Amazon launches Kindle 2, looks better, more storage, text-to-speech – and still US-only

Jeff Bezos and the Amazon team continue their ebook crusade with the launch in New York today of the second generation Kindle ebook reader.

Amazons second generation Kindle, the Kindle 2

Amazon's second generation Kindle, the Kindle 2

It’s slimmer and better-looking than the somewhat clunky original (though it’s still no iPod in the looks department). And storage has been bumped from under 200MB to 2GB, enough to hold 1500 books according to Amazon. They’ve also tuned display performance and extended battery life by 25%.

The feature that breaks some new ground for Kindle 2 is the text-to-speech system. Any book or other material such as newspapers or magazines, can be read back in a male or female voice and – here’s a nice touch – the user can flick between reading and listening with the Kindle remembering their place. As well as helping the visually impaired to access the full library of books, this sounds like a way for the Kindle to serve the in-car listening market, one of the top listening opportunities for audiobooks.
Looks like your Kindle will be getting plenty of work-outs.

Alas, for those of us downunder or, indeed, anywhere outside of the US, the Kindle is still just a dream. No indication yet of any plans to internationalise it.

It looks like at least part of the international hold-up is due to Amazon’s not yet being able to strike up suitable deals with mobile carriers. Amazon’s Kindle business is closely tied to its mobile network access, a feature that’s certainly appreciated by its users. Amazon picks up the mobile network charges and builds them into the cost of the book or newspaper you download – no separate network charges. And no wi-fi access either, so it’s very dependent on the mobile network deal being in place.

Here’s the full Amazon press release on the Kindle 2 launch.

And a story on the Kindle 2 launch from US Publishers Weekly.

And if you still can’t get enough, here’s the video ad for the Kindle 2. (You’ll need to hit the ENTER key after the URL has loaded to start the video, not sure why but that’s how the Amazon-supplied link seems to work).

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