As expected, Amazon unveiled a new version of its Kindle electronic book reader on Monday, with a host of new features and 3G wireless capability to make it easier for people to download and read books and other documents on the new device.
Amazon.com founder, xhairman and CEO Jeff Bezos unveiled Kindle 2 at a press conference at The Morgan Library & Museum in Manhattan. He demonstrated key new features of the slimmed-down device that he said make it more user-friendly so people can more closely emulate the feeling of reading an actual paper book when using Kindle.
Amazon also enlisted horror writer Stephen King to appear at the launch and write a novella that features a Kindle with supernatural powers to be distributed exclusively via the device. That novella, called Ur, is now available, and King read an excerpt from it at the event.
Bezos said that Amazon knew when it was designing the first Kindle that the only way an e-book reader would appeal to people who love books is if it was designed to let readers "disappear so you can enter the author's world."
To facilitate this in Kindle 2, Amazon has recessed the buttons of the new Kindle into the device to make them less obtrusive. Users also can switch Kindle 2 more easily from one hand to the other than they could its predecessor, he said. The Kindle 2 is also slimmer and lighter.
Kindle 2 is equipped with 3G, which makes downloading books and documents faster than on Kindle 1, Bezos said. It has 2GB of memory, which allows it to store more than 1,500 books; the original Kindle could store only 200. The battery of the life also is 25 percent longer than the previous version.
Like its predecessor, Kindle 2 has a 6-inch, 600-x-800 electronic paper display, but it now provides 16 shades of gray versus the four shades available in the original version of the device.
New enhanced features that go beyond what actual books can do are a five-way navigation device for, among other things, finding text and shuffling through pages, and a text-to-speech feature that allows the device to read aloud to users. Bezos demonstrated the latter during the press conference with U.S. President Abraham Lincoln's famous "Gettysburg Address."
Another new feature Bezos introduced, called 'Whispersync' to help users sync content from Kindle 1 to Kindle 2, Bezos said. The feature will save a user's place in a book or a document automatically so they can resume reading where they left off after syncing with the new device.