Ever since the first Amazon Kindle came out, I was extremely excited by the opportunity to use electronic ink technology to read PDFs, online books, and even the news without having to choose between staring at a backlit computer screen or print out hundreds of pages. The major features all sounded very convenient, and I could even envision using the device as a glare-free translation display. It would almost be worth shelling out $360 if only it weren’t such a new and untested technology.
So now that the next edition is out, things are looking better, sayeth the New York Times:
The Kindle 2 has several incremental improvements over its predecessor, which went on sale in 2007. Amazon said the upgraded device has seven times the memory of the original version, turns pages faster and has a sharper display.
It also features a new design with round keys and a short, joysticklike controller — a departure from the earlier design, which some buyers had criticized as awkward. The device will ship Feb. 24. The price remains at $359.
The Kindle 2 is much skinnier than its predecessor, slimming down to 0.36 inches in thickness from 0.7, but it’s only a tenth of an ounce lighter. The storage capacity has jumped from 256MB to 2GB, or about 200 to 1,500 books, and the electronic ink display has improved from a 4-shade to 16-shade grayscale.
The layout of some of the buttons has been restructured, and the new Kindle also has a text-to-speech reader.
But there are still some serious drawbacks that force me to wait until they make further improvements. The Kindle 1’s current blurb about how to read your personal files doesn’t look very attractive:
Eliminating the need to print, Kindle makes it easy to take your personal documents with you. Each Kindle has a unique and customizable e-mail address. You can set your unique email address on your Manage Your Kindle page. This allows you and your contacts to e-mail Word documents and pictures wirelessly to your Kindle for only $.10. Kindle supports wireless delivery of unprotected Microsoft Word, HTML, TXT, JPEG, GIF, PNG, BMP, PRC and MOBI files.
PDF conversion is experimental. The experimental category represents the features we are working on to enhance the Kindle experience even further. You can email your PDFs wirelessly to your Kindle. Due to PDF’s fixed layout format, some complex PDF files might not format correctly on your Kindle.
If you are not in a wireless area or would like to avoid the $.10 fee for wireless delivery, you can send attachments to “name”@free.kindle.com to be converted and e-mailed to your computer at the e-mail address associated with your Amazon.com account login. You can then transfer the document to your Kindle using your USB connection. For example, if your Kindle email address is Jay@Kindle.com, send your attachments to Jay@free.kindle.com.
And who wants to pay 99 cents a month to read blogs?
Unlike reading blogs on your PC, Kindle blogs are downloaded onto Kindle so you can read them even when you’re not wirelessly connected. And unlike RSS readers which often only provide headlines, blogs on Kindle give you full text content and images, and are updated wirelessly throughout the day. Get blogs wirelessly delivered to your Kindle for as little as $.99 per month.
This system appears not to have changed with the new version. Basically, you need to convert any file into a proprietary Kindle format before it can be read on the device. But instead of offering an offline tool, they require you to send all files to the Amazon service first to either wirelessly transfer to the Kindle (for a 10 cent fee) or sent to a PC email address so you can use a USB connection to transfer files (converted into Kindle format) from your PC to the Kindle for free. I am guessing they intentionally make this a little cumbersome in order to direct customers to the fee-based services. This library blogger apparently had a relatively easy time of it. Still, as the over-demanding consumer, at this price it just doesn’t seem worth it. When the time comes, however, I am sure I will make full use of user-created guides like this one.
UPDATE: I should mention that this product has never been rolled out for an official Japan release (though the Kindle 2 may be changing this soon), and from what I have heard it does not work properly in the country. So my visions of owning a Kindle are contingent on me either living in the US or the product becoming usable within Japan.
16 thoughts on “New Kindle model – not yet”
The big problem with the Kindle, for me, is that it’s wireless ONLY. This makes it literally impossible to add new files to it if you are outside the US, or for that matter outside the Verizon wireless network coverage. If they just added a USB port that let you upload standard PDF, DOC, HTML etc files, OR the ebooks you buy from Amazon, then it would be really fantastic.
Sorry I didnt realize there was a question about this, but both Kindles have USB connections. You use the USB to transfer audio files and to transfer converted personal files, etc.
The issue here is not that there is no USB connection, it’s that transferring personal files etc is a huge pain in the ass, because the conversion process is the only way to make those files readable using the electronic ink technology. Yet another reason to wait for more improvements.
