Kindle 2 Announced – Tempted?

Amazon announced the Kindle 2 a couple of weeks ago and a few people have asked me if I'm tempted to upgrade my Kindle to the newer version. Short answer: not really. The rest of this post is the longer answer.

I got my Kindle last April and it's been my constant companion since. It goes everywhere I go. It charges on my nightstand (though it only needs it once a week) and is in my bag when I leave the house each day. It goes to every appointment and travels anywhere I do.

There are a number of things I love about the Kindle:

  • It's small and lightweight. Fits easily in a bag and the weight is negligible.
  • It's got an amazing screen. I can (and have) read on this screen for hours without any eye fatigue. It looks like black text on light gray paper - not like a screen at all.
  • It's convenient. I can have a new book, paper, or magazine on it in seconds.
  • It enables me to read more. It lets me carry a number of different books in a single, small form factor.
  • It's expandable. I could add 2GB of space to it via an SD card, which cost something like $.14. And given that any Amazon purchases can be deleted from the device and re-downloaded later, space isn't much of an issue.

Then there are some minor quibbles:

  • The buttons for turning the page are too big and easy to hit accidentally.
  • While the marketing materials tell you that it's got a web browser and an MP3 player, don't kid yourself. This thing is an amazing e-book reader, but a portable wireless device or MP3 player it ain't. The browser in it is rudimentary and not up to the task for anything other than very simple pages, and the MP3 player doesn't provide any controls - seriously, it can play/pause tracks in random order and that's about it.
  • The relationship between my Amazon.com wishlist(s) and the Kindle's "Save for Later" list is non-existent. I can't add to the "Save for Later" list via the web, nor can I add a book to my wishlist via the Kindle.
  • Technical content is best avoided. Between issues with monospace fonts and the disparity in pricing, it's just not worth the hassle. For example. at this time, "Essential WPF" by Chris Anderson (Addison-Wesley) is available in physical form for $31.49 and in the electronic Kindle edition for $28.34. With a savings of just $3.15, no monospace font support, and the inability to share among friends/colleagues, why bother? Compare that to the NY Times Bestseller from James Patterson, "Run For Your Life" - it's $16.79 in physical form and $9.99 in e-book form.

Based on the Kindle 2 product page, it looks like the only one of these that's been addressed is the button issue. The new model (shown above) does have smaller navigation buttons and it looks like holding it without pushing a button will be easier.

Then there's the major drawback. just one really: I can't share my Kindle content. More on this in another post, but this isn't addressed in the new version either.

So does the new version have any features that interest me? Just one: Text-to-speech. Apparently, it can read your book aloud to you using either built-in speakers (which are new to this model) or the headphone jack. This feature is compelling because there are times that I'm in the middle of a really good book and don't want to put it down - but life calls and I have to head to the office, an appointment, or somewhere else. At times, it'd be pretty slick to have the option of plugging the Kindle into the car's AUX jack and letting the story continue.

But are better-designed buttons and the text-to-speech feature enough to warrant an upgrade? Not to me. Maybe there is some class of Kindle user out there that REALLY can't stand the buttons or REALLY wants text-to-speech. But that seems like a pretty small niche, so I find it hard to believe that a large percentage of current Kindle owners will be scrambling to upgrade. The new version isn't yet shipping. so I guess time will tell.