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Amazon introduces Kindle 2 with text-to-speech feature

post #1 of 49
Thread Starter 
Amazon today revealed its Kindle 2 wireless reading device that will go on sale later this month with a thinner design, longer battery life, faster page turns, more storage, sharper images, and a new text-to-speech feature.

The new Kindle is virtually identical to the photos leaked last year and with features very similar to last week's predictions.

In a press event at New York's Morgan Library, Amazon founder and chief executive Jeff Bezos told attendees that Kindle e-books now make up 10 percent of the online retailer's unit sales, and he was quick to point out the new Kindle is thinner than the iPhone by 0.12 inches, or 25 percent.

"Kindle 2 is everything customers tell us they love about the original Kindle, only thinner, faster, crisper, with longer battery life, and capable of holding hundreds more books," he said. "If you want, Kindle 2 will even read to you -- something new we added that a book could never do. While we're excited about Kindle 2, we know that great hardware is useless without vast selection. That's why the Kindle Store offers customers over 230,000 books."

During the press event a slide outlined Amazon's vision to make "every book ever printed in any language all available in less than 60 seconds" with the Kindle.

Design

New buttons on the "pencil thin" Kindle 2 make it easier to turn pages with either hand. Usability and clumsy navigation was a major complaint about the original Kindle (review), and Amazon is addressing those concerns with its latest design.

A new "5-way controller" is intended for more precise note-taking and highlighting as well as faster jumps between articles and sections of newspapers. Unfortunately, the "official Amazon.com cover", with an integrated attachment hinge and leather cover, will be sold separately for $29.99. This is probably a concession to third-party suppliers, as Amazon also said that Kindle 2 covers will be sold by Patagonia, Cole Haan and Belkin.



New Features

Amazon calls "Text-to-Speech" an "experimental" feature that will convert text on the page to spoken words, and also save the spot on a page in case a reader wants to switch back and forth between reading and listening. Users can choose between male and female voices and specify the reading speed. Anything that appears on the device's screen, from newspapers to blogs to books, can be read aloud.

Meanwhile, Amazon's new "Whispersync" technology promises to sync Kindle 2 and the original Kindle automatically for easy transitions. Users can pick up a Kindle at home, read a chapter or two, then drive to work where they have a Kindle 2. Wherever you left off will be synced to the other device with no flipping forward and backward to find your place. Amazon says Whispersync will make it easier to transition to the new Kindle from the old model or to use both together. Eventually, support for "a range of mobile devices" will be provided, presumably smartphones, but no specifics are yet available.

The New Oxford American Dictionary is also built in with 250,000 word definitions that appear instantly at the bottom of the page.



Display, Battery Life, and Connectivity

Whereas the Kindle 1 offered only 4 shades of gray on the display, the Kindle 2 is capable of showing 16 shades on a six-inch, 600 x 800 electronic paper display. There is no backlight, helping provide 25 percent longer battery life. Amazon claims four to five days of reading on one charge with wireless turned on, two weeks with wireless off. The company also claims pages will turn 20 percent faster.

The national 3G delivery network called Whispernet remains unchanged in a continuing partnership with Sprint that keeps the service available for no extra charge to Kindle owners. Amazon says it has been expanded to cover all 50 states with no PC, Wi-Fi hot spot, or syncing necessary.

Storage

The Kindle 2, with its 2 GB of memory, can hold more than 1,500 books compared to the original's 200. Books bought before are backed up to an Amazon.com account, so customers can wirelessly re-download previously purchased titles as necessary.

Selection

The original Kindle launched with 90,000 available e-books, while Kindle 2 owners will have more than 230,000 from which to choose. New authors added include John Steinbeck, C.S. Lewis, Beverly Cleary, Martha Stewart, Terry Goodkind, and Spencer Johnson.

Author Stephen King has also written a plainly promotional novella, "Ur", whose protagonist "can't seem to get his ex-girlfriend's parting shot out of his head." The parting shot? "Why can't you just read off the computer like the rest of us?" The lovelorn college English instructor then places an order for a Kindle, and, we assume, lives happily ever after. Pre-orders will get the novella automatically downloaded to their device.