Well, if you just want an e-book reader with that screen there’s always the Sony one. Interestingly, the Sony e-book reader was such a flop in Japan they moved the entire division to the US, and I’m not sure they even sell it here! If Sony failed that badly with theirs, I don’t expect to see Amazon trying to bring the Kindle here for a LOOOOOONNNNGG time.
From what I have seen, the killer on the Kindle was the page-turn/refresh too FOREVER. Even half of that will seem like half of forever.
Stanza and iBunko on the iPhone/iPod Touch are pretty awesome: free access to Gutenburg and Aozora Bunko. But it’s the backlighting that’s the issue, of course.
Apparently the new Kindle can redraw only the parts of the screen that are being updated in addition to a base 25% increase in draw speed, so page turns should be quite a bit faster.
A bit of reading on a little screen like the iphone is OK, but I really do want bigger if I’m reading an actual book. Not to mention the massive battery suckage of keeping a backlit LCD on the whole time. I’ll almost definitely get an e-ink e-book reader eventually, but not this year. Let’s see how the 2010 models are.
I could see the Kindle working VERY well in Japan as a thinking-man’s DS. Think how convenient turning the page with the touch of a button would be on a crowded train!
One hurdle to international releases would be importing fully identical technology (high-quality text-to-speech, cheap newspaper service) in markets where that’s not always available.
Hmm, I’m not sure Japanese text to speech is very practical without embedded furigana in the text, at least for proper names. But then, most published books do include furigana on ambigious proper names, so I suppose it’s not much of a problem with a sufficiently large dictionary in the software.
One sad thing about the design of the Kindle is it’s clear attempt at making its own proprietary services very, very easy to use, at the expense of making the technology more open. I definitely do not care about the bells and whistles of making the New York Times look like a real newspaper when I open it in the Kindle. I just want it to be as functional as iGoogle or Google Reader. But I suppose I won’t protest if Amazon recoups its investment from bell-and-whistle fans while still leaving a fairly convenient backdoor for the savvier customers.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t sound like the backdoor is very convenient. While the Sony e-book reader is supposed to do a great job rendering PDFs, the Kindle doesn’t even read them directly, and requires a conversion which isn’t supposed to be very good. If they just added code for direct PDF reading…
I don’t think I would want to read novels on this thing, but for newspapers and textbooks it would be great.
I wouldn’t mind reading novels, especially old out of copyright ones. I guess I wouldn’t give up on real books though.
I don’t see why it would be bad for reading novels. I mean, I prefer real books but after all the times I’ve moved back and forth between America and Asia, and considering the number of times I’m likely to in the future, something like the Kindle almost seems like a necessity.
OK, apparently you can covert PDF files into the Mobipocket format that the Kindle uses on your PC and then copy them over USB. So it isn’t UTTERLY useless outside of the US, although it sure does lose a lot of the neat functionality.
Good news on the Kindle front-the revised version has a clearly marked space on the motherboard for a SIM card! Of course, there’s no actual SIM card slot or international compatible radio, but it shows the hardware was clearly designed to also have an international version with minimal changes.
Apparently the Kindle has a hidden debug mode that lets it connect to the Internet via a USB connection to a host PC instead of using its built-in wireless card. Perhaps this would allow access to the Amazon sync server from abroad? I’d love to see someone test it.
Hi, I have a Kindle (first version), and I just wanted to verify that you can sync to Amazon’s servers, buy books, etc. online from Japan using the USB cable. It’s very easy. BUT the catch is that you have to have your Kindle ACTIVATED in the U.S. on their wireless network.
I got mine sent to me in Japan, and it was useless except for reading text docs (actually, still pretty useful, given ibiblio’s massive free book server). If I had asked the friend who mailed it to me from the States to open the box and turn it on, there would have been no issue.
So, I ended up sending it home with a friend who was visiting the U.S. She turned it on right after she got off the plane, put in my password, etc. And it synced up.
Now I use it to read new books (by buying them through the Amazon store). For me, it was worth it to get one just so I wouldn’t have to box all my books when I move, etc. I’ve read a lot on it. Great in my situation.
I think, though, that if I lived back in the U.S., I might just go to the library more instead of buying a Kindle. Not sure.
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