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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 has said that the Kindle is among the biggest sellers within its consumer electronics offerings. The success of the device has brought attention to the e-book market, which until the Kindle has attracted few customers.

Bezos demonstrated the device's growing clout by announcing that author Stephen King's new novella, "Ur," would be available exclusively on the Kindle. King appeared at the news conference.

Nevertheless, for e-book readers to appeal to the general consumer, a less expensive device will have to be tied to specific content. "Buying a piece of hardware without any content is the equivalent of a boat anchor," Baker said.

If newspaper, magazine, and book publishers, for example, got together and subsidized a low-cost e-reader, or even gave one away, with a multiyear subscription, that might attract a broader market, Baker said.

The publishing industry, however, is still reeling from the loss in advertising revenue brought on by the Internet, so launching such an expensive campaign may not be practical yet. Plus, a whole distribution system would have to be set up to get content to subscribers.

"Those kind of things could emerge in the future, but they're not here now," Baker said.

A feature added to the Kindle 2 that holds potential for expanding the Kindle's usage model is called Whispersync. Right now, the technology is being used to synchronize with a Kindle 1 device. If that capability is extended to non-Kindle devices, then that could be interesting. "[But] until we see what those devices are, it's hard to react to that," Baker said.

Other added features that Amazon called "experimental" includes text-to-speech technology in which the Kindle reads back content to the user. Other such features include the ability to e-mail PDF documents wirelessly to a Kindle and the ability to transfer MP3 music files via a USB port connected to a computer so they can be played as background music while a person reads.

The Kindle's main rival is the Sony Reader, which starts at $300. A major difference between the products is the Kindle's wireless capabilities. People can buy books and other content directly from Amazon through a cellular network connection that's always available at no charge.

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