The Kindle 2 from Amazon is an amazing device that until some time ago had been the pick among the tech freaks who also gorge on books. It marked a quantum shift in the way we read books so that reading books is not the same any more. The Kindle 2 carries on with all the good things that came with the original Kindle and added some of its own so that what we have with the Kindle 2 is a complete reading experience that surpassed any other and to many, reading off the Kindle 2 is even less of a strain to the eye than a real print paper.
However, it might be a matter of a few minor tweaks that marks out the Kindle 2 from the original Kindle, though the difference is quite substantial and noticeable. Keeps us wondering for the reason Amazon had not thought up these aspects during its first production of the Kindle.
However, the advent of the iPad did take off some of the sheen off the Kindle 2 as with the iPad, what we have is a device that offers a whole lot more and reading e-books is one of the many things that it does admirably well. So well that many are willing to go on to the iPad bandwagon though hard core reader would readily agree the iPad’s LCD display is a notch below the superb e-ink enabled display of the Kindle 2.
So for the pure reading aficionados, it’s only the Kindle 2 that would suffice, which should be reason enough to explore a bit more as to what makes the Kindle 2 so special.
To begin with, the Kindle 2 scores with its sleek and svelte looks that measure just 0.36 inches at its widest point and weighs an equally diminutive 10.2 ounces. So that’s almost as thin as a regular magazine.
All the quirky style and layout of the previous Kindle has been done away with in the present Kindle 2, which in its present form resembles a rectangular shape with rounded edges. The original version of the Kindle had a slanted keyboard which was awkward to looks and likes. This has now been replaced with the standard keyboard though strangely, while the Kindle 2 itself acquired a rectangular shape, the shape of the keys has been changed from rectangular pellets to small round ones. However, there’s yet the chance of mis-tapping the keys but that’s much reduced.
However, there are many who would question the need of the keyboard in the first place, other than adding to the size and weight of the device. In fact, the Kindle 2 is perhaps the only e-reader out there with a physical keyboard hanging around below the actual reading area.
Also, while the next and previous buttons had occupied near the whole of the Kindle, that has now been replaced with small size buttons and located at the same position as in the original version. The irritating effect of frequently hitting at the buttons has now been obviated with this arrangement. The buttons have also been positioned a bit higher on the device than before, which makes sure they are out of accidental contact while using the device.
Towards the lower right edge is a five-way rocker switch that takes the place of the slider control of the erstwhile Kindle and allows for both horizontal as well as vertical movement and proves to be a very convenient tool when navigating through large text content. The present set up, though a much better upgrade than the previous one, yet has its inconsistencies and inconvenience. Jumping through lists is yet a difficult operation on the Kindle 2 and needs lots of menus to be jumped through before reaching what had been initially intended to by the user.
The volume rocker has now been placed at the side and at the upper right side of the device. A micro-USB port has been provided at the bottom of the Kindle 2 which is also where you get a set of stereo speakers. The rear of the Kindle 2 is now smooth with a bushed aluminum finish though a gray rubber strip has been provided near the top. The 3.5 mm headphone jack along with the slider power / sleep switch makes up the top of the device.
As an e-reader
The Kindle happened to be a landmark device and among the very first e-reading devices to come our way. The Kindle 2 takes the benchmark a few steps further since the changes incorporated has brought ease to the user in operating the device. On the software front no big shakes can be observed with the new Kindle even though whatever changes have been introduced is welcome as these have contributed immensely to user convenience. The four way navigation experience that we have now is indeed one that should for sure have been included in the first version itself.
The search function in the present Kindle is the first change that is very much noticeable due its ease of operation. While with the previous Kindle one had to type the text into the box that came up on pressing the search key and then selecting further options to go to the particular point of search, the present process is simple to say the least. Now the search feature is included in the menu itself and one can jump onto it from home or any page. In addition the search process allows for typing text to search on any page including home page or page that one is reading at present.
Using the dictionary in the previous version necessitated copying the entire line and then checking each and every word in the dictionary and that too on a separate screen. This annoying method has been corrected in the present version of the device. Now one gets to see the meaning of word as the cursor moves over each word. The meaning is displayed at the bottom of the screen.
The UI has been given and undergone a good update and upgrade. The menu is now much more user friendly. One gets to see to the point explanation of the functions and important information as they read or move along the device. Reorganizing the general set up of how the screen displays the various details has indeed helped in making the Kindle a more readable experience.
