Amazon's Kindle 2: The Technologizer Review

Meet an e-reader that's more lovable and less frustrating than its predecessor.

By  |  Tuesday, February 24, 2009 at 6:10 pm

Amazon Kindle 2A really good idea with some clever touches and multiple obvious flaws. That was the critical consensus on’s original Kindle e-book reader when it debuted in November of 2007–here’s my review–and it left the kingpin of online retailers with a pretty obvious to-do list for the second-generation Kindle.

That new and improved model–the $359 Kindle 2–is here, and it’s rife with evidence that Amazon was paying attention. Critics said the first one was chunky and homely; the 2009 model is both thinner and slicker. You only needed to use the Kindle 1 for a few minutes to discover that it was way too easy to press its page-turning buttons by mistake and unwittingly fast-forward through a book; with the Kindle 2, accidents are far less likely to happen. Many people panned the first version’s odd split keyboard for being weird, or argued that the gadget shouldn’t have a keyboard at all; the new one keeps the keyboard, but it’s no longer distractingly peculiar.

Just as important, Amazon has kept just about everything that wasn’t broken in the original Kindle–most notably its superb wireless book delivery, which sends your purchases so quickly and seamlessly that stocking up on e-books is irresistable. (The wireless capability involves no service cost, and books tend to cost much less than hardcovers, helping to compensate over time for the gadget’s initial cost.) Amazon now offers almost a quarter-million books, plus magazines, newspapers, and blogs; it’s still a bit of a gamble whether any particular item you’re looking for will be available in Kindle format, but your odds are far better than with any other e-book option (including Sony’s Reader).

Order a Kindle 2, and you’ll get a compact shipping box (smaller than the ones most of my Amazon dead-tree books come in) that contains the device, an instruction manual, and a power cord:

Kindle 2 Unboxing

The AC adapter is an improvement on the one that came with the first-generation Kindle; the power plug is more trim and wall-friendly, and you can pop it off to use the cable as a USB charger. On the other hand, the first Kindle came with a cover and the new one doesn’t. But given how woefully inadequate the first one was–it tended to slip off if the device was jostled inside my briefcase–that’s not a huge omission. Still, I’d be inclined to buy one of the optional covers Amazon hawks (starting at $25) to ensure that my Kindle 2 didn’t get roughed up in transit, and hope that they improve on the original cover’s design.

The Kindle 2 retains a familial resemblance to its predecessor, but nearly every specific detail of its design is different. Here are front, back, and side views of the two Kindles–that’s the new guy on the right:

Kindle Front

Kindle Backs

Kindle Sides

Kindle 2 is a bit taller than its ancestor, but the most striking change to the form facter is how much thinner it is–Amazon shaved away much of the device’s thickness by embedding 2GB of memory (rather than providing an SD slot) and sealing up the battery. The first change isn’t an issue, since 2GB is enough for 1500 books; the second might be a pain if your Kindle’s battery life dwindles to the point where you need to ship the reader back to Amazon for a battery swap. On the upside, Amazon says the new battery runs 25% longer on a charge than the old one–four days with the wireless turned on, or two weeks with it shut off. Kindle 2

Not a radical departure from the first Kindle, and still pricey–but lots of little improvements add up to by far the most highly-evolved e-reader to date.

Price: $359

In the box: Kindle 2, power adapter/USB charger, manual.

Buy from

(Full disclosure: Technologizer receives a commission on sales made through the links in this article.)

The first Kindle had a wedgy shape that was thicker on the left side–presumably in imitation of a real book’s binding–and a rubbery back. The new model is uniformly thin, and most of its backside is brushed metal; it’s impossible to glance at it without mentally comparing it to an iPod. I never found the dimensions or feel of the Kindle 1 to be a problem, but the new model is unquestionably slicker, and it’ll fit into my bursting-at-the-seams briefcase more easily.

Then there’s the Kindle’s E-Ink screen–which is either one of its highlights or greatest disappointments, depending on your perspective. The device’s remarkably long battery life is all due to the minimal power requirements of the monochrome screen, which isn’t backlit and draws a charge only when you turn the page. Amazon touts the technology as “read(ing) like real paper,” and many folks praise it for doing away with the glare and eyestrain of color LCDs such as those built into laptops and phones.

Me, I wasn’t enthralled with the first-generation Kindle’s display. Its dark-gray-on-gray look doesn’t remind me of real paper, and it needs plenty of light to be legible. (The Kindle is a near-perfect gizmo for the beach, but on planes I’ve found I need to precisely aim my overhead light at the screen.) And the Kindle 1’s screen only offers four shades of gray, which left photos looking like they were done on an Etch-a-Sketch.

The Kindle 2 incorporates an improved E-Ink display. It’s not a radical departure from the first one, and doesn’t address all my gripes. But the contrast is better enough that I notice and appreciate it, and it sports sixteen shades of gray. That’s not enough to make photos pleasing, but it assures that they’re legible, at least. Here’s a boyhood photo of a noted comedian from his memoir (it looks a bit crisper in real life, but still feels more like a simulation of a photo than a photo.)

Steve Martin

Amazon says that the new E-Ink screen refreshes pages 20 percent faster than its predecessor. It’s still sluggish enough, however, that I’m sometimes uncertain whether the Kindle has noticed I’ve pushed a button. The user interface of the new reader has been completely redone, and is mostly an improvement: The page-turning buttons only click on their inner edges, not the outer ones, so you won’t flip through a few dozen pages by mistake when you pick the device up or put it down. And the Kindle 1’s eccentric menu system, with a thumbwheel and an elevator-like cursor in a separate window, has been discarded for a five-way joystick and an on-screen cursor that remind me of the controls on a garden-variety point-and-shoot camera. I’m still getting used to it, but it’s reasonably intuitive and permits a new feature that lets you highlight and save text from any book.

