Page last updated at 09:09 GMT, Friday, 8 May 2009 10:09 UK

Are we ready to say bye to books?


The Kindle DX was launched in America on Wednesday

By Kay Crewdson
BBC News

With technology constantly evolving it comes as no surprise to see Amazon launching a larger version of their e-reader, only three months after the original release.

The latest version of the Kindle DX is 250% bigger than their Kindle 2 gadget.

With a screen roughly as big as an A4 page, the device is aimed at reading newspapers, magazines and documents.

The question is, are people in Northern Ireland ready to say goodbye to books and papers?

Currently, the Kindle DX is not on sale in the UK. However, with other e-readers on the market and the Kindle brand becoming more well-known, it seems like a question of when will we see it, not if.

Once you have bought your Kindle DX reader, you then gain access to the Kindle store. The virtual store has more than 225,000 books available to buy as well as 37 newspapers and 28 magazines which you can subscribe to. And they say that this is just the beginning.

Amazon's vision is to allow user access to every book that has ever been printed, in any language, and all in less than 60 seconds. Titles already available include Irish classics such as Ulysses and the Narnia books, and the works of famous literary greats, Seamus Heaney, Oscar Wilde and George Bernard Shaw.

However, at a cost of £340, an increase of £87 from the original Kindle 2, will we actually benefit from Kindle DX?

Well apparently we will, or at least students will, especially if you're studying literature.

Without printing and shipping costs, books could be cheaper and struggling with your books would be a thing of the past. A whole term's worth of books could easily be stored in the device.

Kindle DX
Kindle DX allows users to download from a virtual book shop

Ciarnan Helferty, president of the University of Ulster's Students Union, thinks it could work.

"The initial price of the Kindle DX is quite expensive but if you worked it out the overall costs of textbooks students have to buy it doesn't seem too bad.

"On average students spend £200 per term, with six terms in a three-year degree then they spend on average £1,200."

With the Kindle DX costing only one third of the average amount spent then it seems quite reasonable.

However, as Mr Helferty pointed out: "All of the students' textbooks and documents would have to be available in order for it to work.

"Perhaps if students could pay over a fixed term, say 12 months, like mobile contracts, that would work out better for them."

Great interest

Amazon has secured deals with newspapers such as the New York Times and the Washington Post. They are offering discounted monthly subscriptions, enabling Kindle DX owners to receive their daily paper every morning, without moving a muscle.

So, with newspaper popularity increasing, will we see our papers in Northern Ireland following suit?

Darwin Templeton the editor of the oldest English language general daily newspaper, News Letter, is watching the Kindle DX with a "great interest."

"We are all under a lot of pressure at the moment but this is a very positive development.

"No one is very sure how it will impact on us but we're certainly aware of it and we are watching it."

Malcolm Johnston, publisher at Colourpoint Books, Newtownards, said: "We're quite keen to jump on board.

"It's another means to sell our books, a way to reach a wider group of people.

"If someone in Australia wanted to find out about the village in Northern Ireland where they were born then it's unlikely that they could walk into their local bookshop and find a book we have published on that village.

"However, if the Kindle DX listed all the books we sold then the customer could very quickly download the book from the other side of the world. It's all about widening the access to people."

Acquired taste

But will the introduction of the Kindle DX in the UK endanger the publishing houses? Not according to Mr Johnston.

"It's not something that publishers should be scared of, people will still want to physically hold books.

"They are an acquired taste but as times change we'll adapt and they will be a way of promoting the books we publish."

Amazon has yet to launch the Kindle brand in the UK, but Sony and iRex have already launched portable readers here.

Kindle is the first to use wireless technology which enables users to buy and download books from a virtual store in 60 seconds.

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