The Amazon Kindle 2

After months of leaks, speculation, and zero inventory, Amazon’s second generation e-reader has arrived. The Kindle 2 ($359) is slimmer and sleeker than its predecessor and has implemented a mini five-way joystick for navigation. The refreshed screen now displays 16 shades of grey and supposedly turns pages 20% quicker – which hopefully improves upon the somewhat distracting redraw/blinking e-ink situation seen on v1. (Ars digs the new display, CrunchGear does not.)

Much of the negative commentary I’ve heard or read today (still) centers on Kindle pricing – which many feel may be too expensive. However, keep in mind the initial hardware cost includes access to reasonably priced New York Times best sellers ($10/pop) and a lifetime of Sprint wireless data services (aka Amazon Whispernet). Having said that, TechRepublic figures you’d need to purchase over 50 books to come out ahead. (Not that these sorts of tech acquisition decisions are based largely on value.)

Personally, I’m not interested in owning Kindle hardware – I don’t read enough books. Plus I’d prefer to limit the number of single function devices I need to charge and carry. Which is why I’m more excited by Amazon working to “make Kindle books available on a range of mobile phones.”

25 thoughts on “The Amazon Kindle 2”

  1. Still love my Kindle. Still glad I bought it. Still use it every day.

    I doubt I’ll get a Kindle 2 however. There wouldn’t be enough of a compelling reason to upgrade. However, as a long time Kindle user, the most notable “improvements” for me WOULD be the 16-shade greyscale (vs. my 4-shade) and the Text-to-Speech feature (if it is actually useable).

    All other improvements are nice…for $20 I’d happily trade up…but not essential and unlikely to materially improve the Kindle experience.

    Dave: regarding your no-backlight, no-sale comment. $12 buys you a book light. The Kindle will work with any book light. Why is this an issue for you?

  2. I was wondering if anyone actually cared about the text-to-speech… I figured no, which is why I didn’t blog it. Interesting. :) I was hoping/wondering if they’ll add a podcast directory at some point given those more substantial speakers. And if they’d charge for a subscription, as they do with blogs.

    If I don’t want to carry the Kindle, on top of all my other gadgets, what makes you think I’d want to add a clip-on backlight accessory? But my main reason for not partaking is the small number of books I read in a given year.

  3. I’m with Dave on the whole backlight issue. Reminds me of my Gameboy (the original) – when I had to purchase the clip-on combination magnifying glass/light to play in low light settings.

    A friend had just ordered the V1 a few weeks ago, but it looks like he will be getting the Kindle 2 since his ordered hadn’t shipped.

  4. Allow me to predict a Kindle2 jail break within 72 hours of the public taking delivery on them :P


    I find the notion of e-paper interesting, but only when it resides in an open framework. Been watching developments over at Plastic Logic for some time:

    Video of it in action:

  5. I am interested in the text-2-speech for two reasons:

    1) I have a vision impaired relative who utilizes a lot of audio books. It would be nice to be able to read whatever she pleases in a portable device.

    2) The notion of reading when at home, then taking the book into the car to read to me for a while, then back to reading at home is attractive.

    This feature only works if it is a pleasant experience. I would love to hear some demos of this.

    Regarding the backlight:
    Dave: I was really just questioning why the big issue with the backlight. If you don’t read enough, then the device isn’t for you, backlight or no. As a regular user of the Kindle, the lack of backlight has never been an issue for me. The ability to read comfortable in direct sunlight is far more important to me. This is already true with books, so there is really no difference between a Kindle and a regular book in this category.

  6. Spark, here’s what I wrote in 2006 (linked above) about an earlier version of Sony’s eReader… and it still holds true for me today: If I were coming strictly from paper books, the reader might sound intriguing and useful as described. But most of my leisure/pleasure reading the last few years has been by PDA/PPC… backlight is useful on dim subways, night flights, and when fiance’ goes to bed.

    Having said that, Matt Miller’s video review of a case with light for the original Kindle seems to meet my needs for compactness. Although I think the case is $60, plus another $15 for the light. Ouch.