Amazon has also rolled out support for more magazines, newspapers, and blogs. Newspaper subscriptions range from $5.99 to $14.99 fees per month, magazines are priced at $1.25 to $3.49 per month. Wireless blog delivery starts at $0.99 for each per month with a free two-week trial.



Pricing and Availability

The Kindle 2 will sell for the same price its predecessor most recently went for, $359. (The original device launched at $399.) Customers still waiting on unfulfilled Kindle 1 orders will be automatically upgraded to Kindle 2, with the devices scheduled to begin shipping February 24. Current Kindle owners are also invited to pre-order before midnight tonight to receive priority.

For everyone else, it's available for pre-order today.
post #2 of 49
Me want.

Kinda pricey but, but looks better than version 1.
post #3 of 49


Actually, I do like the idea of an electronic book, I look forward to flexible displays and protected rain forests, the e-book may very well save us all.
post #4 of 49
I would absolutely buy one if it allowed for highlighting/annotating of text. That would be a true killer feature. Looks like we are going to have to wait for a Table device for those kind of features...
post #5 of 49
Looking at this and the Sony P series somehow convinces me Apple is working on something in the 7-8" space. I just wonder if it'll be a true tablet or something more like the Sony. I'll be shocked if something isn't announced by Christmas or at least heavily leaked.
Emailing video from iPhone to Apple TV , sort of..
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Emailing video from iPhone to Apple TV , sort of..
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post #6 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

Users can pick up a Kindle at home, read a chapter or two, then drive to work where they have a Kindle 2. Wherever you left off will be synced...

Does this fall into the 'solution in search of a problem' category?
Why would I buy an ultra-portable device, and need to have one at various locations?
post #7 of 49
I would love one, but they are not yet on sale outside the USA.

There is a big world out there!!!
post #8 of 49
Does it come in black?
post #9 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by DimMok View Post

Does it come in black?

I suppose you could always use your eyes to find out, or would that be to easy?
post #10 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by nace33 View Post

I would absolutely buy one if it allowed for highlighting/annotating of text. That would be a true killer feature. Looks like we are going to have to wait for a Table device for those kind of features...

The Kindle allows you to do that, that's why it has a keyboard of sorts on it.

Personally I think that $359 is a hell of a lot of money to pay for a device, especially when the eBooks on Amazon are often more costly than the paperback edition of the book. In addition you can't lend the books to someone else so easily! Never mind a book just has that feel to it.

I think they could have made it more oval to make it look smaller. 6" screen is probably too small even to match a paperback. Will wait for the next edition, which really needs to be $199. I can't believe that the hardware in this device is more than that in a mid-range phone to be honest, so Amazon are making out like thieves. I guess if there's a market at that price...
post #11 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by nace33 View Post

I would absolutely buy one if it allowed for highlighting/annotating of text. That would be a true killer feature. Looks like we are going to have to wait for a Table device for those kind of features...

I don't own one, but I believe the Kindle does allow highlighting and annotations. From the article: "A new "5-way controller" is intended for more precise note-taking and highlighting..." Amazon's website also mentions annotations, so it seems it you might want to hop over to Amazon.com and preorder one...
post #12 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by Hattig View Post

The Kindle allows you to do that, that's why it has a keyboard of sorts on it.

Personally I think that $359 is a hell of a lot of money to pay for a device, especially when the eBooks on Amazon are often more costly than the paperback edition of the book. In addition you can't lend the books to someone else so easily! Never mind a book just has that feel to it.

I think they could have made it more oval to make it look smaller. 6" screen is probably too small even to match a paperback. Will wait for the next edition, which really needs to be $199. I can't believe that the hardware in this device is more than that in a mid-range phone to be honest, so Amazon are making out like thieves. I guess if there's a market at that price...

