NEW YORK — Ending months of speculation about Amazon.com’s electronic book project, Chief Executive Jeff Bezos just presented the Kindle 2.0 at an event at the Morgan Library in New York.
Amazon began taking orders for the $359 device this morning and plans to begin shipping them Feb. 24. Owners of Kindle 1.0 are getting front-of-the-line privileges if they order a new one within the next day.
Kindle 2.0 has the same industrial design that circulated in pictures on the Web a few months ago, with smaller buttons and curved corners that do away with the first version’s unusual angular design:
Unlike the all plastic first model, the new one also has a brushed metal back similar to the iPhone. It also continues to have a 6-inch grayscale display, though the 2.0 adds richer grays.
The surprises were in new features added to the system and details of the hardware. They include:
— A five-way navigational control on the right side.
— Lighter weight — 10.2 ounces — and longer battery life.
— Thinner construction: It’s 0.36 inches thick, compared to the 0.48 inch thick iPhone. (Bezos didn’t mention Apple’s device by name, but showed a picture for comparison).
— A nifty text-to-speech converter that “reads” to you.
— Battery life is 25 percent longer than Kindle 1.0; Bezos said the device runs two weeks on a single charge.
— Still included with the device is free wireless access, using 3G cell networks, over which a novel can be downloaded in less than a minute.
— Storage is seven times greater than the first version, enabling Kindle 2.0 to hold 1,500 books. Internal storage totals 2 gigabytes; 1.7 gigs are available to the user.
Amazon’s goal with the design wasn’t to create a snazzy gadget as much as a device that would add digital conveniences to reading without distracting the reader.
“The Kindle is designed to disappear so you can enter the author’s world,” Bezos said.
Amazon has 230,000 books available in Kindle format but that’s just the start, he said.:
“Our vision is every book ever printed in every language, all available in less than 60 seconds,” he said.
Adding some star power to the event was author Stephen King, who was invited by Amazon to participate in the launch. King wrote an exclusive story for the device. Called “Ur,” it’s about a boy whose Kindle has fantastic powers.
Here are a few comparisons between Kindle 1.0, which launched in November 2007, and Kindle 2.0:
— Kindle 2.0 has 16 levels of gray scale in its display, vs. four levels in 1.0.
— Kindle 2.0 uses the 5-way input, versus the scroll wheel in 1.0
— Kindle 2.0 is slightly taller — 8 inches vs. 7.5 inches” with Kindle 1.0.
— Kindle 2.0 weighs 0.1 ounce less than than Kindle 1.0, which was twice as thick — 0.7 inches.
Here’s an image from Amazon’s Kindle page. I’ll post others later today: