I have just spent a week with a Kindle 2 Amazon lent me to review. Tomorrow I have to send it back and will be sorry to see it go. I am fairly certain that I will not be able to resist the temptation to buy one of my own although I do continue to have reservations about the $350 price tag and the longevity of the device.
On the latter score, I find it intensely irritating that I should be asked to pay $65, a fifth of the purchase price, to extend the warranty from one year to two. That is either a rip-off or, if an actuarially based insurance premium, a worrying omen.
I buy and read a lot of books, both for pleasure and for work. This past week I was preparing a column on Cass Sunstein, the University of Chicago, and latterly Harvard, law professor President Obama has just appointed head of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs at the White House. Sunstein is a prolific author, though perhaps not yet a household name. I had no trouble locating Kindle editions of his works on the Amazon website at $9.99 a pop, beamed instantly and without additional charge to my device via Sprint’s wireless EVDO network. Dead tree editions, delivered, would have been closer to $30 and would have arrived too late to have been of any use to me.
If you’re willing to cast aside the larger Kindle DX for just a moment, the recently released Amazon Kindle 2 is getting an update too. Would you be at all interested in adding some color to Amazon’s e-book reader? Well, I’ve got some good news and some bad news.
The good news is that a color upgrade for the Amazon Kindle 2 is now available. The bad news is that the upgrade has absolutely nothing to do with the grayscale e-ink display. Instead, we turn our attention to the guys at ColorWare for some bold new paintjobs. The Kindle 2 can be customized by the ColorWare crew, just as they do to a variety of other portable electronics.
Last year Amazon introduced their somewhat revolutionary electronic book reader called the Kindle, which we reviewed at launch time. Although the technology was excellent, the first Kindle had several design flaws that kept it on the far side of perfection. Recently Amazon brought out the next generation Kindle, aptly named the Kindle 2. We decided to check it out to see how the new Kindle stacked up to the original Kindle as well as other e-book readers.
Although packaging isn’t everything, last year we were impressed with the white book-like packaging of the Kindle. So this year we were surprised to find that Amazon has completely abandoned their attractive packaging for plain black Styrofoam and cardboard, shown in Figure 1.
As our original review of the first-generation Kindle pointed out, Amazon’s entry into the e-reader market wasn’t entirely trailblazing. Sony’s Reader and a variety of competing devices had already failed to make much of an impact on the market, despite a decade of trying. A marketing partnership between Sony and Borders to promote the Reader in the year prior to Kindle’s debut made little headway.
With the Kindle however, Amazon applied its global mail order experience and leveraged its enormous catalog of titles (and subsequent pull among publishers) to put additional momentum behind the push to drive print publications into ebook territory. However, the first generation Kindle also demonstrated the company’s lack of experience in building hardware.
The original Kindle was ugly and looked flimsy and cheap, ensuring that only the most avid of ebook users would pay for the privilege of test driving Amazon’s e-reader experiment. The company only shipped about a half million Kindle devices last year. That’s perhaps a significant achievement among e-readers but hardly the launch of a new mainstream way to access information.
Amazon.com Inc. on Wednesday plans to unveil a new version of its Kindle e-book reader with a larger screen and other features designed to appeal to periodical and academic textbook publishers, according to people familiar with the matter.
Beginning this fall, some students at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland will be given large-screen Kindles with textbooks for chemistry, computer science and a freshman seminar already installed, said Lev Gonick, the school’s chief information officer. The university plans to compare the experiences of students who get the Kindles and those who use traditional textbooks, he said.
Amazon has worked out a deal with several textbook publishers to make their materials available for the device, Mr. Gonick added. The new device will also feature a more fully functional Web browser, he said. The Kindle’s current model, which debuted in February, includes a Web browser that is classified as “experimental.”
When it was released in late 2007, Amazon.com Inc.’s original Kindle electronic book reader turned a lot of heads and, eventually, a whole lot of pages. The much- loved product redefined ebook readers, and was perpetually out of stock.