    Interesting on the audio, I would assume folks prefer narrated audio books. But your point about having anything read aloud, and/or portions for various conditions, is noted.

  7. Does anyone utilize this thing for newspaper subs?

    How does it compare to the reading a real newspaper.

    Like Dave, I don’t read many books, but I do like to read the papers and avoiding the walk to the curb every morning would be sweet.

    While I can access articles on my iphone in bed something more readable would be preferable.

  8. I too have enough devices and would much prefer Amazon to make their ebooks available on a device I already own, namely my iPhone.

    That and the Kindle isn’t even available in Canada :(

  9. I’m a Kindle1 owner (got it for my wife) and I’ve pre-ordered the Kindle 2 for me. If I’m reading the email from Amazon correctly, being an existing owner is supposed to give me some sort of advantage in terms of when I’ll actually get my Kindle 2. Anyway, would be happy to give any folks a hands-on with it when it comes. I’m in Chantilly.

  10. Also primarily interested in an ereader for newspapers & magazines rather than books. Course I’ve heard that the New York Times is available, and I’d be interested at the right price. But the photos I’ve seen are largely non-graphical and feel more like the newspaper on a mobile web page for my S60 phone than anything, which is disappointing. I think a copy of PC Magazine would be sort of okay in gray scale but without many graphics or pictures… not so sure. I do wish the other ereaders would see that the obvious attraction of the Kindle is the WWAN interface and start to emulate that…

  11. No backlight or sidelight? No sale for me … the new Sony e-Reader is way better. I’m not worried about getting online — I don’t need online newspapers and I can look up words or wikipedia on my blackberry.

    The sidelight is one of the most useful features of the Sony e-reader — I don’t want any extra hardware like a booklight, and I can read on a plane in the dark or in bed without disturbing my wife.

    Sorry, Amazon, no sale!!

  12. I’m kinda baffled that the new kindle2 still has no backlight. That’s a total dealbreaker for me as well. No backlight no sale.

    Backlight is an absolute must, and no a book light imho is *not* an option, it’s akin to a house not having a furnace and expecting you to go buy portable space heaters to make do. I suppose you could make do, but I sure wouldn’t want to.

    I think Amazon was very short sighted in ignoring this feature with Version 2 of the kindle. Rumors abound that Apple will release a kindle-size version of the Touch later this year to I would imagine compete against kindle. With a device like that up against kindle, it will be a no-brainer for me as to which device to purchase, especially with no friggin backlight… #1 reason I won’t buy one. I hope amazon sees this, what a dissapointment

  13. I found this thread specifically looking for a discussion about the lack of a backlight on the Kindle 2, and I sure found it. Thanks! I’ve now read several books (including a big one like “Pillars of the Earth”, which was fantastic) on my iTouch, and I love the backlight functionality. I almost always read at night or when I’m on a train. I am very sympathetic to the “no backlight, no sale” comments. As to the counter: real books have no light, I say (sadly), I don’t read real books for pleasure. The beauty of e-books is that they lure us video gamer/computerphiles back to pleasure reading, because we still get an electronic fix. I look forward to the next book like a new game, another chapter is another level. And touching a word to launch a definition – that’s finding a silver key! If I have to lug a side light around, it’s game over. Maybe a compromise would have been an option to make the background black and the text white (which the iTouch with eReader software can do.) It shouldn’t take much power to push a little light through the black background so we could read white text. It looks like another year with the iTouch, which is fine. I almost get that instant-buy feeling by buying something at, and then wirelessly downloading it into the iTouch a moment later. And adjusting text size and turning the iTouch horizontally, makes the device feel bigger than it is for reading purposes. I’m fine reading newspapers on my computers (and the real thing.) Maybe we’ll get a light in the Kindle 3 and then we backlighters can all get one to pull us out of the recession. BLG

  14. you guys are idiots. the reason there’s no backlight is because the technology inherently does not support it. it works differently from LCD. Perhaps with advancements in the structure of e-ink screens we will see one. Serious reading was never meant to be done in the dark anyway, that’s for watching tv and listening to music. Typical americans…you want to do everything on the go and with minimal inconvenience. Well get yourself a real education and learn good reading habits…only community college dropouts need backlights.

