The delivery date on my Kindle still reads March 2, 2009. Which cannot possibly be right. In fact, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that my Kindle 2 is not arriving on March 2, 2009. I know this because there was a package waiting for me when I got home. A full five days early. And yet there it was. Way to go Amazon (and the United States Postal Service).
Oh, but before we get into it, take a look at the side of the box. This is the tab you pull to tear into the box. “Once upon a time…” and we are off to the races…the reading races.
Inside the specially made box, there is a whirlwind of letters, as though all of the words in the English language have been sucked into this small, cardboard rectangle, to be thrust into the thin strip of plastic and metal lying within. And in a way, that is exactly what is happening.
We can take the contents out of the box now, take off the paper wrapper and open the lid.
And there she is. The Kindle 2 from Amazon.com.
But let’s just set that aside for a minute. Before we get to the Kindle 2 itself, let’s take a look at what else is in the box. Because it is not much.
There is a brief getting started booklet. Nothing to see here, really.
There is also an AC adaptor. The nice thing here is that the AC head pops off, to reveal a USB plug. That means this cable can be used to charge your Kindle and load content from your computer. One disappointing and noticeable omission, here, is the lack of any kind of protection. No case. No sleeve. Not even a piece of plastic to stick it in. Sorry, Amazon, but when I spent over $350 on a device like this, I at least expect some rudimentary kind of protection for it.
Anyway, let’s get to it. One of the reasons I never bought the original Kindle was that it was obnoxiously thick. The form factor was just terrible. So, I opted for the Sony Reader instead. Much better form factor, great hardware, but not a great bookstore. So, when the Kindle 2 came out, I was pretty excited to find a perfect marriage between the Sony Reader and original Kindle.
The Kindle 2 is skinny. I mean, crazy skinny. Here it it next to the Sony reader. As you can see, it is a little larger than the Sony Reader, but has a somewhat smaller screen. I would have liked a slightly larger screen, but I found the screen on the Kindle 2 to be more than functional so far.
The controls on the Kindle 2 are a huge improvement over the original Kindle. You can see that right off the bat.
On the right hand side of the screen is the next page button and home button, which takes you back to your main book list.
On the left side is a second next page button, and the previous page button. I liked having two next pages (one on each side), so you can hold the Kindle 2 in either hand while reading.
Beneath the screen is a keyboard, which works fairly well. You will need to use this to search the Kindle store on Amazon. You can also use the keyboard to search the contents of your books or make notes in any book. Those are some pretty useful features, especially if you are a student.
Along with the keyboard is the font size button, which allows you to switch between six fonts (the smallest and largest are shown) or activate the new text to speech feature. One noticeable omission here is a bookmark button. Sure, the Kindle will save your spot when you stop reading a book. And, you can add bookmarks in the menu by pushing the Menu button, scrolling through the menu and selecting Add A Bookmark. Really, that is pretty cumbersome. One thing I will miss about my Sony Reader is the quick and easy bookmark button.
To the right of the keyboard is another bank of buttons. This one contains the aforementioned Menu button, as well as a Back button. Between these two buttons are the joystick, which replaces the Kindle scroll wheel as the main means of navigating through the menus.
OK, time for a look at the screen. One of the really cool things about the Kindle 2 is that even in standby, it is always educating you. When the Kindle 2 goes into standby mode, it displays pictures of famous authors. How cool is that?
Just flick the power switch on top to turn the Kindle 2 back on.
Here is a look at the screen. As has been noted across the Internet, the Kindle 2 does not feature a color screen. I do think that Amazon probably has this in the works, but they either decided save it for a later time, or it was not quite ready to launch. Either way, as I noted yesterday, the official story is that the color screen caused the Kindle 2 to become uncomfortably hot and wreaked havoc on the battery. Both of which are probably true.
Instead of a color screen, the Kindle 2 features the same grayscale screen as the original Kindle and Sony Reader. To be honest, I really like this screen. The grayscale reminds me an awful lot of reading a newspaper. The only problem I had was that there is no light on the Kindle, making it nearly impossible to read in low light. Because the screen is not backlit like a computer screen or mobile device, however, it means you will not get the eyestrain or headaches which frequently accompany prolonged work (or reading) on a computer screen. Additionally, you will not notice the same problems with glare in direct sunlight that you typically would see on a computer screen. Bottom line, I like the grayscale screen and find it extremely pleasant to read.
The last thing I wanted to mention was buying books. This was one of my biggest complaints with the Sony Reader. With the Kindle, obtaining new books is easy…almost too easy. You can purchase a book directly from the Kindle, or via Amazon.com. Either way, when you purchase a new book, instead of downloading to your computer and syncing, it will be sent via the Kindle’s Whispernet directly to your device. After a few minutes, the book will just show up on your Kindle 2. Pretty cool. And, as you can see, my first purchase was UR, a book Stephen King wrote specifically for the Kindle.
I have been playing with the Kindle 2 for a few hours now, and I am really enjoying it. So far, it is almost everything I could have expected in an ebook reader, and I cannot wait to spend more time with it. I plan to spend a few weeks exploring all of the features on this one, but stay tuned. During that time, I will be working with Dan and Judie from Gear Diary to write a complete review of the Kindle 2. In the meantime, if you have any questions about this brand new ebook reader, or anything specific you would like us to test, let me know by leaving a comment on this post.