The Kindle 2 is closer to becoming the iPod of reading, but there’s still plenty of room for improvement. The latest rendition of Amazon.com’s electronic reader is faster and easier to use than the original, but I’ll wait a while before buying one.
The device can hold up to 1,500 electronic books and still sells for $359 at Amazon.com. The case is no longer included. That will set you back another $30.
The biggest upgrade is in the hardware. The original Kindle was very awkward to use, especially when passing the device to another person. It was almost guaranteed that the page on the screen would be accidentally turned to the next page because the controls were too large and too sensitive.
The navigation on Kindle 2 is much simpler. The funky scroll wheel that moved the cursor through a page of text has been replaced with a 1/8-inch square joystick nestled between the “menu” and “back” buttons. These are near the device’s lower-right edge, which seems to favor righties over lefties. Also on the right edge are “home” and “next page” buttons that are large enough to allow comfortable use.
The left edge of the 8 inch-by-51/4 inch e-reader has only “next” and “previous” page turners. The lower portion of the Kindle 2 face has a full QWERTY keypad designed for thumb typing. My hands are large enough to use the keypad with ease, but smaller hands may have trouble.
The keyboard doesn’t get used much normally, but does get a workout when searching the Amazon store or content on the device. The 6-inch diagonal screen displays 16 shades of gray, which is an improvement over the original.
There’s no color screen yet, as the device uses e-ink instead of a backlit display like those on computer monitors or mobile phone screens. The e-ink display is easy to read, but you need to read in a well-lit room or outside in daylight.
The device also has text-to-speech capabilities and an MP3 player. Users can upload content, including music and documents via a universal serial bus connection.
The Amazon store has more than 240,000 titles available for purchase, with most selling for $9.99. Once the device is registered and an account created, shopping for books is a snap. Most titles offer a free sample chapter, then buying and downloading the full book takes less than a minute in most cases via Wi-Fi or 3G connection. There is no extra fee for connectivity.
Users can buy subscriptions to any of 31 newspapers, 24 magazines or more than 1,300 blogs. Users can also get free books through several sources, including Project Gutenberg (www.gutenberg.org) and Free Kindle Books (www.freekindlebooks.org).
I’m pretty sure devices like the Kindle 2 will take off when color e-ink and video is added and the price falls below $200.
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