  15. First off, there’s no personal attacks on this blog. You’re free to disagree, but name calling is unacceptable.

    Second, Sony’s figured out how to release an eInk product with lighting built into the case. It’s not a “back” light, but it serves the same purpose. I can’t speak for community college dropouts, but I did bail on two PhD programs and didn’t renew my Mensa membership… but I just so happen to enjoy reading on dimly lit airlines and subways. Guess today’s launch of the Kindle iPhone app will take care of me.

  16. hy my name is carter and with the text-2-speech i am enjoying it and when your really tired of reading your favorite book you can just lay back and close your eyes while it reads to you

  17. In reply to duphus,

    For me, reading at night is my only option as I have a JOB and a FAMILY that occupy my time during the day. Also, I prefer to NOT rot my brain with mindless crap that is on TV, I opt to feed my mind, not fill it with garbage……. as for listening to music, I have it on and listen to it every waking second possible.
    One last thing, I have my masters degree and worked very hard to get it, hence a “real” education………. please, watch who you are calling an idiot…… when you point a finger at someone, there are 3 more pointing back at you.

    Have a blessed evening and God bless : )

  18. Duphus, Did you read your post? If you have the education you are trying to get us to believe, you should know that people are different, personal preferences drive reading habits, not education. I don’t know why you said what you did about Americans, you didn’t see any references to nationality in the preceding posts. I own a Kindle 2, I prefer to read in the daylight but it is not always an option. I prefer to have a blacklight. Thats my preference. You may have different preferences, and I am going to allow you an opinion without calling you an idiot.

    Chill out and live life.

  19. just wanted to say that I came to this site looking for an answer to why kindel is not backlit, and thank you for clearing it up for me. As for reading in the dark, I do it all the time and I am fed up with booklights and was hoping when my husband bought me a kindel it would have one… I’m not so sure I am going to get one…so thanks for all your help.

  20. The reason it is not backlit is because that would be like a computer screen which strains your eyes. That’s why they make cases with lights in them.

  21. I am excited about the Kindle2 but am waiting on the Kindle3 hoping that it will have a built in light. Not necessarily a backlight but perhaps a light that frames the screen and illuminates the type so that you can read in a dark room or outside at night. I love to read in the dark with my booklights but they are cumbersome and figure if I am dishing out the $$$ for a Kindle-like device, it could at least have built-in lighting. Also, the prospect of having the book read to me as I drive is exciting – only hope the speech is natural and not robotic.

  22. Like many many people here I want a back lit kindle. While I appreciate that the present technology is different from computer screens I would not one that is not lit by some method other than a lamp dangling over the screen. I am only 49 but my eyes seem to be able to see much less in dull lighting than 5 years ago and a lit screen would be SO helpful. The trouble I can see for Kindle is that now the ipad is nearly upon us the back lit brigade, including me, will buy one of those instead. Perhaps Kindle should wake up to the requirements of its many fans before it looses out completely. At present I use my iphone to read Kindle books which is OK but I cant get the pictures in Magazines etc which I would like. I chose Kindle on my iphone from the many readers available because of the ease of finding books in the Amazon sub categories online. It’s just a pity I cant read them as much ease…..yet

  23. My husband REALLY wanted to get a Kindle for me for Christmas, but I have asked him to hold off. A back light is to important to me. A friend got a free one from Oprah as an audience member gift. I was so happy for her, but when I looked it over I knew it wouldn’t work for me as it is now. I LOVE to read in bed and even a somewhat dimly lit screen would be great. Meanwhile I will check into some other brands similar, but back lit models. Maybe Kindle will realize a whole bunch of us would love a back lit version before I find another. And pay no attention to Duphus up there, he’s just fishing for attention.

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