The price also pays for a wireless connection, so it's just not hardware that is driving that price. I doubt Sprint is providing the network connection for free.
post #13 of 49
That is very nearly in Apple sexy league...
post #14 of 49
I really thought it would be touchscreen by now. Really love the concept, but periodicals are too expensive when most have a website that can be accessed for free. Hope it is very successful, but there are so many obvious (to me) areas for improvement, I think I'm going to hold off buying this version. Lot less cash to burn these days.
post #15 of 49
Text to speech is okay, but it's nowhere near as easy to listen to as a real person on an audiobook. Computer voices are just so machine-like. Nobody would want to listen to Auto from Wall-E drone on for an hour, and today's speech isn't that much better than MacInTalk was. Like I wrote in another thread, somebody should make an enhanced audiobook format that packages together an audio track, a text file and a timecode track that tells a device exactly when each word in the text file is spoken. It would combine the ease of listening of an audiobook combined with the random access and searchability of a text file.
post #16 of 49
Does it have cut and paste??
post #17 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by parky View Post

I suppose you could always use your eyes to find out, or would that be to easy?

I suppose you could be a JERK-OFF....

Pretty obvious you havent seen Batman....so keep your stupiid suggestions to yourself.
post #18 of 49
I think Amazon is doing a credible job of developing this into a workable device. (Earlier attempts by others have obviously failed, by virtue of never seeing them reach critical marketshare.) But this strikes me as similar to a stand-alone calculator, electronic dictionary, chess-player, and even a GPS device. In their day, they solve a new class of problems and utilize the best technology available. But eventually, a single general-purpose device of a similar form-factor will displace the single-purpose devices.

I'm guessing the Kindle has one more generation left before an ultraportable netbook/PDA with the same screen size (not a mobile phone) takes over this functionality as its own. There may still be a market for a separate ebook reader, but it will get marginalized as future technology takes over.

So the real issue to those who want to buy this is the long-term viability of Amazon's ebook DRM. I don't think Amazon is going anywhere, but what will their software department look like in 5-10 years?
post #19 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dlux View Post

So the real issue to those who want to buy this is the long-term viability of Amazon's ebook DRM. I don't think Amazon is going anywhere, but what will their software department look like in 5-10 years?

Aside from the fact that the e-books are more expensive, this is the big issue. I work with several 900+ page code and reference books that are painful to lug around. I have a print version at my desk, but for travel it is silly to push people into purchasing an additional copy.

We really need books to go into the public domain in less than 30 years for these things to make sense long term.
post #20 of 49
Snappy page turning- me likes!
post #21 of 49
Does Amazon allow Kindle users to sell electronic copies of books they have read to other kindle users? That is, is there a second-hand market for Kindle ebooks?
post #22 of 49
Looks a HELLUVA lot nicer than v1.

Quote:
Originally Posted by DimMok View Post

Does it come in black?

Any color you like http://www.humbrol.com/paints/all-paints/
post #23 of 49
Does it display pages in color for magazines- like Zinnio reader?
post #24 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by teckstud View Post

Does it display pages in color for magazines- like Zinnio reader?

No but the Zinio Reader is for computer only, they don't offer any handheld device.

There is no comparison between the two at all.
post #25 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by MacOldTimer View Post

No but the Zinio Reader is for computer only, they don't offer any handheld device.

There is no comparison between the two at all.

They both display text- no?
Would you think a color display would be a feature for a Kindle 3?
post #26 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by teckstud View Post

Would you think a color display would be a feature for a Kindle 3?

I'm surprised and a little disappointed it doesn't support color now.

Many textbooks have color illustrations and therfore the Kindle would not be usable for such textbooks.

When the kindle has a color display I suspect it will proliferate rapidly in the textbook market. Especially for college and post grad students.
post #27 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dlux View Post

I'm guessing the Kindle has one more generation left before an ultraportable netbook/PDA with the same screen size (not a mobile phone) takes over this functionality as its own. There may still be a market for a separate ebook reader, but it will get marginalized as future technology takes over.

