Peter Kafka

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Amazon Unveils Kindle 2–New Look, Same Price

Live from the Morgan Library in New York, Amazon unveils the second version of its much-hyped e-book. I’ll be updating live–as long as the Wi-Fi or Sprint’s mobile broadband cooperates.

Packed house. And… here’s not Jeff Bezos, but an Amazon (AMZN) PR guy. And here comes Jeff now.

Preamble about long-form reading losing ground to short-form reading.

“The book hasn’t changed much in 500 years.” Very similar to Kindle intro in November 2007. Singing the praises of books.

“We’ve been selling e-books for years. And guess what? It didn’t work. Until 14 months ago.” Bezos provides an eye-popping chart, but no new sales data.

He pats himself on the back for Kindle 1.0 and for the fact that there are 230,000 Kindle titles available. “Not all Kindle customers are tech-savvy early adopters.”

Repeating previous lines about making the Kindle “disappear” while you use it. Basically, if you’ve seen Bezos’s previous talk about Kindle 1.0, you’ve seen the first part of this chat.

“That was 14 months ago. So what’s next?”

Kindle 2. Yup, the leaked photos are the real deal. It looks like an Apple (AAPL) device, in a good way. See more here. Here’s the press release. Full text at the bottom of this post. Cut to the chase: You can preorder now at same price as Kindle 1.0: $359.

Investors don’t love it– stock is down a few cents. Maybe they wanted a cheaper device?

Super-thin: 0.36 inches–thinner than an iPhone. New, not-so-bad controllers. Better battery life: Can read for two weeks on a single charge. Seven times more storage. Can hold 1,500 books in 10.2 ounces.

Automatic sync–can sync content between Kindle 1.0, Kindle 2 and “in the future, other mobile devices.” (That last part is interesting…).

Showing off new “five-way” navigation tool (basically, akin to a laptop trackball. Anything will be better than the old “two-way” navigation, which was very clumsy.) Now demoing cool word look-up feature with Cormac McCarthy’s brutal “The Road” (don’t read it unless you want to be a in a very foul mood).

Next, a video showing Kindle customers praising the device. Missed it. Bezos: Vision is every book ever printed available within 60 seconds. “Working on it.”

Here’s Stephen King: “I’m the entertainment.” Why he likes the Kindle: Can read on the treadmill, etc. Explaining the story of how he wrote “Ur,” the story that he’s going to make available on the Kindle and which features the Kindle. He wrote it very, very quickly. Stephen King could be a blogger. Now he’s reading. Either doesn’t now how to pronounce “Nintendo” and “Avril Lavigne” or mispronouncing for comic effect. Time to read the press release more closely.

Back to Bezos. Adding newspapers: You can pay to have USA Today delivered to the device. Same with The New Yorker. Not mentioned so far: Web browser. Wonder if they’ve gotten rid of it. Kindle 1.0 owners who want to buy the new model don’t get a discount–but they can get theirs before the rest of us. Now Jeff’s done. And I’m going upstairs to fondle the gadget myself.

Full press release text:


Kindle’s revolutionary wireless delivery and massive selection of content–now in a new slimmer design with longer battery life, faster page turns, over 7x more storage, crisper images and new read-to-me feature

SEATTLE—February 9, 2009—, Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN) 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. Kindle 2 is available for pre-order starting today for $359 at and will ship February 24.

“Kindle 2 is everything customers tell us they love about the original Kindle, only thinner, faster, crisper, with longer battery life, and capable of holding hundreds more books.  If you want, Kindle 2 will even read to you–something new we added that a book could never do,” said Jeff Bezos, Founder and CEO.  “While we’re excited about Kindle 2, we know that great hardware is useless without vast selection.  That’s why the Kindle Store offers customers over 230,000 books.”

New Slim and Sleek Design
The new Kindle 2 features a completely new design.  At just over a third of an inch thin (0.36 inches) and weighing just over 10 ounces, Kindle 2 is pencil thin and lighter than a typical paperback.  New buttons make it easy to turn the page from any holding position.  The new 5-way controller on Kindle 2 allows for more precise note-taking and highlighting both up and down and side to side in lines of text.  The new controller also makes it easy to quickly jump between articles and sections of newspapers.  Kindle 2 comes with a redesigned power charger that is more portable than the previous Kindle charger.  The official cover for Kindle 2, which is sold separately, has an integrated attachment hinge to ensure a secure fit and features a leather cover for style and durability.  Patagonia, Cole Haan and Belkin also designed covers for Kindle 2 that are available in the Kindle Store.

