Kindle 2 e-Book Reader Preview
What's new, improved and different
compared to the original Amazon Kindle
The new Kindle is a bit
taller, but no wider, and with the same size screen as the
earlier model - its revised design makes the sides look
wider, but they're actually the same as on the earlier model.
Slight tweaks to the user interface, and minor
improvements to battery life and screen display, and some
hidden extra costs all make up for a lackluster product,
seemingly little better than its predecessor.
See also our earlier
comprehensive review of the
The long awaited Amazon Kindle
2 was announced on 9 February 2009, with first units to be
shipped on 24 February.
It appears to be an
evolutionary enhancement to the original Kindle, rather than a
revolutionary leap forward in terms of its capabilities.
Disappointingly, it remains
priced as high as its predecessor. One would have hoped
that after 15 months of too-high pricing, Amazon would have now
shifted its pricing strategy from creaming it from early
adopters to now encouraging volume sales to a broader
If you already have a Kindle,
should you replace it with this new Kindle 2? Probably
not. If you don't yet have a Kindle, is this the device
you've been waiting for, and should you again rush out and buy
one? Again, probably not.
The most important part of the
Kindle 2 release, primarily focused on this new hardware, is the
plan to release the underlying reader software onto other
platforms. This suggests that, before too long, the Kindle
2 may be technologically obsoleted due to the reader technology
spreading to other portable platforms. This is another
reason to think carefully before purchasing a Kindle 2 reader.
Introduction - the original
Kindle and its evolution
Amazon announced its Kindle
e-book reader on 19 November, 2007, with units available for
immediate shipment. We reviewed
the Kindle e-book reader within a few days of its release.
Clearly this timing was with an eye to getting maximum benefit
from Christmas gift sales.
Within 5½ hours, initial
stocks of the unit had sold out, and a couple of days later,
Amazon indicated that it had so many orders that its next
shipment, not yet received, was all pre-sold out too. The
out of stock situation continued until mid April, 2008.
October 2008, Oprah Winfrey spoke positively of the Kindle on
her show, and the apparent surge in orders from that caused the
unit to go completely out of stock yet again, with it never being
available on Amazon's site until now, with the replacement of
the Kindle 1 by the Kindle 2 (and even this new Kindle remains
unavailable for 15 days more after its release announcement -
something that almost certainly was not a deliberately planned
The unit has been plagued
with out-of-stock problems all its life to date - Amazon says it
is because sales have exceeded expectations, but the long delays
in replenishing stock, and having the unit out of stock during
most of its 15 month life to date seems to imply something more complicated
than merely mismanaging the ordering process.
with the unit's availability, industry observers estimate that
Amazon has sold over a half million original Kindle units.
unit was first sold for $399, but in May 2008, Amazon
dropped the price to $359.
Kindle business model
important to realize that, at either price point, this price is
massively high. Amazon is selling the unit directly, and
having the units made under contract in China. It has
no other middlemen, is surely ordering in large sized orders to
get maximum production efficiencies, and doesn't have to pay retail or wholesale
discounts to anyone, so keeps every dollar of the unit's selling
price (with the exception of credit card fees in the order of
2.5% and perhaps a small referral fee to an affiliate in the
order of 5%). This makes the Kindle a major profit earner for
Amazon - consider a possible $200 profit on each of 500,000 units
sold, and that suggests the Kindle reader has earned $100
million for Amazon so far (in total, Amazon showed a $645
million profit in 2008 and a $476 million profit in 2007). Even if you deduct a million or
two for development costs, that's still a massive profit.
On the other hand, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos maintains that he can't
sell Kindles for any less than $359, so either I'm completely
wrong, or he is, ahem, innocently mistaken in this claim.
of the profit from selling the Kindle hardware is the profit contribution from Kindle
book sales. Although a Kindle e-book typically
sells for less than a hard cover book (ie $10 instead of perhaps
$15 - $20), but who knows how much of the $10
Amazon gets to keep, compared to how much of the selling price
of a regular book, and of course, Amazon's associated costs of
sale (receiving, warehousing, inventorying, shipping, returns,
etc) are all massively less with e-books.