So the real issue to those who want to buy this is the long-term viability of Amazon's ebook DRM. I don't think Amazon is going anywhere, but what will their software department look like in 5-10 years?

agreed, i think amazon has greatly improved the design from kindle 1, thumbs up. but the market in general still doesn't make sense to me, especially at that price. when netbooks are booming and are priced lower then this thing, i think problem. Amazon should look for ways to lower that price. and why are ebooks, publications more expensive the real thing?
For now the battery life and e-ink screen gives the kindle the win, but when we see dual screen mode netbooks with competive battery life, then whats the use for the kindle- and with rumors of amazon making their ebooks available to others.... I'm all for the one portable device to rule them all...
post #28 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by backtomac View Post

I'm surprised and a little disappointed it doesn't support color now.

Many textbooks have color illustrations and therfore the Kindle would not be usable for such textbooks.

When the kindle has a color display I suspect it will proliferate rapidly in the textbook market. Especially for college and post grad students.

Actually, you do understand that the Kindle and others like the Sony eReader do not use a typical LCD display, correct? What makes these devices easy on the eyes is the use of e-Ink technology that relies on passive/reflective light vs. laptop screens which must emit the light. That is, eReaders rely on you sitting somewhere that light shines on the surface and the light bounces off that surface into your eyes, compared to having a light shined into your eyes. So eReaders, unlike laptops, can easily be used in broad daylight. It's the closest you're likely to get to reading paper.

There's a decent explanation of this technology here:

http://www.eink.com/technology/howitworks.html

At this point, e-Ink does not allow for color. Sure, it would be awesome if it existed, but as that technology does not yet exist, the only way for an eReader to offer color would be to fall back to the same screen technology as laptops, and that simply doesn't compare for reading purposes.

If you've never physically seen an eReader, you can find them at places like Target, etc. Well worth a look to understand how their screens differ from other devices like laptops, iPhones, etc.
post #29 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by DimMok View Post

Does it come in black?

Yes. Just for $100 more like the old macbooks.
post #30 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by fseesink View Post

At this point, e-Ink does not allow for color. Sure, it would be awesome if it existed, but as that technology does not yet exist, the only way for an eReader to offer color would be to fall back to the same screen technology as laptops, and that simply doesn't compare for reading purposes.

Great summary. I have the Kindle now and enjoy it, but still see some weak spots. I've already ordered the Kindle 2. Kindle 1 is nice, but I live off of my macbook air and dabble occasionally with the Kindle.

Color e-ink is under development but could be 2-3 years away. Faster refresh is also important as this limits its usefulness for taking notes (there is a lag between typing and response of the key on the screen).

Once they get a good refresh rate, it also makes touch screen easier, which in turn shrinks the size as you can kill the keyboard or gives you space for a bigger screen (my preference).

Amazon/Kindle is reportedly looking at a textbook version later this year with a bigger screen. That WILL revolutionize the textbook business as you can carry all your textbooks on this easily. It really does hold hundreds of books - and the option to download an entire book in 30 seconds really helps when you are stuck in an airport.

I find the screen is still too small (too little text at larger font settings). I use a 13inch MBA. If you don't mind using an Asus, then the current one is good for you.

Unlimited free internet via Sprint is great via its simple browser and before I went iphone, this saved me a lot of money (only works in U.S. though).

E-ink in general is great as it uses almost no power and so these things last forever.

Also, you can email .pdf articles to read at leisure, which is also handy if you ordinarily have to travel with a lot of work documents. (I also downloaded a lot of old free books - Sherlock Holmes, history stuff - from the free ebook sights out there.)

Curious to see what kind of note taking features you have on the new one to see if it will work for meetings...

Only downside to me is the inability to share the book with someone else when you are done or copy a page or two you wanted to share.
post #31 of 49
There is an inherent problem with a device thickness concerning Volume and the surface area of the largest dimension variables.

Brittle is the first thought that comes to mind. The larger the top view the faster it reaches a limitation of stress/strain and failure.
post #32 of 49
A long time ago, an article (in another printed publication) provided a more realistic perspective or explanation as to why the goal of a "paperless society" remains a dream rather than reality, in spite of all the advances and variations of electronic and recorded literature and images.

Incompatibility and Obsolescence

If you have been a user of technology for several years (or even just the past few years), you will realize how fast technologies evolve. In terms of disk storage in computers alone, floppy disked 7"(?) were replaced by the more portable 3.5"(?), later on to higher density disks, like those of Iomega, or alternative technologies, like write only or read-read CDs, to portable (even pocket size) external disk drives (now up to TB storage).