New Crisper, Faster Display
Kindle 2’s 6-inch, 600 x 800 electronic paper display provides 16 shades of gray versus 4 shades available in the original Kindle, resulting in crisp text, and sharper images and photos.  Kindle reads like printed words on paper because the screen works using real ink and doesn’t use a backlight, eliminating the eyestrain and glare associated with other electronic displays.  With the latest electronic paper display, pages turn an average of 20 percent faster than the original Kindle for an even smoother reading experience.

New 2 GB Memory Holds Over 1,500 Books
With 2 GB of memory, Kindle 2 can hold more than 1,500 books, compared with 200 with the original Kindle.  And because Amazon automatically backs up a copy of every Kindle book purchased, customers can wirelessly re-download titles in their library at any time.

25 Percent Longer Battery Life
Kindle 2 customers can read for four to five days on one charge with wireless on and for over two weeks with wireless turned off.

New Instant Dictionary Lookup
Kindle 2 comes with the New Oxford American Dictionary and its 250,000 word definitions built-in, and with Kindle 2 definitions appear instantly at the bottom of the page.

New Experimental Read-To-Me Feature
Kindle 2 offers the experimental read-to-me feature “Text-to-Speech” that converts words on a page to spoken word so customers have the option to read or listen. Customers can switch back and forth between reading and listening, and their spot is automatically saved.  Pages turn automatically while the content is being read so customers can listen hands-free.  Customers can choose to be read to by male or female voices and can choose the speed to suit their listening preference.  Using the read-to-me feature, anything you can read on Kindle, including books, newspapers, magazines, blogs, and personal documents, Kindle 2 can read to you.

Still Wireless, Still No PC, Still No Hunting for Wi-Fi Hot Spots
Kindle 2 uses the same wireless delivery system as the original Kindle–Amazon Whispernet.  Customers can wirelessly shop the Kindle Store, download or receive new content in less than 60 seconds, and read from their library–all without a PC, Wi-Fi hot spot, or syncing.  Whispernet utilizes Amazon’s optimized technology plus Sprint’s national 3G data network and is expanded to cover all 50 U.S. states.  Amazon still pays for the wireless connectivity on Kindle 2 so books can be downloaded in less than 60 seconds—with no monthly wireless bills, data plans, or service commitments.

Automatically Syncs With Original Kindle, Kindle 2, and future devices
Amazon’s new “Whispersync” technology automatically syncs Kindle 2 and the original Kindle, which makes transitioning to the new Kindle 2 or using both devices easy for customers.  Kindle 2 will also sync with a range of mobile devices in the future.

Earth’s Biggest E-book Store Keeps Expanding, Plus New Stephen King Exclusive
The Kindle Store currently offers more than 230,000 books–up from 90,000 when Kindle launched.  Books from numerous popular authors have been added since the original Kindle launched, including John Steinbeck, C.S. Lewis, Beverly Cleary, Martha Stewart, Terry Goodkind, and Spencer Johnson.

Author Stephen King announced today that he is releasing a novella, “Ur,” which will only be available 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. Ur is available for pre-order beginning today and will be released later this month.  For Kindle customers who pre-order, King’s new novella will download automatically when it becomes available.

The Kindle Store now includes many additional magazines and newspapers, such as The New Yorker, which is available for the first time on Kindle starting today. Magazines and newspaper subscriptions are auto-delivered wirelessly to Kindle overnight so that the latest edition is waiting for customers when they wake up.  Monthly Kindle newspaper subscriptions are $5.99 to $14.99 per month, and Kindle magazines are $1.25 to $3.49 per month.

Over 1,200 blogs are available on Kindle today–up from 250 when Kindle launched. New blogs added to the Kindle Store recently include the Wired blogs, VF Daily and James Wolcott’s Blog from Vanity Fair.  Blogs are updated and downloaded wirelessly throughout the day so Kindle customers can read blogs whenever and wherever they want. Wireless delivery of blogs costs as little as $0.99 each per month and includes a free two-week trial.

Same Popular Kindle Features
Kindle 2 includes all the features Kindle customers enjoy every day, including:

  • Choose from six text sizes
  • Add bookmarks, notes, and highlights
  • Read personal documents such as Microsoft Word and PDF, and view images, all delivered wirelessly
  • Search Web,, Kindle Store, and Your Kindle Library where customers’ purchased content is stored
  • No setup required–Kindle comes ready to use–no software to load or set up
  • Kindle is available for pre-order starting today for $359 at  and will ship on February 24.  Customers who are currently in line for the original Kindle will receive an automatic upgrade to the new Kindle 2.