The Kindle 2: Nice, But Still Pricey


Amazon's press release says everything you need to know about its brand-new Kindle 2 portable electronic book-reading device. As a matter of fact, it's all said in the first paragraph:

", Inc. introduced Amazon Kindle 2, the new reading device that offers Kindle's revolutionary wireless delivery of content in a new slim design with longer battery life, faster page turns, over seven times more storage, sharper images, and a new read-to-me feature. Kindle 2 is purpose-built for reading with a high-resolution 6-inch electronic paper display that looks and reads like real paper, which lets users read for hours without the eyestrain caused by reading on a backlit display. More than 230,000 books are now available in the Kindle Store, including 103 of 110 current New York Times Best Sellers and New Releases, which are typically $9.99. Top U.S. and international magazines and newspapers plus more than 1,200 different blogs are also available. Kindle 2 is available for pre-order for $359 at and will ship February 24."

Monday's big rollout of the new device in midtown Manhattan was strangely emotionless. From Amazon boss Jeff Bezos (who rarely smiled or seemed excited during the presentation) to renowned author Stephen King (who has written a new short story for the new device) to any of the other Amazon officials on hand—the introduction of the Kindle 2 was underplayed to the max.

I wonder why? Amazon (Stock Quote: AMZN) says the original Kindle has been a very successful seller. The company won't say how many it's already sold but you can surmise that they're selling well if there's a second-generation model. In addition to selling devices, they're also selling online books. Sort of like what Apple (Stock Quote: AAPL) does with iPods and the iTunes Store except that Amazon downloads files, via a built-in 3G modem, directly to their device not needing the use of a personal computer.

But, aside from all the things the Kindle 2 does right (smaller physical size, more internal memory, a better screen and battery life, more new book titles and newspaper/magazine subscriptions to choose from plus a new audio Read-To-Me feature) the Kindle 2 is priced in the exact same ballpark as one of those little Netbook computers that are all the rage these days.

Netbooks are real computers that can handle many real computer tasks -- such as surfing the Web, word processing, spreadsheet writing and nearly anything you can do on larger computers.

The Kindle 2 is, for the most part, a single-purpose device. You basically buy and download material then you can choose from six text sizes, add bookmarks, notes, and highlights, read (not write) personal documents such as Microsoft Word and PDF, and view images, search (only) the Web,, Kindle Store, and Your Kindle Library where customers' purchased content is stored.

Curiously, when I went to the's front page to read about the Kindle 2, I noticed there was also an advertisement in the adjacent right-hand column for the new Asus Eee PC 1000HE ($379). I couldn't make this up if I tried.

There are other e-book readers on the market (by Sony and Franklin) and there are also a number of downloadable e-book reader programs made for smartphones by Apple, T-Mobile and Google, Palm, Microsoft and others. According to published reports, Google has already made more than 1.5 million books available for free via iPhone or Android devices.

In a nutshell, the Kindle 2 is a clever handheld device perfect for reading material that you download from the Web. It is priced similarly to many current Netbooks but can't do nearly as many tasks. On the other hand, a Netbook would not be my first choice for reading e-books but does other lots of other things very well. If you enjoy reading and you're willing to shell out about $400 ($359 plus sales tax, etc.) then Amazon's Kindle 2 is the perfect solution.




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