I follow technology here once in a while, but I actually follow it pretty closely personally. As a research tool, the new Kindle DX is getting close to something I would want. I could really see myself using a good standalone PDF viewer -- something to flip through open PDFs while I'm working on the laptop. And it's easier to carry a flat tablet-profile reader into meetings and talks where a laptop would be unwelcome. Two desiderata:
1. I give presentations as PDFs anyway. So it would be nice to imagine one of these with a video-out. Admittedly, that would probably work against the low-power and super-thin profile.
2. More than 3.3 GB of usable storage. If I'm going to carry my PDF library around, I'm going to need more than 20 -- and that's not counting whatever books I buy. It has a mini-USB port, which means it's easy to swap files with a computer, but I haven't seen anywhere whether the Kindle can mount a flash drive itself.
It's being touted as a vehicle for textbook distribution. This year is the first that I've really noticed a majority of students using laptops in my classes -- I don't know about e-textbooks but I can easily imagine this device as useful for other course materials.
UPDATE (2009-05-10): Lance Ulanoff has more news on the textbook introduction:
While Bezos glossed over the details of the Kindle DX and its university pilot programs with Arizona State University, University of Virginia, Reed College, and Case Western Reserve University, I was able to find someone from ASU who knew a bit more about what college students would encounter this fall. Adrian Sannier, ASU University Technology Officer, explained that the test run would be confined to ASU's honors college, which has about 1,000 students. ASU and Amazon will deliver Kindle DXs to these students, preloaded with all the necessary textbooks, in time for the start of the fall semester.
Cool, but this means the students won't get the full experience of setting up, perusing the bookstore, and downloading books. It does, however, put the pilot program on the fast track for feedback. Sannier was pretty excited about the whole program and shared another detail that Bezos left out: Digital textbooks would cost roughly 50 percent of what their physical counterparts cost. He also said he sees a huge benefit of having digital textbooks, "We're getting much richer text into the hands of students—it's searchable, linkable…the ability to have material at their fingertips all the time is a major step forward."
I should think the publishers would like it, since it would cut out the used textbook market.
UPDATE (2009-05-10): A reader writes that the current Kindles have problems rendering math, which would be a problem if continued in the new native PDF reader of the Kindle DX. That product hasn't been released yet, so we'll have to wait for a review.