Amazon Confirms It: Welcome The Kindle 2

Back at the end of January, we told you about the expected announcement today of the Kindle 2, the next-gen e-book reader.

This morning, confirmed the news at a media event at the Morgan Library and Museum in Manhattan. The upgrades on the Amazon Kindle 2 include:
• slimmer design - .36 inches thick, weighing less than 10 ounces
• 25 percent more life in the battery
• faster page turns
• more than seven times more storage (2 GB memory, so those Stephen King or Norman Mailer novels should fit just fine)
• sharper images
• a new "read-to-me" feature
• a five-way controller that eases note-taking and highlighting, as well as switching between articles and sections of newspapers

It ships Feb. 24, but is available for pre-order as of today for $359.

The sharper images are on a six-inch display that's designed to look and read as if it's on real paper. That should cause less eyestrain than reading from a backlit display, Amazon said. That's possible because it has 16 shades of gray, the company announced - far more than the four shades on the original kindle. And the pages turn 20 percent faster.

The longer battery life gives you four to five days on a charge - unless you turn off the wireless option, in which case you can read for two weeks, on average.The increased memory gives it the capacity to hold more than 1,500 books - instead of the 200 Kindle could hold. And if you purchase the books through, the company makes an automatic backup so if you lose it or need to re-download for any reason, you can.

Nifty new features include a dictionary lookup that gives you the definitions at the bottom of the page, so when you're reading above your grade level, you get some instant help. And the read-to-me feature converts the text to speech, and you can use it with any content - books, magazines, newspapers, blogs, whatever. Pages turn automatically, so it becomes almost like an iPod for books. You can choose a male or a female voice and the speed at which the content is read to you.

With the wireless connection, you don't need Wi-Fi to download or receive new content. And the wireless connection is on Amazon's dime, so it doesn't cost extra. It also syncs with Kindle, so you can easily transfer your books and other content if you want.
The Kindle store now offers more than 230,000 books, plus lots of magazines (The New Yorker was added today), newspapers and blogs.

And Stephen King announced today that he's releasing "Ur," a novella, available only on Kindle.

At the center of Ur is lovelorn college English instructor Wesley Smith, who can't seem to get his ex-girlfriend's parting shot out of his head: "Why can't you just read off the computer like the rest of us?" Egged on by her question and piqued by a student's suggestion, Wesley places an order for a Kindle. Smith’s Kindle arrives in a box stamped with the smile logo and unlocks a literary world that even the most avid of book lovers could never imagine. But once the door is open, there are those things that one hopes we'll never read or live through.
Anyone who's been waiting for new shipments of the original Kindle will be automatically upgraded to Kindle 2, Amazon said.
Tags:  Amazon, ebook, Kindle