And oh, did I mention that E-Ink doesn’t require much power? Just to prove the point, Amazon ships the Kindle with its screen turned on and a welcome message on the display. It’s going to be a very long time before anyone can accomplish that feat on a phone, MP3 player, or laptop.



Read more: , ,

5 Comments For This Post

  1. Dave Perry Says:

    I rather wait for Plastic Logic’s awesome reader to become available.
    Though Kindle is a nice but expensive device, Plastic Logic’s reader is definitely a must have!!!

  2. Al Says:

    I’m loving the new Kindle. Very sleek and readable. I also picked up the Patagonia 2 case. It is padded and so versatile, I feel comfortable taking the Kindle wherever I (See below)

  3. Cory T Says:

    Love your article. Thanks for the insight. For others who are interested in the Kindle 2 and in the same boat as me, this site has a ton of reviews as well..check it out:

  4. kindle2reader Says:

    Amazon Kindle 2 – Kindle 2 Reader – Find Great Deals on the Kindle. Shop Now & Save at Amazon Shopping!! Free Shipping. Buy Amazon Kindle 2, Kindle DX for holiday gifts. Over 360,000 titles. Now with Global Wireless.

  5. Tommy Says:

    Nice article. In the beginning of the ebook reader era the amazon kindle was the leader. But now there are a lot upcoming brands like Sony, Barnes and Noble and others.

    One of the reason why the kindle is still the leader is because it’s net connection works internationally. Also the new battery life is a huge improvement.

    By the way I have also found a nice review of the kindle reader

    I thought it was worth sharing

16 Trackbacks For This Post

  1. More About the Kindle 2 | Gadget Wisdom Says:

    […] Amazon’s Kindle 2: The Technologizer Review ( […]

  2. Yup, Your iPhone Can Be a Kindle, Too–as of Tomorrow | Technologizer Says:

    […] just rumor. Starting tomorrow, will be distributing a free iPhone application that puts Kindle e-books on the phone, giving owners of Apple’s handset access to by far the most comprehensive source […]

  3. Another New E-Book Platform? Please, No, Stop It! | Technologizer Says:

    […] The Kindle 2 Reviewed […]

  4. It’s the Kindle–Only Larger! And the Plastic Logic Reader–Only Sooner! | Technologizer Says:

    […] and it’s pretty much what you’d guess it would be–a device that looks a lot like today’s Kindle 2, with more screen real estate. The Kindle DX has a 9.7-inch screen (that’s twice the space of […]

  5. Technologizer.Com: Kindle Magazines and Newspapers Are Not “Zinio-Like Replicas” | Says:

    […] For decades, books have come in two major variants: Big, expensive hardcovers and smaller, cheaper paperbacks. Now’s Kindle e-book line has splintered in a similar fashion: The company has started shipping its $489  Kindle DX, which feels like it’s playing weighty hardcover to the more  portable, paperback-like $359 Kindle 2. […]

  6. Sony Shrinks the Size and Cost of E-Books | Technologizer Says:

    […] all:&nbspNews If Sony is a bit nonplussed over all the attention for Amazon’.coms Kindle, it’s understandable. The Japanese consumer-electronics behemoth beat Amazon to market with […]

  7. Magazines: Still Ripe for Digital Reimagining | Technologizer Says:

    […] left behind but for which I’ll never lose my affinity. For all the things that are right with’s Kindle e-book reader, its treatment of magazines is pretty horrible. It may have signed deals to offer thirty-six […]

  8. Barnes & Noble Entering the E-Book Fray? | Technologizer Says:

    […] a tip that said device will run Google’s Android OS. For all the things that are good about Amazon’s Kindle, it suffers from being a sophisticated electronic device designed by a company whose expertise […]

  9. Barnes & Noble May Sell Its Own E-reader | AlbumGrab Blog Says:

    […] has a tip that said device will run Google’s Android OS. For all the things that are good about Amazon’s Kindle, it suffers from being a sophisticated electronic device designed by a company whose expertise […]

  10. Skiff: Still Another Approach to E-Reading | Technologizer Says:

    […] Skiff is paying attention to the presentation of periodicals. Today’s readers, such as the Kindle, work okay for publications that are mostly hundreds of pages of plain text. But the magazines and […]

  11. Your First Look at Nook | Technologizer Says:

    […] past decade and a half duking it out with online archrival So when Amazon unveiled its Kindle e-reader two years ago, it pretty much demanded some sort of response from the 136-year-old […]

  12. Five Possible Superkindles Says:

    […] to incorporate the new technology into a future Kindle. And given that the last all-new Kindle shipped nearly a year ago, there are probably at least two future Kindles in the works: a next-generation one and a […]

  13. Kobo’s Cheap E-Reader Headed for Borders Says:

    […] Amazon’s Kindle and Barnes & Noble’s Nook, the Kobo e-reader sports a 6″ monochrome E-Ink screen […]

  14. The Kobo eReader Headed To | Best Ereaders Says:

    […] Amazon’s Kindle and Barnes & Noble’s Nook, the Kobo e-reader sports a 6″ monochrome E-Ink screen and can […]

  15. the-t-grid-kindle-for-iphone-vs-kindle-2 | Says:

    […] last week, there was one Kindle e-reader–the original one. Now there are two: Amazon’s Kindle 2 and the app for the iPhone and iPod Touch which the company released last night. They have one huge […]

  16. yup-your-iphone-can-be-a-kindle-too-as-of-tomorr | Says:

    […] thinking. Starting tomorrow, will be distributing a free iPhone application that puts Kindle e-books on the phone, giving owners of Apple’s handset access to by far the most comprehensive source […]