Each of these devices come with their own "reader" devices. and softwares, as well as connectors and sometimes requisite Operating Systems compatibility as you upgrade your computer or your latest OS. Even within the same company for example, the next more advanced product could be rendered incompatible and thereby obsolete either by any of the aforementioned peripherals, softwares, OS required to decipher the stored material.

The physical (and biochemical) composition and structure of the storage devices also contribute to a defined lifetime.

Moreover, the accelerated pace of advancement in technology does not always lend itself to standardization creating a tower of Babel of competing technologies.

At best therefore, devices like the Kindle, or iPhone, or iPods, as well as other related storage devices for electronic litersture and images must be appreciated mainly for their portability and the ability to store vast amount of literature and images, in a very compact device convenient enough to place in your pocket or bag.

Whether they will serve us a few years from now is another story.
post #33 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by counterpart9 View Post

agreed, i think amazon has greatly improved the design from kindle 1, thumbs up. but the market in general still doesn't make sense to me, especially at that price. when netbooks are booming and are priced lower then this thing, i think problem. Amazon should look for ways to lower that price. and why are ebooks, publications more expensive the real thing?
For now the battery life and e-ink screen gives the kindle the win, but when we see dual screen mode netbooks with competive battery life, then whats the use for the kindle- and with rumors of amazon making their ebooks available to others.... I'm all for the one portable device to rule them all...

"when we see dual screen mode netbooks with competive battery life, then whats the use for the kindle"

Those netbooks don't exist right now. What is the point of criticizing a product that CURRENTLY has no competition? What may come in the future is irrelevant now. That's like people who keep putting off upgrading their Mac because there are constantly rumors about something new. At some point, you just have to make your move. This is a niche market that clearly has momentum, otherwise Amazon wouldn't have bothered with a Kindle 2. It's an iPod for books. People WIDELY poo-pooed the iPod when it came out - and it was coming into an already established market. This is a good product for people who want an ebook reader NOW, not sometime in the future. Of course, there will be better products down the road, but right now, this is the best product. If it doesn't provide a compelling feature for you to buy, that's fine. It doesn't make it a bad or lacking product for others.
post #34 of 49
Agreed. Sometimes, you just need to stop and live in the present instead of making something obsolete by a another product that doesn't even exist yet.
post #35 of 49
Expanding on my earlier post, I think the future of ebooks will lie in the content licensing, not the dedicated hardware. I suspect that Amazon sells these things at a loss (given the R&D costs) and makes it up in ebook sales. So at some point, having proven the concept, they may solicit other platform manufacturers to adopt the idea so they can get out of the hardware business. (It's a bit similar to Netflix licensing their streaming content to Roku and others.)

The logical platform will be any and all tablet makers, as well as efficient 'netbook'-grade vendors. Of course there would be no reason you couldn't also access the same content on a full-fledged notebook or desktop computer, assuming the DRM is flexible enough to support multiple machines per account.

For some people the Kindle makes sense now, and there is no reason to wait. Personally, I don't have a significant enough need for one, and I'm just too leery of having my personal library be at the mercy of Amazon's DRM policy.
post #36 of 49
Text to Speech Feature

I like this feature of kindle. I wonder if there is alteady a similar Apple Apps developed for the iPhone or iPod Touch? Such an application would address the "small screen" of the aforementioned devices, as well as extend their use to other segments of the population such as the blind as well as those with sight impairment (for example, as a result of aging).

It is true that the "electronic voice" currently available is rudimentary but there are ongoing improvements here also. Perhaps the day will come when there will be "electronic voice" good enough to speak proper American or UK English, or even its variations from all over the world.

An Apple Response to Kindle

A single purpose electronic device however is too overpriced, at $359 or even as low as $200 considering that multipurpose devices like iPod Touch are already available.

My fondest hope is that Apple would develop a variation of the device that would be more like a Jumbo iPod touch around (5-6") x (6-8") -- that would include as one of its features, as an electronic reader..

