When it comes to e-readers, the hype machine has gotten ahead of the reality. Earlier this week, photos of the super-slim, sexy Plastic Logic Reader -- not available until next year -- circulated the 'Net and graced a New York Times article on the coming wave of big-screen readers meant to display newspaper, magazine and textbook content.
Amazon's Kindle DX, unveiled at a splashy media event in Manhattan today, is a disappointment for anyone expecting something like Plastic Logic's prototypes. It is, basically, a Kindle 2 with a bigger screen. The 9.7-inch display has twice the surface area of the Kindle 2's six-incher. The DX includes a PDF reader, but that only raises the question of why the Kindle 2 doesn't have one. The screen is still black and white. Don't expect magazine publishers to get excited about shipping monochrome versions of their publications.
The real buzz-killer, though, is the US$489 price. That's comparable to the first versions of Apple's iPod and iPhone. But the Kindle, even at DX size, lacks the lust factor of Apple's gadgets. People bought the iPhone even if they couldn't afford it, because it looked cool and did things differently than every other mobile phone and media player on the market. I doubt the DX will entice people in the same way.
There'll be a lot of talk today about how Amazon is revolutionizing the publishing industry. Don't believe it until the first month's sales are tallied. For all the proselytizing tech people do about the death of print, the DX's XL-sized price tag unintentionally proves what a technological feat a printed $1 copy of USA Today is.