Last week I “unboxed” the Amazon Kindle 2 in a short video on my blog. I also shared my first impressions. I have now used the device for about a week, so I thought I would share my thoughts in a little more depth.
I still don’t think this is the device that will dramatically change the game for publishing. However, I do believe it is another step in the right direction. I also believe I have more clarity on what is still missing and where e-books are going. I plan to discuss these topics in future posts.
As I pointed out when I wrote about the original Kindle, the device is not so much an e-book reader as it is a portable bookstore. If that was true of the first generation Kindle, it is even more true of this version.
The Kindle 2 wirelessly connects to the Amazon Kindle bookstore, using the Spirit Whispernet network. This is completely invisible to you as a user. You do not need to register. This service comes with the Kindle, and there is no monthly service fee. The service is “on” by default, so you are wireless connected 24/7 unless you specifically turn it off.
The store now boasts almost 250,000 titles. (Thomas Nelson has more than 1,500 titles.) In my own checking, you can find all but a couple of the top 100 Amazon bestsellers. In addition to that, there are tens of thousands of public domain books available for the Kindle on sites like FeedBooks and ManyBooks. Certainly, there is vast library of content available now, for almost every literary interest.
What do I like about the new Kindle 2? Plenty. For purposes of this brief introduction, I will elaborate on five items. (I am specifically not going to mention the text-to-speech feature—which I love—since I wrote on that earlier this week.)
- Registration. When my Kindle 2 arrived, it was already registered to me. In fact, it already knew I had a Kindle 2 and had named this one, “Michael’s Kindle 2.” There was also a welcome letter from Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, to me. The device was connected to my Amazon account and one-click ordering was enabled. This is about as painless of a setup as I have ever experienced or could imagine. For book addicts like me, it is probably also a little dangerous!
- Connectivity. I received my new Kindle 2 while I was on vacation. I had taken my original Kindle with me, so I didn’t have to lug around all the books I just might want to read. However, we were staying in a remote cabin in Colorado, and I couldn’t connect to Sprint’s network. However, to my surprise, the Kindle 2 connected instantly. In my testing, I was able to download complete books in less than 15 seconds.
- User Interface. Amazon has improved the look and feel of the device. The original Kindle felt cheap and almost “retro” to me. Not so with the Kindle 2. In my opinion, the device feels more solid and sleek. In particular:
- The next and previous page buttons are smaller. As a result, you are less likely to accidently hit them when merely holding the reader.
- In addition, you can’t actually press the buttons on the outside edge of the device. You have to press them toward the inside, which guarantees intentional page turning.
- The keyboard is less intrusive—almost invisible. It still resides below the screen, and the keys are easy to use. But the overall design is much better. In fact, the home key has been replaced by a larger home button above the Next Page button.
- The five-way selector is a big improvement over the roller of the previous generation. It is intuitive and quick. You can move the cursor in any one of four directions and then press it to make your selection.
- The screen makes use of the same e-ink technology as the first generation, but Amazon has upgraded it. It is still black-and-white only, but it will now display sixteen shades of gray instead of the original’s four. In addition, the page turns faster, but you will still notice a flicker from one page to the next. You will also notice a slight delay between selecting an action and the action actually happening.
- Capacity. The Kindle 2 will now hold approximately 1,500 books (depending in the length, of course). This compares to the 200 or so books the original Kindle held. In addition, you can move books on and off your device from the Amazon servers, so you can actually store more books online than your device can hold. Regardless, this is plenty for me. The batter also lasts up to two weeks with the wireless feature turned off or about four days with it turned on.
- Case. Unlike the original Kindle, the Kindle 2 does not come with any kind of carrying case. I wish they would have told me this when I placed my original order. (Perhaps they do now; I pre-ordered mine immediately after the announcement.) You have lots of third-party, leather options, but they are expensive. I bought the Amazon standard-issue case, it is just fine. It looks almost exactly like a Moleskine journal sans the ribbon and the elastic band.
So far, I am loving the Kindle 2. That doesn’t mean it’s perfect; it’s not. But for now, I think it provides an excellent user experience and will sell even better than the original Kindle.