According to a number of well-substantiated rumors, Amazon is set to debut a new, large-screen version of its Kindle eBook reader on Wednesday morning during a press conference at Pace University in New York City. A lot of the current discussion around this announcement has focused on how a new Kindle might or might not be able to save the ailing newspaper industry, but in many respects, it seems more likely that Amazon is simply planning to turn Kindle into a better platform for electronic textbooks.


In some respects, though, the new Kindle (which will, after all, see its debut at a college) is probably geared more towards the textbook market than the newspaper business. For textbook publishers, electronic (and DRMed) editions aren't so much about convenience for students, but about cutting out the used-book market where a lot of students get their books and where the publisher gets absolutely nothing. In 2005, the market for used textbooks in the U.S. was valued at about $1.6 billion which was about a third of the total market for educational and professional books.

As Larry Dignan points out in detail, if Amazon could sell electronic versions of these textbooks for cheaper than a college bookstore, it could cut the incentive for students to buy used books, even as it cuts out the option to sell new copies back to the bookstore at the end of the semester.


As for saving newspapers, hopefully, the papers that are said to be launch partners for the new Kindle, including the New York Times, will realize that they can't just recreate an electronic copy of their morning papers and hope that it will be successful. After all, the main reason why newspapers have lost their must-read status is that most of what's printed in the morning is already old news.

For a newspaper on Kindle to be successful, the Kindle version of the paper would have to be updated continuously throughout the day, just like the paper's web site. However, the fact that papers are clamoring for a larger version of Kindle so that it would be easier to replicate the feel and layout of their dead-tree editions makes it likely that the large-screen Kindle, if it turns out to be real, will see the same subscription model for newspapers where a new copy of the paper will be downloaded automatically once a day.

CC-licensed image used courtesy of Flickr user Amanda Munoz.