Meet the New Kindle

Posted by: Douglas Macmillan on February 9, 2009

This morning, Amazon chief executive Jeff Bezos unveiled the Kindle 2, a thinner, sleeker device than its predecessor. It will ship on Feb. 24 for $359, the same price as the previous version.

kindle.jpg

It was no secret that Amazon planned to unveil a new version of its e-book reader at the press event in New York’s Morgan Library. But a lack of any other clues to the new device’s looks or functionality led to a flurry of wide-ranging speculation: Would it fix the many design flaws criticized in the original Kindle? Would it have a better screen — capable of touch control, color, or even video? Would it be cheaper?

With the Kindle 2, Amazon has chosen to focus on form over new functionality or mass market pricing. The device is essentially the same weight, but it’s significantly thinner at 0.36 inches. On stage at the announcement, Bezos made a point to show this is about 25% thinner than Apple’s iPhone 3G.

The most-requested design improvement — page-turn buttons that were susceptible to accidental pushes — have been rejiggered: Now, the buttons lean inward when you press them, rather than outward. The screen looks about the same, but Amazon says pages turn 20% faster, and it shows 16 shades of gray rather than four.

A new control, the “5-way button” allows you to move an on-screen cursor to navigate pages, or select a word to look it up in the dictionary.

The most awkward point in Bezos’ demonstration came when he demonstrated the Kindle 2’s ability to play any text out loud, in an automated voice. It sounds much better than most robotic voices I’ve heard, but it’s still too stilted for anyone I know to actually cook or clean the house while they’re listening to a novel, as Bezos suggested. For example, the device pronounced the word “dedicated” as “dadicated.”

The price point stays the same at $359. That will be a major barrier if Amazon expects to see the kind of mass market adoption Apple did in the first few years after it released the iPod.

Starting at $229, Apple’s line of iPod Touch and iPhones have more robust feature sets than the Kindle at a lower price. And now, thanks to wireless applications like the new Google Books, many people are reading books straight from these devices.

Rather than compete with Apple, perhaps Amazon can work with it. During Monday’s press event, Amazon announced a new content management feature — called Whisper Sync — that will allow you to keep your place in a certain book, magazine, or newspaper on multiple devices. For now, that means only the original Kindle and Kindle 2s, but Bezos said the company is working to make Kindle sync work on multiple platforms, including cellular devices.

Reader Comments

Robert

February 9, 2009 5:02 PM

I'm not sure why people keep trying to compare the Kindle to phones and PDAs. The Kindle is designed for reading and will always be infinitely better at it than those other devices thanks to the non-light projecting (not to mention larger) screen, much longer battery life, and "free" wireless connection.

It's like comparing apples and zuchini, they aren't even in the same category.

John

February 9, 2009 6:16 PM

Mmmmmm... zuchini

nick

February 9, 2009 10:19 PM

I would rather they put an on-screen keyboard & make way for a larger screen.

Remove Stretch Marks

Ernest Borg

February 9, 2009 11:17 PM

Holy Samoly
For 350 clams you can buy an ultra lite lap top that can run circles around this kindle.

Zig Zag

February 10, 2009 11:54 AM

Actually Acer Aspire One only cost 299. You still have $50 left to buy zucini

Ernest Borg

February 10, 2009 11:25 PM

Nice zig zagging... but, actually, 350 minus 299 is 51. So, there's an extra greenback there to fund a few q-tips and 4-pin microprocessor on top of that zuch

Eric

February 12, 2009 5:21 AM

I don't know why schools have not switched to an electronic book. They would save a bundle in paperback, they would be able to update regularly, and the students would only have to carry one book around.

PokeyJoe

February 12, 2009 5:26 AM

Just bought a Garmin 680 (US$170 at newegg) for the wife and it will read books to you (Audible.com service @ $7.50/mo.).. that leaves enough for 2 years of someone reading a book into a mic, not some mecanized robotic interpretation. And oh yea, you get navigation too. It will even dial a number and act the speakerphone for your cell in your pocket without wires, it even plays music, images, SD card slot... Amazon, you have got to be kidding...

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Bloomberg Businessweek writers Peter Burrows, Cliff Edwards, Olga Kharif, Aaron Ricadela, and Douglas MacMillan, dig behind the headlines to analyze what’s really happening throughout the world of technology. Tech Beat covers everything from tech bellwethers like Apple, Google, and Intel and emerging new leaders such as Facebook to new technologies, trends, and controversies.

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