Scott Marlowe, fantasy author

Scott Marlowe

Author of the Alchemancer and Assassin Without a Name fantasy series

Amazon's Kindle 2 to Launch February 24

image There's plenty of news, buzz, skepticism, excitement, early product reviews, and photos surrounding the imminent launch on February 24 of Amazon's all new version of the popular e-book reader, the Kindle 2.

The feature list for this new Kindle is impressive:

  • Slim: Just over 1/3 of an inch, as thin as most magazines
  • Lightweight: At 10.2 ounces, lighter than a typical paperback
  • Wireless: 3G wireless lets you download books right from your Kindle, anytime, anywhere; no monthly fees, service plans, or hunting for Wi-Fi hotspots
  • Books in Under 60 Seconds: Get books delivered in less than 60 seconds; no PC required
  • Improved Display: Reads like real paper; now boasts 16 shades of gray for clear text and even crisper images
  • Longer Battery Life: 25% longer battery life; read for days without recharging
  • More Storage: Take your library with you; holds over 1,500 books
  • Faster Page Turns: 20% faster page turns
  • Read-to-Me: With the new Text-to-Speech feature, Kindle can read every book, blog, magazine, and newspaper out loud to you
  • Large Selection: Over 230,000 books plus U.S. and international newspapers, magazines, and blogs available
  • Low Book Prices: New York Times Best Sellers and New Releases $9.99, unless marked otherwise

imageFor me, the most attractive items from that list are the size, weight, battery life, and the sheer selection of Kindle-formatted books that Amazon now offers. The wireless feature is kind of cool, but I don't know that I'd use it all that often. In other words, once you've got a book or two downloaded you're pretty much set for days if not weeks, right? I spend enough time in the office and at home that having to hook up to a standard network isn't a big deal, though it's not clear to me at this point if that is even an option. Downloading over 3G might be the only way to bring content down.

As far as size, the image on the right says it all. The Kindle 2 is described as "pencil thin". That it is. That's one slim piece of machinery, though I do wonder about the Kindle 2's durability. I'm anxious to read early adopter reviews to see if this is an issue at all.

Other intriguing features include Whispersync which will allow you to start reading a book on the Kindle 2, then pick it up automatically on your iPhone or Blackberry, then jump back to the Kindle 2, all without losing your place. Read-to-Me is of some interest as well, though I wonder how tinny or jagged the speech will sound as it reads the book to you. If done right, with a smooth, pleasant voice, you may never have to actually read a book again

Update on Read-to-me: Legal action is already being contemplated because of this feature. Publisher's Weekly reports:

Some in the publishing community are raising objections to the new device's deployment of text-to-speech software that lets users have books read aloud by Kindle. Agents are raising questions and Authors Guild executive director Paul Aiken tells the WSJ "they don't have the right to read a book out loud. That's an audio right, which is derivative under copyright law." Amazon spokesman Drew Herdener says "these are not audiobooks. Text to speech is simply software that runs on devices and reads content." To that argument, an agent responds to us: "TTS is a tool. So is a knife. If I use it to cut vegetables, I'm using it for its intended and lawful purpose. If I use it to stab someone, I'm committing a crime. The fact that they are using a technology to create an audiobook rather than recording one has nothing to do with the issue. They are using a tool that has lawful purposes to violate copyright." Asked about next steps, Aiken says "we're studying it right now."

The Kindle was intended as the iPod or iPhone of the book world. Based on the sales figures Amazon has reported it would seem they're succeeding in this regard. According to Jeff Bezos, Amazon had been selling e-books “for years” and “it wasn’t working until 14 months ago” when the Kindle was launched.image

You can see the "Kindle effect" clearly demonstrated by the spike starting in 2007.

So, what to do? Wait-and-see or rush out and pre-order right now? What are other folks' thoughts on the new Kindle 2?

Further Reading