At the same time, there is no reason why it cannot serve also as a music player and all the features of the iPod Touch, and more as developed by third party developers through the Apple Apps, e.g., artist electronic template. In fact, with the advances in internet telephony, there is no reason why it cannot serve as a telephone device too, perhaps with a remote ear and mouth piece -- to distinguish this a more practical use of this device, as a telephone communication system in contrast to that of the iPhone, or what is possible with that of the iPod Touch. This is not meant for this device though to be a replacement of the iPhone; instead it may have applications beyond the phone as we use it today.

Having stated the aforementioned possible features, such a device must not be meant as a substitute for the iPhone or the iPod Touch but rather address functions that cannot be done as effectively or conveniently by the latter devices.

Some possible applications for example would be as an "all-in-one electronic assistant" for delivery and inventory personnel; for medical personnel or information rich services -- so that the device could record or retrieve information, or have at hand portable "references" in case internet connection is not possible.

Also, it can be the all in one device for the techno-student of the future. No more buying of costly printed books, but instead rented *at a fraction of a price", that can be electronically updated or hyperlinked to other internet resources -- something that cannot be done with current reference books. In fact, with the competition created by the Apple Apps, it may be even possible to make avaiable to students (or other professions), choices of lower-cost and competing reference books from competing sources or even the use of "non-copyrighted" or open-source or freely available materials (e.g., from Apple University or other open sources).

Unlike the iPhone and iPod Touch, my preference also would be a full OS for these portable electronic devices -- enough to serve as subcompact computers. This will allow more flexible future expansion as to its future applications -- e.g., more sophisticated gaming devices, virtual stand alone reference libraries, artist electronic template, etc.

Unlike the predictions by many prognosticators, it is best when Apple launches such a device when there is more improvement in the economy, e.g., 2010 or later. Moreover, by then, not only would the compactness and memory sizes of storage devices improve, there will be more efficient battery technologies, or even perhaps solar powered computing devices. There are expected to be improvements also in computing technology (including those developed in-house by Apple through PA Semi) and operating systems, including a more stable Snow Leopard and perhaps its equivalent for portable devices.
post #37 of 49
The Kindle looks like such a great device and if I read a lot of books I would get one. Here is hoping that Apple makes their own version, which would basically be a larger ipod touch.
post #38 of 49
If the performance of its predecessor is any indication, this will do very well. The Kindle was waitlisted on Amazon this past Christmas
post #39 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by fseesink View Post

Actually, you do understand that the Kindle and others like the Sony eReader do not use a typical LCD display, correct? What makes these devices easy on the eyes is the use of e-Ink technology that relies on passive/reflective light vs. laptop screens which must emit the light. That is, eReaders rely on you sitting somewhere that light shines on the surface and the light bounces off that surface into your eyes, compared to having a light shined into your eyes. So eReaders, unlike laptops, can easily be used in broad daylight. It's the closest you're likely to get to reading paper.

There's a decent explanation of this technology here:

http://www.eink.com/technology/howitworks.html

At this point, e-Ink does not allow for color. Sure, it would be awesome if it existed, but as that technology does not yet exist, the only way for an eReader to offer color would be to fall back to the same screen technology as laptops, and that simply doesn't compare for reading purposes.

If you've never physically seen an eReader, you can find them at places like Target, etc. Well worth a look to understand how their screens differ from other devices like laptops, iPhones, etc.

I don't know the e ink technology as well as you do. Nice linkage.

Still until the Kindle can display color illustrations it'll be locked out of the textbook market. And that's where it makes the most sense IMO.
post #40 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by Obi-Wan Kubrick View Post

The Kindle looks like such a great device and if I read a lot of books I would get one. Here is hoping that Apple makes their own version, which would basically be a larger ipod touch.

The key distinguishing feature of the kindle is e-ink. Despite the fact that most of us spend hours in front of a computer screen, the problem of eyestrain and readability is a real one. With a Kindle, you can truly read for hours and hours.

So I'd love an Apple book reader, but e-ink is a totally different world with lots of different issues.
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