “swkp carbo,” whereas typing in “swkp” will show me all my Wikipedia-based content and typing in “carbo” will show me all Carbo references on my Kindle. Fortunately, if I forget some of my own tags, I can also access them by selecting opening the “My Clippings” file on my Home screen.

It’s 7 pm EDT June 10, 2009 – Kindle DX Release Day – Do you know where your Kindle DX is?

Today is Kindle DX Release Day for Amazon, and anxious Kindle DX buyers have been checking their emails all day for those “Your order has shipped” messages. My DX will arrive tomorrow, and I am sure I will have impressions to share. Meanwhile, Engadget has posted a nice 29-photo gallery of an early Kindle DX unboxing, and Steven Levy of Wired.com has posted a balanced review of his test run.

Get your order in now and you can still get your Kindle DX this week with 1-day shipping.

Kindle DX is Back in Stock on Its Release Date — What’s Up with That?

Was the Kindle DX ever out of stock?

Since last week the new Kindle’s Amazon product page has been stoking the flames of gadgeteer anxiety with messages claiming that freshly placed orders would ship within 7 to 10 days. New orders placed yesterday, June 9, showed a delivery date of June 16 (June 15 with one-day shipping). Naturally, Amazon exposed itself to various forms of criticism, most notably:
  • customer frustration that the company seemed not to have learned from the recurring stock-out problems that delayed Kindle 1 shipments from November 2007 to April 2008 and again from November 2008 to the launch of the Kindle 2 in February 2009; and
  • suspicions that Amazon was purposely raising the specter of a Kindle DX stock-out problem to gin up sales of the new model, and get as many orders as possible in the pipeline before the announcement of the iPhone 3G S and the intriguing Iceberg Reader app for the iPhone and the iPod Touch this week.
Whatever the underlying problems or motivations, Amazon now appears to have solved the problem before it even begins shipping the Kindle DX today.

Three additional tips, while you are at it:
  • Don’t forget to order the Amazon Kindle DX Leather Cover while you are at it. The new Kindle is too large, ungainly, and vulnerable to use without a cover, and unlike the Kindle 1 the cover is not included.
  • I’m not recommending the $109 Kindle DX two-year warranty, but you should be aware, if you want it, that it must be ordered within 30 days of your new Kindle DX ship date.
  • Finally, don’t mistake I made on my original Kindle DX order. Amazon will let you set up a Kindle DX order using your bank account (as opposed to a credit card), but then will unceremoniously cancel your order a few days (or now, perhaps, a few hours) later without any useful communication, customer service assistance, or opportunity to change your payment method. I’m guessing they’ve probably thrown out about a half a million dollars worth of Kindle DX orders with this snafu, but what’s a half a million dollars?

Update: Just to verify one other thing. Kindle DX orders placed this morning with one-day shipping are indeed now showing a delivery date of June 11.

Kindle Nation Archives: May 2009

  • Kindle Nation – The Free Weekly eMail Newsletter – I:15, 5.12.2009
  • Click Here To Make A Secure, Easy Donation To Kindle Nation – Launch-Day Pre-Orders Indicate Kindle DX Success – Amazon Streamlines the Kindle-for-iPhone Experience – Kindle Nation to Amazon: Allow a Hassle-Free Return Credit for Kindle 2 Owners – Great Deals on Books and Other Kindle Store Content – Lawyers in Love with Their Kindles?

  • Kindle Nation Extra: Read All About the Brand New Kindle DX – The Free Weekly Email Newsletter – I:14A, 5.6.2009
  • Wireless Reading Just Got Bigger: Pre-Order the 9.7″ Kindle DX Now for $489 – Kindle DX Will “Revolutionize Learning” – Can the Kindle DX Save the Newspaper Industry? – Technical Details on the Kindle DX – 354,000 Kindle 2s in Q1 2009; 1.2 Million Kindles to Date?

  • Kindle Nation – The Free Weekly Email Newsletter – I:14, 5.5.2009
  • Changes Afoot: Charges for Personal Documents – Amazon Sets Press Conference for Wednesday, May 6 to Announce Kindle DX – Extra! Extra! Read All the Brand New Kindle DX! – From the Kindle Nation Mailbag: Help Finding a File After Transferring It to Your Kindle with Mobipocket – Great Deals on Books and Other Kindle Store Content – 354,000 Kindle 2s in Q1 2009; 1.2 Million Kindles to Date? – Tips for Kindle Authors and Publishers – From the Kindle Nation Mailbag: Paolo Weighs in with “10 Reasons Why I Wish I Didn’t Buy a Kindle 2”

  • Special Bulletin: New Personal Document Charges Begin Monday May 4 Kindle Nation – The Free Weekly Email Newsletter – I:13A, 5.1.2009
  • Blue Monday: Amazon Begins Charging For Converting and Sending Personal Documents to Your Kindle – Speaking of Blue: Tune in to The Kindle Chronicles Podcast Tonight for Blueberry Pancakes With Windwalker and Len Edgerly