So what kind of revolutionary new product did Amazon produce as a follow-up? One that looks a lot like the first Kindle. The Kindle 2 is certainly a sleeker and faster version of the original device, but all in all, not much different.
A little background: The Kindle wasn’t the first ebook reader to feature an Eink screen (which uses tiny shape-shifting ink-like capsules to produce print-quality text without any of the eye strain of LCD screens). But it became a breakthrough product because its high-speed wireless connection (from Sprint Nextel Corp.) allowed users to quickly download new books directly to their device from anywhere in the U.S., without paying extra.
Has Amazon finally hit on the right formula with its second version of the Kindle e-book reader? According to TechCrunch, the company has already sold 300,000 of the devices (in less than two months) and expects to pump out 500,000 more before the end of the year. (Some analysts have even higher hopes for the device, with sales projections topping 1 million units.) Either way you cut it, that’s a huge win for Amazon.
To put those numbers in perspective, the company sold roughly 400,000 units of the original Kindle reader in its entire existence, which spanned nearly a year and a half. To say that Kindle 2 is selling at twice the rate of the original Kindle is a dramatic understatement. Based on those figures, the Kindle 2 is currently selling nearly ten times faster than Kindle 1.
Imagine carrying 1500 books with you at once. Then imagine they weigh only 10.2 ounces - lighter than the average paperback. Impossible, you say? Not with the Amazon Kindle 2.
With the Kindle 2, you are never without something to read. Finish your last book? Pick out a new one from the available catalog of over 265,000 titles (and growing daily). With its own built in Whispernet 3G wireless network, the Kindle can download your selection in under 60 seconds with no additional wireless fees. Or subscribe to your favorite newspaper or magazine via your Kindle device and have it delivered to you wirelessly each day.
You can get sample chapters of many books to try, before you buy the full book. And, if you keep your eyes open, you can find many free books to download, made available to promote the use of the Kindle platform. Another feature I find useful is the ability to translate your own personal documents to Kindle format and transfer them to your device via USB for free or wirelessly for a nominal per document charge.
When it comes to hardware, Amazon and Sony are battling it out for leadership in the e-book reader market. For now these two models hold the most appeal–for very different reasons. We note the similarities and differences between the Amazon Kindle 2 and the Sony Digital Reader PRS-700, and point out how each does a better job at presenting books digitally. (For more on how the Kindle 2 operates, and how it compares to the first-generation Kindle, see our Kindle visual tour.)
The Amazon Kindle 2 (right) is taller than the Sony Reader. Both have a 6-inch, 800-by-600-pixel E-Ink display, but text on the Kindle 2 appears sharper than on the PRS-700. The Kindle 2 provides a usable QWERTY keyboard, whereas the Sony feels downright incomplete without a physical keyboard of some sort (its on-screen keyboard gets tiresome very quickly). But the Sony has its own advantages: I found that its black metallic chassis, with a gray matte bezel, is easier on the eyes over the long term than the Kindle’s stark off-white case.
It has taken the online retailer Amazon less than two years to make its Kindle device more or less synonymous with the electronic book reader,
There are, of course, other companies that have built electronic book devices, among them Sony (SNE) and recently Fujitsu. But Amazon’s (AMZN) Kindle has come to personify the e-reader in much the same way Apple’s (AAPL) iPod brand of music player is often used generically to mean an MP3 player.
While Amazon has yet to disclose exactly how many of the devices it has sold—analysts have estimated the number at about half a million units—other previously undisclosed details about the latest version of the device, the Kindle 2, are coming to light.
Home of the most complete resource on the Internet for Kindle 2.0 reviews. Check back daily for frequent updates on the Kindle. Amazon Kindle 2.0 has a new sleek and thin design. This wireless reading device is lighter than a paperback, has seven times more storage and now holds over 1,500 books. The display is more crisp for a better reading experience along with improved battery life.
Price for the Kindle 2 is $359.
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