Kindle 2.0 - Is It Finally Time to Buy One?
Thursday, February 12, 2009 | Author: Mad Typist
So, the big news the other day was the release of version 2.0 of Amazon's Kindle e-book reader. There was a lot of interest a few months ago, when Oprah talked up the little device on her show, leading her sheep (errr.. loyal viewers) to plunk down big bucks for an interesting, but ultimately pretty flawed device, considering the cost.

I'm an avid reader, and one of my biggest issues when traveling is the fact that any book I want to travel with takes up a lot of space, so I'm forced to often choose the book that fits my bag the best. That means no hardcovers, and only 1-2 paperbacks. So obviously an e-book reader is something that I've been wishing for for some time. I had flirted with the idea of getting a Kindle 1.0, but ultimately decided that there were some serious flaws in the design of the reader and that the price point was a touch too high for me. However, now the question is: with this new version of the Kindle out, is it finally time to take the plunge and go get one?

Since Amazon is NOT giving consumers a price break (it still rings in at $359), one can only assume that the Kindle 2.0 must offer some new features that make it worth our while. While there's plenty new about the Kindle 2.0, is it necessarily improved? Let's break down the new features on the Kindle 2.0.

The picture on the left is the Kindle 1.0 and the right picture shows the new Kindle 2.0.

Change #1: New keyboard layout
Old: bizarre slanted keys with a weird gap in the middle. Butt ugly.
New: round keys with a traditional keyboard layout. Not so butt ugly.
Value added? Yes and no. In the hands-on preview video found on Engadget (see link at the end of this post), you can hear one of the Kindle people telling the reviewer that the device is primarily a reading device, not a writing device. The keyboard is there for the user to make annotations and to type in URLs for the internet browser. I just don't see most users needing to access the keyboard that often (if at all). So why, then, is the keyboard allowed to consume 25% of the device's surface? If the device is primarily for reading, then the keyboard should be much smaller. Eventually, the ideal solution would be an on-screen keyboard, like the iPhone/iTouch has, but the current limitations of e-Ink prevent that. Note: rumor has it that the new keyboard is harder to use, according to this blogger's preview

Change #2: Revamped side buttons
One of the biggest complaints from 1.0 owners was the placement of the huge "Next Page" buttons on either side of the device. It made it almost impossible to hold the device firmly, without accidentally turning to the next page.
New: Version 2.0 has reduced the size of the buttons, as well as making them angled such that the user must push towards the inside of the button, near to the screen.
Value added? Yes. The new button design allows users to hold the device with a much smaller chance of accidentally clicking Next before they want to.

Change #3: e-Ink
Version 1.0 had 4 shades of e-Ink available
New: 2.0 now rocks up to 16 distinct shades of grey. Sexy!
Value added? Yes. The texts will have more subtle shades going on, plus, until they support a full color Kindle (which I'm hoping fervently for, and without which, scientific texts become nearly impossible to support on this platform), the shades of grey will also help make images look nicer.

Change #4: Size and weight
1.0 was .7" thick and slightly heavier.
New: The 2.0 version, when seen side-by-side with 1.0, seems slightly longer in body, weighs on 10.2 ounces and is .36" thick
Value added? Yes. Anything that makes the device lighter and thinner is a great thing in my book

Change #5: Battery life
The old 1.0 had worse battery life compared to the new version. However, it had a removable battery, which allowed users to purchase a spare battery for particularly long trips
New: 2.0 should let users read for almost 2 weeks straight (assuming you disable the wireless) without requiring a recharge. 25% improvement on battery life from v 1.0, however, no replaceable battery.
Value added? Somewhat. 2 weeks of battery life without a recharge is pretty awesome, but in the unlikely chance that I'd be in the Amazon jungle for a month straight with no access to electricity, I suppose not being able to put in a fresh battery on the fly could be annoying. Also, I worry about the cost of replacing the battery as the unit ages, as batteries inevitably lose their ability to hold a full charge as time goes on.

Change #6: Memory
Version 1.0 had 180 MB of internal memory, but allowed users to expand by using SD memory cards.
New: The new version has 2 GB of internal memory, but they've done away with SD slot.
Value added? No. Almost NO ONE needs to be able to carry 1,500 books with them at all times, so the increased memory is irrelevant at this point. Even if there was such a user, the SD slot of the Kindle 1.0 would have accommodated their needs. In fact, the SD slot actually allows the 1.0 to potentially have more storage than the 2.0, as a 4 GB card isn't that expensive to add.

Change #7: *Beep beep ribby ribby*
The Kindle 1.0 just sat there, forcing you to actually, like, read and shit.
New: 2.0 now comes equipped with a text-to-speech function ("talk to me") that will read to you.
Value added? Emphatically no. The point of an e-reader is to allow ME to read the books I want. If I wanted to hear a book read to me, I'd go ahead purchase an audiobook narrated by a professional actor or author (already supported in version 1.0). I don't want a tin robot voice dictating to me.

Change #8: Improved navigation device
The original Kindle had a strange scroll wheel thingy
New: 2.0 sports a joystick type thing that allows the user to input up, down, left, right and click.
Value added? Yes. It is now easier to move around within a document. Users can more easily highlight text (and then use the spiffy new built-in dictionary to look up the meaning of the words they highlight)

Change #9: More HP under the hood
Pages turned slowly, device could feel sluggish.
New: Users lucky enough to get their hands on this little baby are excited about how much faster the response time is for the Kindle. Pages turn 20% faster now.
Value added? Yes. The more responsive a device feels, the better.

Is it time to buy? I'm going to direct you to this blogger's preview which has a great breakdown of why you may or may not want to get a Kindle 2.0. For me personally, the answer is still no. The high price point is frustrating, as is the fact that the pricing model for e-books only makes sense if you assume users were only buying hardcover novels at full price. I'm also apprehensive about committing to a device that won't let me just move PDFs over from my computer (you need to email them to your Kindle), and that won't support other e-book formats out there. Also, as I have said previously, the inability to transfer e-books to a friend or family member is a deal-breaker for me, as it takes away one of my favorite parts of reading - the ability to share a great book with others.

If you decide to take the plunge, go here to order Amazon's fancy new Kindle 2.0

If you require truly comprehensive coverage of all the Kindle 2.0 has to offer, go check out CNET's coverage or Engadget, both of whom got a hands on with the nifty little device. Then go here to read why the press is so eager for the Kindle to succeed.

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