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Kindle 2: Now Are You Ready to Take the eBook Plunge?

Amazon unveiled its new Kindle 2 eBook reader yesterday.

New features include

  • A slimmer profile (8″ x 5.3″ x 0.36″)
  • Text-to-speech conversion
  • An improved display (6″ diagonal E-Ink electronic paper display, 600 x 800 pixel resolution at 167 ppi, 16-level gray scale)
  • Improved battery life (2 weeks in standby mode with wireless disabled)
  • 20% faster page turns
  • More storage (2GB internal, 1.4GB of which is available to the user)

Like the Kindle 1, it still allows direct download of books from Amazon (over Sprint’s 3G network) at no cost other than the eBook itself (about $10 for a New York Times bestseller). Additionally — and I don’t know if these features are new or not — the device also has a built-in dictionary, allows for limited browsing to predefined website destinations (like wikipedia) and blogs/newspapers for a small subscription fee. The device also allows previous Kindle owners to transfer their books to a Kindle 2. (Come on…is anyone expecting current owners to drop another $360 on version 2?)

With a price tag of $359 (the same as the current Kindle), I’m not quite sure I’m ready to jump on board, but the features sure do sound nice. I like the slimness, but wonder if the device is too large and is prone to flexibility breakage issues. The screen itself is not backlit. Too bad…in my opinion, that’s one of the nice things about reading books electronically. I don’t want to be tied to room lighting, whatever it may be. As Dean mentioned in a face-to-face conversation (remember those?) the killer app would really be an unlocked browser allowing me to browse any website I wanted. But I understand the technical and security challenges that go along with that and that that might not fit their desired usage model.

Stephen King was on hand for the announcement. He’s written a Kindle-only story about “a one-of-a-kind pink Kindle with magical powers”, says CNet.

Is this enough to convince you to finally take the eBook plunge?

About John DeNardo (13012 Articles)
John DeNardo is the Managing Editor at SF Signal and a columnist at Kirkus Reviews. He also likes bagels. So there.

23 Comments on Kindle 2: Now Are You Ready to Take the eBook Plunge?

  1. No, and I doubt I ever will. I enjoy the experience of books.

  2. I had finally decided to get one of these (even without backlighting, which I agree is a huge hole in the feature-set) until I read about the price.  I had really hoped – as many who had written about Kindle 2.0 prior to Monday – that they’d drop the cost a bit to try and push adoption.  Hah.

    I still want one but I really think they ought to take a lesson from the inkjet printer industry.  They practically give away the hardware, knowing they’ll rape the consumer a thousand times over by over charging them for ink cartridge refills.

    If Amazon sold this thing for $150-200, more people would get one and be able to buy books at $10 a pop…that’s the whole point right? 

    Its not like the iPod which you can buy and *never* purchase a thing from the iTunes store.  The Kindle is sort of useless if you don’t intend to purchase books from Amazon.

    Oh well.  I’ll wait until it drops to around $250 or so (if it ever does).  That’s about the most I’m willing to fork over for a device whose sole purpose is to allow me to give Amazon more of my money on a regular basis.

  3. This one has me considering it, though I’ll wait for the price to come down some (think iPhone). The lack of a backlight is a huge disadvantage, IMO, but what can you do but wait for Kindle 3. I’m amazed at the size, but am a little suspicious of durability. Seems like it might crack real easily. I’ll definitely wait for the early adopters to post their reviews before I do anything.

  4. @Michael:  Good suggestion on the sales model, though you have to convince Amazon, not me.

    Is Amazon screwing current Kindle customers?  I saw no mention of an upgrade program, and I don’t see someone being willing to shell out $700+ just for the ability to purchase eBooks.

    @Scott: Agreed on the price.  It might be a nice device, but at that price, I’ll probably never know for sure.

  5. Lou Anders // February 10, 2009 at 9:19 am //

    I’m intrigued, but right now I’m reading on my iPhone with Stanza and loving it. Most important for me is that it’s small enough that I can carry it around in my pocket, and that I don’t have to carry more than one device for checking email, browsing, reading, tweeting, yada yada. Feels like one of those PADs they carried around on ST:TNG, only it does more.

