RealTime IT News

Is Amazon Set to Super-Size the Kindle?

Rumors are swirling that Amazon may be poised to release a new, larger-sized Kindle e-book reader, even as competitors new and old ready new rival offerings.

While the e-tail giant declined to comment on reports of a large-screen version of the Kindle, designed to replace newspapers and textbooks, it's scheduled to hold at least one mysterious press event in New York City on Wednesday.

According to a New York Times report, the larger Kindle includes a display roughly the size of a sheet of paper, and would be formatted specifically for newspapers, magazines and textbooks.

The Kindle currently supports content from a number of newspapers and magazines, but only in specially formatted feeds.

News of a larger, more ad-friendly Kindle from Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) comes at a time when some news publishers are exploring alternative ways to get their content -- and their ads -- before an increasingly digital audience.

The Detroit Free Press and the Detroit News recently announced plans to partner with closely watched startup Plastic Logic on its large-screen Kindle competitor, because they favor an e-reader that would have a screen large enough to display advertising.

The Plastic Logic Reader, due in the market in early 2010, features a form factor that is about the size of an 8.5 x 11-in. piece of paper and weighs less than many print magazines. The e-reader is slated to have a touchscreen interface, among other yet-to-be-announced features, according to a Plastic Logic statement.

As part of the partnership with the two Detroit-based newspapers, the Plastic Logic Reader will be offered for purchase or lease to subscribers of both dailies as an alternative to paper delivery. The Detroit newspapers will also be among the first publications to test the new e-reader later this year, according to Plastic Logic.

Efforts to explore nontraditional distribution channels have gotten closer attention as publishers struggle to cope with plummeting revenues and reader subscriptions, with the New York Times Company recently announcing it may shutter the Boston Globe, which it owns.

"The newspaper industry faces historic challenges as it attempts to transform itself in the digital age. We look to innovative new digital products like the Plastic Logic Reader to help us usher in a new era in publishing by helping us provide our readers all the benefits of digital content while retaining the familiar easy-to-read, paper-like format many readers continue to value," Detroit Free Press CEO David Hunke said in a statement.

Plastic Logic plans to make its e-reader, specifically targeted to mobile business professionals, available in trials and pilots with partners and key customers during the second half of 2009, followed by widespread commercial availability in 2010, it said.

In addition to the Detroit Media Partnership, Plastic Logic has announced plans to distribute and sell content via its store with the Financial Times, USA Today and content aggregators -- including Ingram Digital, LibreDigital, and Zinio -- for sales and distribution of leading digital editions of newspapers, magazines and books.

For its part, Amazon released the Kindle 2 in February, and recently scooped up Lexcycle, the maker of the most popular iPhone e-reader app in a bid to further boost its position in the e-book market.

Those moves, along with Plastic Logic's impending entry into the field, highlight the growing competition in the nascent digital book. Recent weeks have also seen Barnes & Noble (NYSE: BKS) entering the fray by buying its own app maker, Fictionwise, and the bookseller is rumored to be creating a device aimed squarely at the Kindle.

Meanwhile, the latest edition of Amazon's e-book reader, the Kindle 2, is getting positive reviews -- and likely making money, according to a recent look at the cost of the device's components conducted by industry researcher iSuppli.

Amazon and Barnes & Noble aren't the only big-name competitors poised to battle it out in e-books, however. Sony and Google partnered to bolster Sony's digital reader division, which several years ago began offering Kindle-like e-readers and an e-book store.