Technology

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Mark Lennihan/AP
Jeff Bezos, chairman and CEO of Amazon.com, unveils the Kindle 2.0 electronic reader.

Amazon to Unveil Kindle 2.0

February 09, 2009 12:58 PM
by Isabel Cowles
Amazon plans to release a new version of the Kindle this month, though industry insiders note that not much has changed.

The Next Digital Reader

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Amazon.com, maker of the digital reader Kindle, is set to hold a press conference today to discuss its upcoming Kindle 2.0, which the company plans to release on Feb. 24.

Like the original e-reader, Kindle 2.0 will allow users to download magazine and newspaper articles and offer access to a library of 225,000 downloadable books.

No official photos or reports of the device are yet available through Amazon, though leaked information offers glimpses at the updated reader, which has a sleeker design than the original, despite its comparably large size.

The Kindle 2.0 is expected to cost $359, exactly the same price as the original model. According to a report by Dvice, the new keyboard has been redesigned—a traditional layout replacing the original split-keyboard complete with smaller buttons. The Kindle 2.0 will have a joystick instead of a scroll wheel to help prevent users from inadvertently turning the digital pages. In addition, Kindle 2.0 will have speakers for sound and slightly rounder edges, reminiscent of the iPod design.

Background: The digital reader market

Despite Kindle’s reportedly strong sales, other digital readers may pose tough competition: in September, Plastic Logic demonstrated a digital reader that was longer, wider, thinner and more durable than the Kindle, weighing less than one pound. Its large screen is meant to appeal to businesspeople who read newspapers and financial publications.

The Plastic Logic reader will hit the market in the second half of 2009 and supports a variety of business document formats including Microsoft Word, Excel and Powerpoint, and Adobe PDFs, as well as newspapers, periodicals and books, according to the company Web site.

In October, Sony announced plans to release a new digital reader, the PRS-700, complete with new features including a reading light and touch panel. Thus far, the Sony Reader has proved to be Kindle’s primary competitor.

Rumors have also circulated that Amazon plans to release a Kindle geared towards students. The education-based Kindle would have a larger screen, allowing students to comfortably read academic works and textbooks online.

Michael Arrington at TechCrunch wrote that although many textbooks are published electronically, right now there’s no good device on which to read them. “A new large screen Kindle would solve those problems,” Arrington wrote. “The battery life is much longer than most electronic devices, and carrying a large Kindle is still a lot better than carrying ten heavy textbooks.”

Opinion & Analysis: Kindle potential

This August, tech blogger Peter Burrows analyzed some of Amazon’s proposed innovations within the context of Kindle’s long-term potential. According to Burrows, “[T]he Kindle revolution feels awfully evolutionary…if it exists at all. I don’t see Kindles around in the real world, and I’ve never heard anyone express the desire to own one (that includes people who have tried loaners).”

Although Burrows offers some insight into what could make the Kindle a more popular item, he ultimately predicts a bleak future for the e-reader, anticipating instead that digital reader technology may be built into other existing products, like the multi-touch Apple iPhone.
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