One research analyst (Jeffrey Lindsay
of Bernstein Research) estimated 2 million Kindles sold by 2012
would drive a 0.6 percent drop in Amazon's total revenues
because of the cannibalization of book sales. But new
content revenues and lower shipping charges would boost 2012
earnings per share by 9 cents, he said.
is correct, this implies that Amazon makes more profit, on a
lower dollar figure, from Kindle e-Book sales than on regular
gradual appearance of the Kindle 2
Substantive information about a new Kindle 2 (and pictures)
first started appearing in October 2008.
seems from industry rumor and leaks that Amazon initially hoped to
release a new version of the Kindle in time for Christmas 2008
sales, but some quality control issues caused its release to be
original Kindle was an okay to good product, but had a few minor
issues such as the design of the 'paddle' buttons on both sides
of the unit, a design that seemed to encourage accidental
pressing of the wrong paddle at the wrong time, and a poorly
designed protective cover that kept falling off.
all, it was a good unit for a first version release of a
product, but people were increasingly keen to see a second
version, with hopefully further enhancements, fixes to the
design limitations in the original Kindle, and possibly a new
lower price point.
does the new Kindle 2 score on these issues?
new Kindle 2
Amazon Kindle 2 is now
available for prepurchase at Amazon,
with deliveries to start from 24 February.
main changes and improvements are considered under twelve
original unit measured 7.5"x 5.3" and had a wedge shaped
thickness profile, being about 0.6" thick at the thickest point.
unit measures 8" x 5.3" x 0.36". It is slightly taller and
Importance : Minimal
original unit and the new unit both weigh about 10.3 ounces.
Kindle 2 is reported to be 0.1 ounces lighter than the Kindle 1
- hardly a major change and not even one you could detect
without very accurate scales.
Importance : None
original unit was originally $399, and then in May 2008 dropped
to $359. This price included a protective cover and free
second day air shipping.
unit is also $359, but apparently does not include a cover
($30 extra for a cover), and you'll have to pay more ($12 extra) if you want to receive
the unit via second day air shipping.
other words, to accurately compare the two units, the new Kindle
2 is $42 more expensive than the Kindle 1.
Importance : Moderately negative
original unit had a 6" diagonal screen with 800x600 resolution
and capable of displaying (I think) 4 grey scale colors.
unit has a same sized screen with 16 grey scale colors. It
possibly may have slightly better contrast, and page turns
happen 20% faster than the original.
good, but 16 grey scale images are still very limited in terms
of quality, and the page turn speed, while noticeably faster, wasn't really
a massive problem before - one learned to hit the 'next page'
button while reading the last line of text rather than when
completed reading and digesting the words, and changing pages in
the Kindle is no more cumbersome or slow than turning pages in a
really wanted was a bigger screen (how about an 8" diagonal?), more
resolution (how about 1600x1200), and perhaps 16 bit RGB color.
None of these are featured in the Kindle 2.
Importance : Minimal
very difficult to get an accurate and consistent measure of battery
life on the Kindle - the battery is used up in three main ways -
it is used whenever the unit is 'on', it is used to turn pages,
and it is used if the wireless transceiver is switched on.
Assuming the wireless service is switched off (which it always
should be unless you're about to wirelessly send a new book to
your unit), your effective
battery life is a combination of the number of pages
you turn and how quickly you turn the pages. Fast readers
will be able to read more pages than slower readers.
Whatever the actual numbers are, the old Kindle generally had
enough battery life for something like perhaps a 12 hour flight,
reading most of the time, and maybe more, which is usually more
than enough for most people.
Kindle is claimed to have a 25% greater battery life. For
sure, you can never have too much battery life, but this
increase is not a huge value-add in this case - you've still got
enough battery life for a single long flight, but perhaps not
enough for an entire travel itinerary.
Importance : Moderate
original Kindle required its own dedicated charger, even though
the unit was powered by a stock standard 3.7V Li-Ion battery.
Kindle allows for charging via a USB cable which can source its
power from just about anything with a powered USB output.
means you can reduce the number of charging devices you travel
with, and that is definitely a good thing.
