As expected, Amazon has announced an updated version of its Kindle electronic reader aimed squarely at the textbook market as well as offering some life support for the struggling business of subscription-based electronic newspapers. The new device, dubbed Kindle DX, sports a large 9.7 inch e-ink display and 3.3GB of storage, which, according to the company, should hold roughly 3,500 books.

Among the new features are the ability to shift from portrait to landscape mode and long-overdue support for PDF documents. Like its predecessor, the DX model connects to Amazon's 3G-based Whispernet for wireless book shopping and is capable of downloading new content in “less than 60 seconds.”

In line with the educational focus of the Kindle DX, Amazon has struck deals with three top textbook publishers, meaning that students will be able to buy digital versions of books rather than carrying around the real paper versions in their backpacks. With the first batch of Kindle-formatted textbooks on the way, five universities have already agreed to test the device with their students. At a rather steep $489 price point, however, it's unclear how many of them and consumers in general will embrace the new reader.

The online retailer also announced deals with two top newspaper publishers, The New York Times Company and Washington Post Company, which will see them offering a reduced price on the Kindle DX in exchange for a long-term subscription. Whether or not this model gains any traction remains to be seen – the fact is we already have too many ways to get information for free.