When Amazon launched its Kindle eBook reader in late 2007, opinions on the device ran the spectrum. Some analysts and pundits criticized it. To them, the execution was bad. The device was unwieldy and immature. The market opportunity for eBooks was narrow at best. With Kindle, they thought, Amazon was chasing rainbows. Others looked at the vision and thought the opposite. They projected the Kindle would be transformational. Even with its warts, they lauded the first generation device and proclaimed it the publishing industry’s equivalent to the iPod.
After more than a year of sales, the verdict is still out but the Kindle has proven one thing: it’s no joke. The device has been in short supply since launch. Customers have raved about it and thanks to Kindle, eBook sales have climbed to ten percent of Amazon’s total book sales.
This morning, Amazon rolled out the second generation.
Kindle 2.0 features a faster display capable of rendering four times the shades of grey available on the first generation. The battery life is twenty five percent improved and, thanks to bigger memory, the new Kindle will handle more than 1,500 books (compared to 200 on the original).
“Kindle 2 is everything customers tell us they love about the original Kindle, only thinner, faster, [and] crisper,” the company said.
Other changes: the interface and user controls have been reworked. Also, a text to speech synthesizer that reads aloud and a portability tool called Whispersync have been added. (Whispersync will allow customers to begin a book on one Kindle and pick up from the same stopping point on another Kindle or, eventually, other mobile devices).
The ambition is big. In the words of Amazon’s founder, Jeff Bezos, the “vision is every book, ever printed, in any language, all available in less than 60 seconds.”
That’s got to make you wonder. Maybe it’s not about selling the device, maybe it’s about selling the digital media?
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