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2/9/2009
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Amazon Kindle 2 Debuts To Mixed Reviews

The new version is a third of an inch thick and weighs about 10 ounces, gets more battery life, and has an improved display.


Amazon's Kindle 2

Amazon's Kindle 2
(click for larger image)

Amazon.com on Monday released a new version of its Kindle electronic-book reader, but the slimmer and lighter upgrade of the original is drawing criticism from some Kindle users.

Rather than make any dramatic changes, Amazon has tweaked the original book-sized Kindle. The new version is a third of an inch thick, weighs about 10 ounces, gets more battery life, and has an improved display. In addition, Amazon has added more storage and has made the device faster. The price, however, remains the same: $359.

"Plain and simple, waaayyyy too much money for a book reader," one person wrote on Amazon's customer discussion group. "I could buy a mountain of paperbacks for the price of this thing. Just like the first Kindle, I'll pass."

People who bought the first Kindle agreed that the device was pricey, but among their major complaints of the new version was the lack of a content management system that would allow them to put files in folders to better organize their books, magazine and newspaper articles, and other content.

"If it [Kindle 2] had that I would have considered it," a Kindle 1 owner said. "As it stands now, it seems like a minor upgrade."

Other complaints included no external storage card that ships with the device, no free cover, and no discount for Kindle 1 users who upgrade. In addition, customers were disappointed that Amazon didn't make design changes to make use of the navigation buttons easier and increase the size of the screen, which remains 6 inches diagonally.

Nevertheless, the convenience of an e-book reader overrode the shortcomings for some users. "Even though the design is poor, having one is still way better than traveling with real books," a customer wrote.

Amazon chief executive Jeff Bezos unveiled the latest Kindle at a news conference at a New York library. While Amazon has never said how many of the e-book readers it has sold since its release in November 2007, the company has said that the Kindle represents 10% of the sales of the 230,000 books available in electronic format and in physical form.

Most of those sales, however, have been to professionals who travel a lot and appreciate the alternative to carrying several paperbacks, newspapers, and magazines. This has been, and remains, Amazon's target audience.

"It [Kindle 2] is an iterative improvement, but it doesn't change the fundamental value proposition," said Van Baker, an analyst for Gartner.

But for Amazon, that's OK, because there are enough traveling professionals to build a decent business. Analysts estimate Amazon has sold a few hundred thousand Kindles to a market comprising 12 million to 15 million potential buyers.

"It's a good business for Amazon," Baker said.

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