Amazon's (AMZN) - Get Report press release says everything you need to know about its brand-new Kindle2 portable electronic book-reading device. As a matter of fact, it's all said in the first paragraph:
"Amazon.com, Inc. today introduced Amazon Kindle 2, the new reading device that offers Kindle's revolutionary wireless delivery of content in a new slim design with longer battery life, faster page turns, over seven times more storage, sharper images, and a new read-to-me feature. Kindle 2 is purpose-built for reading with a high-resolution 6-inch electronic paper display that looks and reads like real paper, which lets users read for hours without the eyestrain caused by reading on a backlit display. More than 230,000 books are now available in the Kindle Store, including 103 of 110 current
New York Times
Best Sellers and New Releases, which are typically $9.99. Top U.S. and international magazines and newspapers plus more than 1,200 different blogs are also available.
at and will ship February 24."
Monday's big rollout of the new device in midtown Manhattan was strangely emotionless. From Amazon boss Jeff Bezos (who rarely smiled or seemed excited during the presentation) to renowned author Stephen King (who has written a new short story for the new device) to any of the other Amazon officials on hand -- the introduction of the Kindle2 was underplayed to the max.
Amazon Kindle2 Introduction
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I wonder why? Amazon says the original Kindle has been a very successful seller. The company won't say how many it's already sold but you can surmise that they're selling well if there's a second-generation model. In addition to selling devices, they're also selling online books. Sort of like what
does with iPods and the iTunes Store except that Amazon downloads files, via a built-in 3G modem, directly to their device not needing the use of a personal computer.
But, aside from all the things the Kindle2 does right (smaller physical size, more internal memory, a better screen and battery life, more new book titles and newspaper/magazine subscriptions to choose from plus a new audio Read-To-Me feature) the Kindle2 is priced in the exact same ballpark as one of those little Netbook computers that are all the rage these days.
Netbooks are real computers that can handle many real computer tasks -- such as surfing the Web, word processing, spreadsheet writing and nearly anything you can do on larger computers.
The Kindle2 is, for the most part, a single-purpose device. You basically buy and download material then you can choose from six text sizes, add bookmarks, notes, and highlights, read (not write) personal documents such as Microsoft Word and PDF, and view images, search (only) the Web, Wikipedia.org, Kindle Store, and Your Kindle Library where customers' purchased content is stored.
Curiously, when I went to the Amazon.com's front page to read about the Kindle2, I noticed there was also an advertisement in the adjacent right-hand column for the new
Eee PC 1000HE ($379). I couldn't make this up if I tried.
There are other e-book readers on the market (by
) and there are also a number of downloadable e-book reader programs made for smartphones by Apple,
and others. According to published reports, Google has already made more than 1.5 million books available for free via iPhone or Android devices.
In a nutshell, the Kindle2 is a clever handheld device perfect for reading material that you download from the Web. It is priced similarly to many current Netbooks but can't do nearly as many tasks. On the other hand, a Netbook would not be my first choice for reading e-books but does other lots of other things very well. If you enjoy reading and you're willing to shell out about $400 ($359 plus sales tax, etc.) then Amazon's Kindle2 is the perfect solution.
Gary Krakow is TheStreet.com's senior technology correspondent.