Should Text Book Publishers Fear Kindle DX?

Well, according to the rumors, yes. Inc. on Wednesday plans to unveil a new version of its Kindle e-book reader with a larger screen and other features designed to appeal to periodical and academic textbook publishers, according to people familiar with the matter.

Beginning this fall, some students at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland will be given large-screen Kindles with textbooks for chemistry, computer science and a freshman seminar already installed, said Lev Gonick, the school’s chief information officer. The university plans to compare the experiences of students who get the Kindles and those who use traditional textbooks, he said.

Amazon has worked out a deal with several textbook publishers to make their materials available for the device, Mr. Gonick added. The new device will also feature a more fully functional Web browser, he said. The Kindle’s current model, which debuted in February, includes a Web browser that is classified as “experimental.” (WSJ)

Are the text book publishers that are working with Amazon thinking clearly?

Amazon has already put the fear of God into trade book publishers with their heavily discounted NYT Best Seller titles for the Kindle. Who’s to say that Amazon won’t also do something similar with text books?

I can see it now. Hello student! You know that text book your professor says you have to buy? Yeah, the one in the book store that costs $150? Well, look no further. Get your Kindle edition for $39.95.

What student wouldn’t immediately jump on a deal like that? Sure, the discount isn’t likely to be that deep (is it?), but the fact that the book will be discounted is enough for the student to happily slap down dad’s credit card.

Text book publishers need a digital strategy, to be sure. Most STM publishers have been digital for years now, so models exist. If text book publishers are hoping Amazon makes their digital market, they’ll won’t be happy at the end of the day. They’ll watch their print sales drop along with the revenue they depend upon. Amazon can be a great channel partner, but no one should give them control of that channel.

MORE: Engadget has a video and details of the new Kindle DX hardware.


  1. Several textbook publishers are already offering their textbooks as ebooks at a discounted price. Cengage offers e-chapters–pay $1.99 per chapter of their textbook, and their e-book price is 50% off of the printed book price (the site where that publisher sells e-books is I’ve told my students about it if they’re interested in having an e-book version, but the vast majority have opted for the hard copy. Using e-book readers more widely might actually convert more students (they want to be able to take their book with them & not have to read at their computer) but I think the Kindle DX would have to be free (as suggested in the quote above) or very, very cheap for students to embrace it. I’m probably speaking from a specific demographic of students too–community college students who can barely afford to pay their tuition there won’t be able to purchase e-book readers for their e-textbooks.

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