  6. Dean Stevenson // February 10, 2009 at 9:35 am //

    I just ordered one for my Father.  After watching the KoolAid laced videos on Amazon and drooling over the overall geekiness of the device, I started to pine for one.  Then it occurred to me that my Father would get a lot more out of one than I would.  He reads quite a bit and being a retired software guy, I think he’ll enjoy being one of the first to get a Kindle2.  I know the device has its shortcomings and it does lock one into their model to some degree.  However, it is a technological advancement and the features that it does support are quite interesting.  I’m betting he’ll be thrilled.

    Did anyone notice this entry under the “Experimental Features”?

    Basic Web Browser

    Kindle’s Basic Web browser works well to read simple, text-centric Web sites such as Google and Wikipedia. Need to find a movie listing or look up a sports score? Now it’s easier than ever to find the information you’re looking for right from your Kindle.

  7. @Lou: Points taken about the “extra” device and the size.  I like that I have a single Smart Phone device instead of a phone *and* a PDA.  I waffle on device size when it comes to reading.  Even tough I love that I can fit my phone in my pocket, I do wish I could also have a larger display. 

    @Dean: I completely missed the “experimental browser” feature.  I mean, I know it browses to some websites, but it wasn’t clear to me whether it can browse anyplace.  I’d be interested in hearing your Dad’s experiences with his “newfangled contraption”.  (And yours, too, when you “borrow” it – don’t think we don’t see through your false generosity, Mister! πŸ™‚ )

  8. Not a Kindle fan right now.  If I can buy an XP netbook for $280 with 16GB of storage and a card reader plus other features…Why can’t we get an open source useable reader for less than the Kindle?  Still waiting for some netbook manufacturer to get the hint and slap this reader market the same way they did the laptop market. 

    I mean come on, can’t we get a Linux based reader with Wifi in a flat tablet format that can read many of the common formats of documents for $150?  I was reading .doc files and PDF on a Palm device 8 years ago.

  9. Erik Stevenson // February 10, 2009 at 11:34 am //

    I like the improvements to the device. The first Kindle has a very bad design and felt very cheap. I just wish it had a bigger screen. I really like the text to speech feature, but I wonder how long who can listen to it without being annoying. The feature is pretty nice–you get a book and audio book in one.


    I gave a presentation to my library co-workers last week and they had a lot of questions about the device.

  10. I love physical books and hate reading off a screen.  Still, I might be tempted — if it didn’t cost an arm and a leg.  In this economy?  Are you kidding me?

  11. Like others here, I’d consider it if it were half the price.


    Also, I can’t stand the thought of having to pay for an electronic copy of (real) books I already own, or periodical subscriptions (and archives). If Kindle is going to be my library, I want it to have all my books—not just the books I’ve purchased with my Kindle.


    I know that doesn’t fit anyone’s business model, but that’s what it’ll take for me to ever consider Kindle as a book replacement rather than a novelty gizmo.

  12. I’ve been “eBooking” since I had the Apple Newton.

    The Kindle is nifty, has a lot of addons to inflate the price and locks you into their DRM format. Better to get a more “open” gadget.

    As for the whole book vs. eBook debate: Folks, if you spend any amount time working at a computer, you’re reading the equivalent of an eBook several to several dozen times a year. So you can do it!

    Cost of eBooks vary. Cost of gadgets vary. Lots of folks already read various formats (.RTF, .HTML, etc.) on their PC’s. A lot of folks use cellphones. I’ve used the Newton, various PalmOS devices, my PC’s and now my Bookeen Cybook (over 4,000 titles in a memory card and room for many more).

    And you can get a lot of content for free: Project Gutenberg,,, Baen Books Webscrption site’s Free Library.

    I buy real books. But I am more and more buying real books and reading eBooks. If you add up all those spare moments on lines, etc., you can get quite a number of books read each year.

