10 February 2009

Amazon launches Kindle 2

Amazon, one of the largest online shopping companies, made an interesting release November 2007. It was an electronic reader device, made using new technology for text display - E-Ink. At the time of its launch, amount of electronic reader devices based on E-Ink was not as big as of today, and this type of display had a great WOW factor. We have already reviewed first generation of Amazon Kindle, so if you're interested you can read about it here. Why would we remind it? Because it is time for Amazon to launch the new, improved version of its E-Ink reader - named Kindle 2. What should we expect from the second iteration of Amazon's portable book reader?

While first model was pretty innovative for the times it entered the market, you would expect the same situation with its successor - and you will be totally right! Kindle 2 looks and feels much more modern than its predecessor. It is almost unbelievable thin - its thickness is 0.36 inches, which is almost as thick as most magazines. It has a rounded edge design and tapered back like iPhone and iPod Touch use - new design fashion, or just a move towards better usability? Anyways, it feels much more slim and comfortable to use from now on. Overall, design was greatly improved. Kindle 2 now looks like a slim and modern tablet device, not like a white behemoth from the 90's with many rough edges like the first one. The button placement is also a great step forward; 5-way navigation controller makes this navigation a lot easier and intuitive. Battery life was also improved; it now has 25 percent more capacity - which means approximately two weeks of reading on one battery charge. Of course, it all depends on how often you read, so these numbers may vary.

On the hardware side, there also are many improvements. While Kindle supported only special EVDO wireless networks, Kindle 2 can use widely growing 3G networks for connectivity. In less than 60 seconds you'll have ordered book right on your device and no need for searching Wi-Fi hotspots. Of course, books must be purchased on the Amazon online book shop first. Speaking of this shop, they have over 230,000 of books in different genres, many newspapers and magazines - all this variety of literature can be easily accessed via 3G network. Amazon's politics on wireless service include no wireless bills at all - Amazon pays for your 3G connection (maybe price of unlimited wireless plan is included in the Kindle 2 price). All of the purchased books are stored at the Amazon's servers, so you don't need to have them all on the Kindle - you can always re-download them later. However, why would someone delete a book when with 2GB of internal capacity Kindle 2 can hold up to 1,500 books at a time?

Some can ask, why would they need space for 1,500 books loaded? 2GB is a huge amount of capacity for text books. But it makes sense when the new feature of Kindle 2 comes in - audio books support. It has 3.5mm headphone slot, so any headphones will do. Audio books can be quite big, so 2GB will not be enough for storing 1,500 of them - however, if you can always re-download them from Amazon, why you'll need for storing them all in one place? Another interesting implementation of audio-out feature is Text-to-Speech function. It gives a choice between reading text by yourself, and listen how Kindle 2 reads it for you. Of course, automatic text reading cannot be better than usual human-made recording, but if you want to listen to your favorite book while on a go, or your eyes need some rest - it will be the best option.

Of course, this device has its flaws. Due to its strict dependence on Amazon services, it can be used only in USA. Emerging from the first sentence, almost all books available on Kindle is in English, so this device will be useful to the English-speaking audience only. Another downside of this device is inability of using storage cards to expand its internal memory - some users will have 2GB of internal memory not enough for their tastes. However, taking in consideration that first Kindle was a successful product, its successor has all chances to become a bestseller. It is announced to launch in 24 February, 2009, estimated price 359 dollars.

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