Importance : Moderate
is no difference in the wireless download capabilities of either
Importance : None
original unit had about 180MB of free space within it for
storing books, plus would take SD cards for additional book
unit has about 1.4GB of free space within it for storing books,
and is thought to also accept SD cards.
was enough for maybe 200 books to be kept inside the unit.
If you had more than that, you could store them on Amazon's site
and just download them when needed, or keep them on SD cards.
A single 4GB card, costing perhaps $10, would provide another
5000 or so titles that could all be inside the Kindle at the
1.4GB is being described as giving you capacity for storing over
1500 books on the unit, and this is a fair claim.
many of us need more than 200 books in the unit at any one time,
and, if we do, adding a $10 SD card seems as good a solution as
is nice, but not really very relevant, that the new unit has
greater storage capacity.
Importance : Minimal
to Speech feature
new feature will enable the Kindle to read a book aloud to you.
You can choose from a male or female computer generated voice, and can also adjust
the speed at which the text is read.
have to hear this before commenting too much more on this.
But, for now, I can't think of a single reason why I'd ever want
a book read out to me. Certainly there may be some
small sectors of the community who can benefit from this, but
only a very few, and I'm not sure if the people who need this
feature would find a computerized reading as good as a
'characterized' reading by a professional reader and put onto an
almost surely a feature that sounds good but which no-one will
Importance : None
selection and price
continues to add impressively to its range of titles available
for the Kindle, and now is claiming 230,000 titles available,
including 103 of the current 110 titles on the NY Times Best
good, but it applies equally to the older and the newer version
positive is the increasingly less certain statements about
pricing. Initially, Amazon promised all titles would be
$9.99 or less. The current statement is "Low Book Prices:
New York Times Best Sellers and New Releases $9.99, unless
marked otherwise", and I've found some titles that are
priced massively over $10.
clearly a much weaker promise. E-books are already
massively overpriced, as is the Kindle reader. Amazon and
the book publishers need to reduce their pricing to encourage
more widespread adoption of the technology and greater sales of
context, one can only hope that Amazon and book publishers will
quickly learn from the extended lessons of the music industry,
which is only now slowly coming to understand that, in order to
succeed, they need to sell fairly priced music and free of copy
Importance : None
the problems of the original Kindle was the paddles on both
sides of the unit, which were easily pressed by mistake, causing
at best a minor annoyance, and at worst, resulting in you losing
your place in whatever it was you were reading.
Kindle appears to have smaller paddles and more inert space on
the sides that will make the device and its paddles
less susceptible to accidental activation.
are extra paddles - the original Kindle had four, the new one
has six, providing faster navigation direct to certain features.
is also a "new 5-way controller, you can quickly flip between
articles, making it faster and easier to browse and read the
morning paper. Want to remember the newspaper or magazine
article you just read? Clip and save entire articles for
later reading with a single click."
way controller - looks like a push stick that goes four ways
with presumably a click down as well - replaces the scroll wheel
on the Kindle 1, in a transition reminiscent of the Blackberry
replacing their scroll wheel, but with a trackball rather than a
may be a good thing too, but there is a possibility that all
these new things are interfering with the simplicity of
operating the Kindle. I'll know more when I have actual
original Kindle had a strange indicator/progress bar that ran
vertically up/down the side of the screen, the new Kindle 2 no
longer has this.
original Kindle came with a somewhat dysfunctional protective
cover that tended to keep falling off. It appears the new
Kindle has no cover at all (we consider one to be close to
essential to protect the unit's screen) but Amazon sells an optional
leather cover for an extra $30. This would be very
disappointing if so, and boosts the effective cost of the Kindle
from $359 to $389.
Importance : Moderately positive for buttons, slightly
negative for cover
feature is the 'Whispersynch' which allows you to
synchronize where you are up to in reading a book if you have
seems like a complete gimmick with no valid application at all.
How many of us will have multiple Kindles?
strategic importance of this new software feature is very interesting. It seems to be the forerunner of a new
paradigm - making the 'Kindle' concept device independent.
