E-tailer Amazon has released an updated version of its eBook reader, called the Kindle 2, for a rather expensive $359; a price justified, apparently, by a number of upgrades and an exclusive novella from thriller demigod, Stephen King.
The device is expected to be launched on the 24th of February and just as with the iPhone, owners of Kindle Mk1 will be given priority if they want to upgrade. The new Kindle is half the thickness of the original one (12.7mm) and boost an all-metal enclosure, which makes the Kindle only slightly lighter than the original version.
The new Kindle has a 6-inch 800x600 pixel screen capable of displaying 16 colours. It also features 2GB memory, capable of storing 1500 eBooks (from a stock of 230,000 titles) compared to the previous version which could store only 200 books.
Battery life has been substantially improved, gaining 25 percent, meaning that the Kindle 2 can go up to 5 days with WiFi enabled (or 14 days without). A welcomed addition is a pair of speakers that enable users to read the books aloud through an integrated text to speed engine.
The Kindle 2 still comes with a proper keyboard, can get email and offers free WIkipedia access via a Sprint 3G EVDO wireless connection. Plus you can always read Word and PDF documents (ed: what about Excel?). Most books cost under $10, with short stories starting at under $2.
The New York Times is also reporting that the Kindle won't be the only device used for delivery proprietary Amazon eBook and quoted Amazon Spokesperson Drew Herdener saying "We are excited to make Kindle books available on a range of mobile phones. We are working on that now".
Chief executive and Amazon founder, Jeff Bezos, reckons that Kindle version of paper books account for 10 percent of Amazon sales and outlined his vision as "every book, ever printed in any language, all available in less than 60 seconds."
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Amazon has yet to say when the Kindle will be released outside the US, which is really a shame. It is also a great sign that Amazon seems to be willing to expand the eBook platform, probably under pressure from Google's recent launch of the mobile book search feature (which offers 1.5 million public domain books).