Amazon has rolled out the new version of its electronic book reader, the Kindle 2, due to start shipping on February 24th. Amazon’s Kindle 2 has a number of new features that promise to make it even more remarkable than the first model.
According to the official Amazon Kindle 2 web page, the Kindle 2 will have the following features:
“Slim: Just over 1/3 of an inch, as thin as most magazines
“Lightweight: At 10.2 ounces, lighter than a typical paperback
“Wireless: 3G wireless lets you download books right from your Kindle, anytime, anywhere; no monthly fees, service plans, or hunting for Wi-Fi hotspots
“Books in Under 60 Seconds: Get books delivered in less than 60 seconds; no PC required
“Improved Display: Reads like real paper; now boasts 16 shades of gray for clear text and even crisper images
“Longer Battery Life: 25% longer battery life; read for days without recharging
“More Storage: Take your library with you; holds over 1,500 books
“Faster Page Turns: 20% faster page turns
“Read-to-Me: With the new Text-to-Speech feature, Kindle can read every book, blog, magazine, and newspaper out loud to you
“Large Selection: Over 230,000 books plus U.S. and international newspapers, magazines, and blogs available
“Low Book Prices: New York Times Best Sellers and New Releases $9.99, unless marked otherwise”
The Kindle 2 will support the following file formats: Kindle (AZW), TXT, Audible (formats 4, Audible Enhanced (AAX)), MP3, unprotected MOBI, PRC natively; PDF, HTML, DOC, JPEG, GIF, PNG, BMP through conversion. Like the first model, the Kindle 2 doesn’t require a computer to operate, as it can download books and other documents via a wireless connection. One can use a USB connector to connect the Kindle 2 to a PC or Mac to recharge the battery, a process that takes four hours. The battery gives one the capability to read uninterrupted for up to four days. The Kindle 2 also have audio capability, with rear mounted speakers and an audio jack.
The Kindle 2 is described as being lighter than an average paperback and as thin as the average magazine. The electronic ink technology, as with the first model, makes reading even in direct sunlight easy. The Kindle 2 has the capability to increase font size for those with tired eyes or visual impairments.
The Kindle 2 has a number of what are called “experimental features”, which are apparently being beta tested. One of the most intriguing would turn the Kindle 2 into a talking book.
“Now Kindle can read to you. With its new Text-to-Speech feature, Kindle can read every book, blog, magazine, and newspaper out loud to you. You can switch back and forth between reading and listening, and your spot is automatically saved. Pages automatically turn while the content is being read, so you can listen hands-free. You can speed up or slow down the reading speeds or choose a male or female voice. Anything you can read on Kindle, Kindle can read to you, including books, newspapers, magazines, blogs and even personal documents. In the middle of a great book or article but have to jump in the car? Simply turn on Text-to-Speech and listen on the go.”
This would be a boon for the blind, who have to buy special equipment to read audio books. Other “experimental features” include a pdf document converter, a basic web browser, and an MP3 music player. Naturally, in advance of the rollout of the Kindle 2, one cannot know how well these features will work and what more development is needed for them.
The price for the Kindle 2 is also steep, running at $359.00. Amazon has had some trouble fulfilling orders for the Kindle, as demand has greatly outstripped its capability to maintain supply. Those have back ordered the Kindle will be upgraded to the Kindle 2. Amazon has also promised that it has added manufacturing capability to more quickly fulfill orders.
Currently there are 230,000 books available for the Kindle, as well as various newspapers, blogs, and magazines. The Kindle 2 will also have automatic access to Wikipedia, making it an encyclopedia as well as a library.
The promise of EBooks has been more of a promise than a reality for quite some time. The Kindle may well change that situation, especially if Amazon can bring down the price.
Sources: Amazon unveils Kindle 2 with read aloud feature, AFP, February 9th
Kindle 2, Amazon.Com