  13. Erik Stevenson // February 10, 2009 at 2:17 pm //

    What ebooks need is one format that dominates, like Mp3 does for audio. There are too many formats. Also, if there’s one format, then libraries can adopt said format without having their patrons being confused. Everyone has to have their stupid little format. It would be nice to have a device that plays them all, but that’s not going to happen.

  14. I already own the Kindle 1, and FYI the reason it is so popular as an ebook reader is the e-Ink display, which makes it look like text. However, the e-Ink is opaque; backlighting is physically impossible.


    Try to imagine lighting something through a solid wall… just not gonna happen.

  15. The Bookeen Cybook also uses the e-Ink technology. Sure, you can’t backlight…but you can front light it. I bought a nice flexible neck LED light at Borders that can run off of a small battery or via a USB connection. Get one of those and Bob’s your uncle.

  16. @Icetug: Well that puts things in perspective!

    @eyphrosyne: If only!

    @Fred: Yeah, but what do you do if you want to read something not for free?

    @Erik: Good point on formats.  Why are there still so many formats?

    @rjbman: As a Kindle 1 owner, does the Kindle 2 sound like something you’d buy?


    RE: no backlight.  Even in the e-Ink display is as good as a physical book, I’ll still feel the effects of poor lighting.  I’d have to see the device in action to know if the coolness factor and ebook features keep it from being a dealbreaker.



  17. I dunno – call me an ol’stick-in-the-mud, but the Kindle – and the Sony Reader – just make me think they’ve invented a new way to remove money from my purse. 

    You can buy a book and read it, or buy a book – and pay $350.00, and read it.   And yes, I get that the idea is you can store loads of books on it, but still – – give me a hard copy, paperback or hardback, any day.

    *still chuckling about “20% faster page turning”*

  18. “Yeah, but what do you do if you want to read something not for free?”


    It depends on where you buy. Some publishers are pricing their books “intelligently”. For example, Subterranean Press and Night Shade Books are partnering with Baen’s Webscription Service along with several other publishers. Tor is rumored to be once again on the verge of joining. So, for about $5.00 each, I can pick up a variety of books from Subterranean, etc.


    Fictionwise is the site I buy from second most. I only buy books that are priced about at a paperback level. I don’t buy eBooks at hardcover prices. I try to buy books that are not DRM-encoded with things like my credit card number (I kid you not). No more small presses that might go under (look up Embidd).


    But even dealing with Fictionwise, you run into difficulty at times. They’ve been great, but just the past month or so they were caught in a bind when two distributors pulled their content. One, alas, was doing Benford’s “Galactic Center” series. So I’ve got half the series in electronic format, but who knows if I’ll ever (legally) see the rest.


    In an article today in the NYT, one book executive could not see the advantage of pricing their eBooks cheaper than hardcovers. Unfortunately the evidence that Baen and a few others keeps showing (cheaper prices, multi-formats, no DRM equals more paper sales) doesn’t seem to be trickling up…


    But to conclude: don’t ignore the free stuff. How many links have you folks posted of free fiction? Project Gutenberg has thousands upon thousands of free titles. Think you’ll run out of stuff to read any time soon?

  19. Is the original Kindle available in Canada yet? I’m just sayin’

  20. Jim, somehow your bold text says a little more than “I’m just sayin’…”  πŸ™‚

  21. bob haskins // February 11, 2009 at 12:57 pm //

    backlighting an e-ink display isn’t just physically infeasable, it shows a fundamental ignorance of the technology.  if you think it needs a backlight, look up electronic ink. if you think you don’t like reading from a screen, look up electronic ink.  basically, look up electronic ink so you don’t sound silly.

  22. Bob, I don’t think anyone is asking for backlit e-ink.  Speaking for myself, I would probably prefer a backlit display using current technology over not having a backlit display using any technology.

  23. bob haskins // February 11, 2009 at 1:51 pm //

    understandable, but it confuses the issue – lack of backlighting is a major part of the point to using e-ink technology.  it’s not like they went with this for economy, monetary or power-wise.  light reflection along with the stability of the image are essential parts of mimicking the readability of a printed page and reducing eye strain.

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