Q & A on the Kindle press conference

What follows are my questions. We’ll see how many Amazon answers.

What are they calling the new Kindle?

Bezos: “Today I’m excited to introduce the Kindle 2.” Here’s a link to the new Kindle 2 detail page. “If you have previously placed an order for Kindle 1, and have not yet received it, your order will automatically be upgraded to Kindle 2. You need to do nothing.

Special Opportunity for Kindle 1 Owners
Even though we’ve increased our manufacturing capacity, we want to be sure our original Kindle owners are first in line to receive Kindle 2. Place your Kindle 2 order by midnight PST on February 10th and you will receive first priority.

Has Amazon fixed the most glaring problems with the first-generation Kindle? (Gratuitous page turning, poor content management)

The page-turning buttons are much more compact, so that problem should be solved. I’ve got nothing on content management other than WhisperSynch and the fact that we can now delete content directly from the home screen. But with 1,500-title native storage, there better be folders!

What’s new about the Kindle 2 hardware?

It’s 0.36″ thick (about 3/4 as thick as the iPhone), with 7 times as much storage capacity as the original Kindle so that it holds 1500 books. The new Kindle is half an inch longer and half as thick as the old Kindle (at the widest edge of the Kindle 1′s wedge).

It looks just like the pictures that have been showing up on the web recently with improved button/bar placement and a grid keyboard. There’s an elegant 5-way controller that allows you to move the cursor through documents, preview stories, etc.

There is a built-in “text-to-speech” feature so that you can automatically listen to any book or document you are reading. Way cool, I think: Read-to-Me: With the new Text-to-Speech feature, Kindle can read every book, blog, magazine, and newspaper out loud to you

The battery life is 25% greater, according to Jeff. A graphic says you can read for two weeks on a single charge. (From my experience, that would be more than a 25% improvement).

The screen refresh is marginally faster: about 20 per cent. Even better, the display now features 16 shades of grayscale for much more elegant graphics.

What’s new with the Kindle 2 software?

A new feature called WhisperSynch automatically synchronizes what you are reading (including the “page” you are on) between your various Kindle-enabled electronic devices.

From the Kindle 2 product page: Content Formats Supported: Kindle (AZW), TXT, Audible (formats 4, Audible Enhanced (AAX)), MP3, unprotected MOBI, PRC natively; PDF, HTML, DOC, JPEG, GIF, PNG, BMP through conversion.

What’s the price for the new Kindle?

$359. Interesting change: the Kindle cover is no longer included in the box, and must be bought separately. This will be a boon to third-party Kindle cover manufacturers and sellers.

When will the new Kindle ship?

“This item will be released on February 24, 2009.

What’s the deal with Stephen King and the new Kindle?

The early word is that the Kindle may actually come loaded with a Kindle-exclusive Stephen King story that features a Kindle-like device. Product placement gone wild! The story is called “Ur,” and the Kindle in the story can access other worlds, which may be a 3.0 feature.

Has Amazon enhanced the Kindle’s audio features?

Yes, the new Kindle comes with 2 built-in stereo speaks on the back of the device. There is also a nifty built-in “text-to-speech” feature so that you can automatically listen to any book or document you are reading. Way cool, I think: Read-to-Me: With the new Text-to-Speech feature, Kindle can read every book, blog, magazine, and newspaper out loud to you

How about USB-recharging and improvements to the Kindle battery?

The battery life is 25% greater, according to Jeff. A graphic says you can read for two weeks on a single charge, and four days with the wireless turned on. (From my experience, that would be more than a 25% improvement).

And, on the Kindle 2 product page, Amazon says: “Fully charges in approximately 4 hours and supports charging from your computer via the included USB 2.0 cable.” (emphasis added)

What has Amazon done to keep its production in synch with its orders?

On the Kindle 2 product page, Amazon says: “… we’ve increased our manufacturing capacity.”

Questions that will wait for another day:

What is Amazon doing to get the Kindle into schools and public libraries?
How about new features like a Kindle Buffet?
Is Amazon saying anything about specific plans for a larger display or a textbook-friendly Kindle?
Is Amazon showing signs that it will see Google and Apple as partners in the growth of digital reading?
How many Kindles has Amazon shipped, and how many will it ship in February 2009?
Has Amazon provided any specifics about opening the Kindle Store to other devices?
Has Amazon made any moves toward going open source?
What is Amazon doing to support social networking among Kindle owners and other readers?
Is Amazon taking specific steps to empower Kindle owners as Kindle sellers?
When will Kindle owners be able to connect easily with the main Kindle store?
Where and when will the Kindle go global?

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