The New Amazon Kindle 2 Unboxed

Yesterday, I received my copy of the Amazon Kindle 2 [affiliate link]. Gail and I are on vacation, so I had them send it to me here. I figured this would be good time to get acquainted with the new device, before I head back to the hustle and bustle of work. In this video, I unbox the Kindle 2 and share my first impressions.

I bought a Kindle 1 when it first came out. As a book publisher, I felt that it was important for me to keep up with the technology. I still do. I need to understand what the future of publishing might hold, so I can prepare my company for what is coming.

Initially, I was excited about the Kindle 1. In fact, I blogged about it here, here, and here. I also speculated about the future of eBooks in three posts:

In my very first post on eBooks on December 11, 2005, I speculated “we are only one device away from a digital publishing tsunami.” It’s safe to say that the Kindle 1 was not that device. It was moderately successful—analysts estimate that Amazon has sold nearly 500,000 units—but it did not achieve the iconic status of the iPod.

Will Kindle 2 be that device? Probably not, but it is still a big improvement over Kindle 1. Amazon reports that about 10% of its book sales are Kindle downloads. I am sure that this will at least double that. Rumor has it that Apple is also working on an eBook reader, so this could get interesting fast. Nothing like a little competition to accelerate progress.

Although, I discuss my first impressions in the video, I’d like to include them here in case you would rather read than watch.

  1. It is really thin. In fact, it’s about two-thirds the thickness of an iPhone or one-half the thickness of a Moleskine [affiliate link] hardcover notebook. It is also the exact same dimensions as a Moleskine notebook and about the same weight (10.2 ounces).
  2. It is more stylish. The Kindle 1 almost had a retro, clunky feel to it. The Kindle 2 feels very current—dare I say, cool?—feel to it. The Keyboard is less obtrusive and blends into the overall design better. It also has an aluminum back with stereo speakers.
  3. It arrived personalized. The machine knew that I was upgrading from Kindle 1. It had named the machine, “Michael’s Second Kindle.” Also, the letter from Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s Founder and CEO, was personalized. Nice touch. The books I had bought on the Kindle 1 were “archived” and available for download via one-click.
  4. The “Whisper” network is fast. I couldn’t even connect my Kindle 1 to the network here in the mountains where we are staying. The Kindle 2, however, connected immediately via 3G. I downloaded an entire book in about 15 seconds. Shopping in the Kindle Store was very snappy. The fact that you can download samples of books before you buy them is ingenious. I can see already that this could be very dangerous for book addicts like me.
  5. The page keys are more functional. This was one of the biggest complaints from Kindle 1 users. People kept accidently hitting the keys and advancing the pages. This is almost impossible with the Kindle 2. Not only are the keys smaller but you have to press them more from the inside edge of the key rather than the outside. (This is hard to describe, but it is a brilliant design choice.)
  6. The user-interface is an improvement. It’s not revolutionary, but it’s noticeably better. The 5-way selector key (the pointing device) is way better than the selector on the Kindle 1. You can select specific pieces of text within a line rather than just the line itself. You can bookmark, highlight, lookup, and annotate your text much more easily. The page turns are noticeably faster but still flicker slightly as the screen re-draws itself.

Overall, I am impressed with the Kindle 2. But time will tell. (Remember, I was also initially impressed with the Kindle 1.) The real key will be whether I continue to use it after the initial excitement wears off. Regardless, I plan to read a few books on the device and then report back with “the good, the bad, and he ugly.” Stay tuned.

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