More Thoughts on Kindle 2

By  |  Monday, February 9, 2009 at 9:06 am

Amazon Kindle LogoI haven’t laid eyes (or hands) on Amazon’s new Kindle 2 e-book reader in person yet, but all evidence suggests that it’s pretty much the device Amazon should have built in the first place. As useful, innovative, and interesting as the first Kindle was–here’s my review from November 2007–it was kind of chunky, kind of ugly, and kind of maddening in one particular respect: The oversized buttons made it way too easy to flip pages by accident. Oh, and the e-ink screen, while incredibly power-efficient, could render images in only the most crude form–they sort of looked like they were done Etch-a-Sketch.

Much of what’s new in the $359 Kindle 2 involves addressing these issues. It’s certainly less weird looking. The page-turning buttons are now smaller. The oddball (but reasonably usable) split keyboard has been replaced with one that looks more straightforward. The display is still monochrome and unbacklit, but it does sixteen shades of gray and therefore should do at least somewhat better with graphics.

Kindle 2

(Side note: Amazon’s page on the Kindle 2 says the new display “now boasts 16 shades of gray for clear text and even crisper images. That “even” would seem to claim that the first Kindle could do decent images, too–but I’d be stunned if even Jeff Bezos himself could make a case that images on the first-generation Kindle were anything other than rudimentary.)

The original Kindle was .7″ thick; the new one is a bit over half that, at .36″. Here’s a composite of Amazon’s original photo comparing the Kindle to a pencil, and its new one:

Amazon Kindles

Other improvements to the new model include 2GB of memory (up from 256MB, which itself was enough to hold 200 books), 25% more battery life (Amazon says you can read for two weeks on a charge), the ability to have books read out loud via a robo-voice, and a feature called WhisperSync that can keep track of where you are in a book across multiple Kindles. And, eventually, other mobile devices as well–Amazon says it’s working on making Kindle content available on gadgets other than Kindles.

Stuff that’s missing? Well, color of course, but that’s no surprise: Unless Amazon decides to dump e-ink for a more traditional display with far inferior battery life, it’ll probably be a long long time until there’s a color Kindle. Amazon also hasn’t given the Kindle 2 the touchscreen or backlight sported by the newest version of its principal rival, the Sony E-Reader.

Even before Kindle content is available on more devices, you could make the case that the most important things about Kindle are the service and the reading matter it delivers, not the hardware. Amazon now offers 230,000 books (including 103 of the 110 New York Times best sellers and new releases), plus 1200 blogs and a bunch of newspapers and magazines. We aren’t yet at the point at which you can cheerfully assume that any book you want will be available in Kindle form–after a year of Kindle ownership, I’m still pleasantly surprised each time I find that something I want is available. But nobody else comes close to what Amazon has accomplished with quantity of content and the ease with which you can get it wirelessly onto the device.

Stay tuned for Technologizer’s review of Kindle 2, as well as more news about e-books in general. If the day comes that Amazon releases a Kindle reader for the iPhone, betcha it’ll be as big news as today’s second-generation device is. Maybe bigger news…


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4 Comments For This Post

  1. Home Based Business List Says:

    Usefull and innovative, good choice

  2. Tom B Says:

    Black and white? How quaint. Will version 3 play MP3’s?

  3. David Hamilton Says:

    Hurrah! For once, a gadget manufacturer that is emphasising practicality over ‘ticklistitis’ – the disease of the mind that makes companies believe that more features = better.

    Amazon have resisted the tempation to trash the battery life by introducing colour screens to display content the essence of which is monochrome. While I am not a fan of the rights-management policies used by Kindle, a device with a decent battery life is very welcome, especially nowadays when ‘process’ has taken us from mobile phones that went a week on a battery charge to devices that struggle to survive a day.

    Seems to me that colour screens on mobile devices are like banking bonuses – a self-indulgent luxury with no value to ordinary people.

  4. David Hamilton Says:

    process = progress!

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