Surprise! Amazon Launches Large-Screen Kindle

angle_airplane-engineAmazon (s AMZN) today unveiled a large-screen version of its Kindle e-reader, fulfilling the predictions of hundreds of tech bloggers. The Kindle DX has a 9.7-inch electronic paper display, a built-in PDF reader, an auto-rotate capability like that of the iPhone, the same 3G wireless technology as the old Kindle, and storage for up to 3,500 books. It will cost $489 ($130 more than the smaller Kindle) and will ship this summer.

In a twist on the cell phone-subsidized equipment model, the Washington Post Co. and The New York Times Co. will subsidize the cost of a Kindle DX for readers who live in areas where they can’t get home delivery of a paper, and who sign up for a long-term subscription. There are no details on the subsidy amount, nor the length of a subscription contract expected under such a deal, but at $13.99 a month for the Times, it looks like a play to keep subscriber numbers up rather than a way to ensure a lot of subscription revenue.

Other notable Kindle DX facts are that Amazon has put together a deal with textbook publishers and universities to trial the gadget for the education market, and the inclusion of a PDF reader makes it useful for business users who can now send, receive and read PDF documents on the e-reader.

flatSo what else is there to say? Well, by announcing a larger and more expensive version of the e-Reader, Amazon now has positioned its original Kindle as a veritable bargain, which may result in folks choosing to give it a whirl. Pricing is funny that way.

As a kid, I used to make it my mission to discover all of my Christmas presents in the weeks before the holiday. I felt an illicit thrill each time I discovered one and carefully put it back, but on the day itself it was kind of letdown to open them. That’s kind of how this announcement feels, given that we’ve already seen photos, analyzed what the large-screen reader could mean for the newspaper industry, and written about e-reader technology.