Amazon Kindle Take 2

Amazon Kindle Amazon announced the Kindle 2 and plans to begin shipping it on Feb. 24th. While there’s no doubt Amazon has run out of Kindles at various times and there’s been estimates of a half million sold, I’m not convinced the Kindle qualifies as “hugely popular”. When using it in public I’ve only been asked about it by one person. And she asked me if it was the one Oprah talked about. I’ve never seen another Kindle in the wild.

Of course, I own the first Kindle and have already pre-ordered the second so I’m a Kindle lover. It does seem to be pricey at $359, especially when considering it’s a device that will be used to buy more stuff. But there’s the always-on “Whispernet” data connection which allows web connections in addition to book delivry. Sites are certainly limited due to the screen and lake of flash and java, but it’s a connection. Thanks to it I’ve never had to connect to a computer.

I also like being able to buy books anywhere and have them delivered in a minute or so. Prices do vary widely when compared to the physical book prices. I supposes the price depends on the publisher more than it depends on Amazon. I also like having all the books in one place and on a device I can take anywhere. When traveling I can just grab the Kindle and not have to worry about what I might like to read sometime in the future.

I also like being able to wake up in the morning and having my morning newspaper waiting on the Kindle, along with any other subscriptions. While the NY Times isn’t one of those subscriptions I read recently that it would be cheaper to give all their subscribers a Kindle than it would be to print and deliver the paper each day. Puts a new perspective on the Kindle costs. (For the record – my subscriptions are the Financial Timesand Time Magazine)

So why am I paying to upgrade to the latest hardware:

1. Number one is the redesigned next page button. I’ve gotten pretty good at not hitting it by accident but there are still times I hit it. And these days its usually multiple times.

2. The improved screen is a big enticement. I’m not looking for a backlit display but the current screen requires me to use a reading light in most cases. I’m hoping the current screen is easier to read in more places. I might actually find a backlit screen more annoying, after all books aren’t backlit.

3. The extended battery life and additional memory are nice to haves if not worth the upgrade cost. The Kindle may become a viable file storage solution with a capacity of about 1.4GB.

4. As I also like Audiobooks (which can be played on the Kindle) I think I might like the “Read To Me” feature. Although I’m not sure the read to me voice is something I’d want to listen to for extended periods of time. With audio books the narrator makes a big difference so I don’t really expect this to be an often-used feature for me. I do find it interesting that one backward focused group considers the feature illegal to use since it violates copyright law. (By extension, reading aloud to you kids is probably considered illegal by them.)

It’s been mentioned that the new Kindle is the same price as the old Kindle, a la Apple – maintaining a price point while increasing features. That’s not exactly true. They dropped the book cover for it and now charge $30 if you want one. (Also like Apple which would remove cases and cables as iPods evolved.) While I haven’t counted there seems to be a lot more covers already available for Kindle 2 than there ever were for Kindle 1. That’s one way to prime an accessories market.

So there you have it. I have no regrets about buying a second one (hopefully I’ll feel the same way once I get it). But, I have to admit it, an upgrade is a hard sell. Amazon’s “offer” was to put us Kindle 1 owners at the head of the queue provided we ordered by the 10th. The offer seemed rather insulting to me (“Be among the first to order and be among the first to receive it”) and I considered at least waiting to order as a hollow protest. Better for them to have offered nothing.

Even a first Kindle is a hard sell. But if you want an e-book reader I’d put it ahead of the others due to the internet connectivity (despite the browser and screen limits).

So, are there a lot of Kindle owners out there and I’ve just missed them?