Then another extremely convenient feature of the Kindle 2 is the new ‘Text-to-Speech’ feature that will read aloud newspaper, magazine, blog or books to you. Also, the pages turn automatically when the content is read aloud to you so that its a total hands free operation. You can shuffle from reading to listening as you wish without having to worry about losing track of your reading as your spot gets saved automatically. You can even choose between a male or a female voice to read aloud the text. So the next time you feel tired of a particularly long reading session or are driving along, all you have to do is to turn on the ‘Text-to-Speech’ and there you are, the show continues.
A 6 inch screen with a resolution of 600 x 800 pixels makes up the entire reading area. The display is based on the e-ink technology, which in technical terms would be called ‘electrophoretic display.’ This essentially means visible images are formed by the process of rearrangement of charged pigment particles using an applied electric field.
The e-ink display makes the display almost print like in their appearance and is extremely friendly to the eye and is known to cause the least strain even after an extended reading session. There’s now four times the shades of gray, 16 compared to the original Kindle’s just 4, which in real world terms translates into images that looks a whole lot better while texts can now have varying degrees of contrast. This gives added clarity to the device and the reading experience is much more enjoyable than on the previous version. The font is much more distinct as well while the images have far greater clarity.
The device now has been provided with zoom facility while refresh rate of the screen is about 20 percent faster than before. What this means is that the Kindle 2 can now change from what’s present on the screen with something else a lot more quickly so that page turns can take place almost in the blink of an eye. This pushes the Kindle closer to a fully fledged computer as the pages are not going to give a static look anymore.
The display is also sans any backlighting, which Amazon says isn’t conducive to stress free reading. Hence an external light source is required to read off the Kindle 2. The lack of any backlight is also the reason why the Kindle is so power efficient as is mentioned below.
Kindle 2 has a battery life of around a week with its wireless turned on. Turn off the battery and the Kindle 2 will go on for another week on a single charge. However, the downside of it is that the battery is non-removable so that if you encounter any problems with it, you have to ship the entire unit to Amazon to get it replaced. That’s pretty bad though Amazon insists its not that they receive Kindles in hordes everyday for battery replacements and that a single battery can keep on going for almost a decade.
The Amazon bookstore acts as the sole source of book for the Kindle where bestsellers can be availed of in $9.99 apiece. The books are well organized and search for a book is the easiest of tasks. This in spite of the sheer number of books that are on tap. In fact, Amazon mentions that the entire procedure of searching for a book including its delivery to the device can be over in about a minute. In fact, it is the ability of the Kindle 2 to download its e-books on its own via Whispernet is a key aspects that makes the Kindle 2 a leap ahead of the original Kindle, so here’s what it is all about.
”Whispernet’ is the name given to the Kindle 2’s wireless connection that’s integrated into the device and comes free of cost. This feature provides the user access to Amazon’s vast online Kindle Store from just about anywhere where there is Sprint’s EVDO cellular data network service available. However, for those outside the zone where ‘Whispernet’ can’t be availed of, new e-books can still be ‘sideloaded’ from a Windows PC to the Kindle 2 via a USB cable.
A 2GB onboard storage has been included, though this is at the cost of the existing SD slot. However, the 2 gigs of storage is enough to gobble up hundreds of e-books, about 15 hundred to be precise. So within its sleek and slim dimension, you get to have a whole range of books that can make up an entire library.
It is more of hardware tweaking that’s been done to give the Kindle its new look. Function wise the Kindle has remained the same except for the text to speech feature.
However, a recent firmware update promises to take the Kindle 2 to the next higher level and incorporates many new things like access to the the popular social networking sites like the Facebook or Twitter. Then there’s also a new folder structure that will let users sort books, magazines and other stuff in a better way. Apart from these, there are also two new large font sizes, facility to pan around and zoom into PDF documents along with a new password-protection capability that will prevent any unauthorized use of the Kindle 2.
As most people have labeled the Kindle an “iPod for books”, it remains so as yet even with the change of looks and features. Most people who buy this Kindle 2 would be doing so for the sole purpose of book reading and nothing much else. For a traveler who moves lightly and is also a very voracious reader the Kindle 2 might be the gadget recommended.
Sovan Mandal is the senior tablet and tech corespondent for goodereader.com. He brings a international approach to news that is not just applicable to the North American market, but also Asia, India, Europe and others. Sovy brings his own writing flavor to the website and is interested in Science Fiction, Technology and Writing. Any questions, send an email