In the future, it is likely that you'll have Kindle software on
your phone, PDA, laptop, desktop, Netbook, etc, all of which
can access your Kindle e-books, and all of which synchronize
your 'place' in the books you're reading, so you can read your
books, anywhere, on any device, and have your reading position
transferred from book to book.
related part of this functionality seems to be storing your annotations
centrally, so these can be available everywhere too.
Whispersynch has been added to earlier Kindle 1 units too.
not yet known the impact of this on the digital copy protection
of the e-books you buy. How many different Kindles and
other devices can you
copy a book to? Almost certainly you still can't gift or
loan either a new copy of a title, or your own main copy of a
title, to someone else, alas.
Importance : None immediately, but look for this
becoming a big thing in the future. May remove the need to
buy a Kindle entirely.
New Competitors to Kindles?
Amazon's rather ambiguous commitment to the Kindle hardware
seems to be underscored by its new Whispersynch software, which
promises to make the Kindle hardware only one of many different
solutions, all of which can potentially be used to read the
e-books you buy from Amazon.
you even consider buying a Kindle at all now? That is hard
to say and depends on how urgently you want the e-book reading
capability. As of today, there are no good alternatives to
the Kindle hardware, but who knows how quickly that might
commentators have been suggesting that the entire concept of
dedicated e-book readers may be a short term thing that will
shortly be superseded by increasingly ubiquitous smart phones such as the
iPhone and the
Google G1, both of which have some limited e-book reading
realistic? My feeling is that it is not yet realistic -
cell phone screens are just too small. Compare the
Kindle's screen, which measures 3.5" wide and 4.75" tall, with
600x800 resolution, to an iPhone (2" x 2.9", with a 320 x 480
resolution) or a G1 (1.8" x 2.7" and the same 320 x 480
resolution). You just can't get enough text of comparable
size and pixel/resolution quality on a phone's necessarily small
as a gimmick, or in an emergency, or for a short term, you can
read on a phone. But to comfortably read right through a
novel, you'd be 'turning pages' continually and the process
would be very unnatural.
the Kindle screen itself is a bit smaller than a typical
paperback book page and could benefit from being made bigger. A phone screen is way too tiny for an
acceptably convenient reading experience.
valid challenge might be from the new generation of Netbook
computers that are rapidly emerging.
thing, a Netbook computer can sometimes be found for less than
the cost of the Kindle - something that clearly illustrates the
ridiculously high cost of the Kindle. A Netbook has an acceptably
large screen, with decent resolution, and is equipped with
the ability to store, process, and display books every bit as
well (or, by most measures, better than) a Kindle.
Battery life in a Netbook may be a bit
of a limitation, but other than that, a Netbook with appropriate
software (and we understand that Amazon is looking at releasing
the underlying reader software onto other platforms) could well
supplant the dedicated Kindle device as an affordable and
practical way of storing and reading e-books.
If you've been planning on
buying a Kindle anyway, you'll be pleased with the several small
improvements and enhancements offered on this device.
If you've been sitting on
the fence, unsure if you should buy a Kindle or not, the extra
features in the new Kindle 2 may not be sufficient to push you
over the edge. You might prefer to wait for a
revolutionary move forward (eg color larger screen, reduced
price on e-books, elimination of copy-protection, etc) rather
than the evolutionary enhancements of this unit. Or maybe
instead you'll wait until the Kindle software becomes available
on a completely different hardware platform.
Lastly, if you already have
a Kindle, you'll probably not feel the need to 'upgrade' to the
newer model one, unless you are a 'must have gadget freak' -
and, hmmm, come to think of it, many of the current Kindle
owners probably fit into that category. Perhaps you could
gift your current Kindle to your partner, or a parent/child as
partial justification for getting a new one?
Many of us might choose to
wait for the Kindle 3. But, perhaps, by the time the
Kindle 3 eventually appears, it will be 'too late', and instead
we'll be using a Netbook or other multipurpose device to read
books on instead.
Where to Buy
Amazon's Kindle reader is
through their website
currently lists for $359.
Read more about the Kindle and
Sony eBook Readers
our review of the original Kindle
for much more about the unit and how it works, and also our review of the
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13 Feb 2009, last update
15 Oct 2013
You may freely reproduce or distribute this article for noncommercial purposes as long as you give credit to me as original writer.