Monday, February 9, 2009

Amazon's Kindle 2 Slims Down, Adds Audio

New York – A little more than a year after the Kindle made its debut, Amazon announced a new, updated version of its popular e-book reader Monday with a big endorsement from Stephen King.

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos demonstrated the features of the new device, called Kindle 2, at a crowded press event at the Morgan Library and Museum in New York. He stressed the need for the Kindle to "disappear" so the reader can focus on the text. Bezos himself then disappeared, welcoming novelist Stephen King to the stage to give his take and announce a Kindle-only novella he wrote specifically for Amazon.

As predicted in leaked photos, the new Kindle 2 has a much slimmer profile than the original (.36” thick compared to the first version's 0.7" thick), is slightly lighter (10.2 ounces versus the original 10.3 ounces), has curved edges, and includes a sleeker, unified keyboard with a 5-way joystick instead of the original device's scroll wheel. And the navigation buttons have been pushed down for tighter control (and to avoid the accidental page-turning that many users complained about). Kindle 2 has a 25 percent longer battery life, Bezos claimed, and contains 2GB of memory that can hold more than 1,500 books.

There is also a new iPod-like metal back plate and a set of stereo speakers along the bottom, which enable a new feature: The Kindle 2 can convert any text to audio, so it can "read" books to you in a somewhat robotic, artificial-sounding voice. (King jokingly called this a "GPS voice").

Another major update is a new Whispersync service which makes it easier for original Kindle owners to transfer e-books they've already purchased to the new device. Whispersync will eventually work on a number of mobile devices as well, enabling Kindle owners to read their books on other devices.

The Kindle's screen has been improved, too: The E-Ink technology, already easier on the eyes than a computer screen or standard LCD screen, has been updated to 16 shades of gray, up from the current model's 4 levels of gray. It also turns pages 20 percent faster on average than the previous model, Bezos said.
Kindle 2