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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.

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?

A Stephen King exclusive for the Kindle

News is spreading this morning that, among other things, Jeff Bezos will announce today that Amazon has signed Stephen King on for a (temporarily) Kindle exclusive book deal. This is a great idea.

And I apologize for being a teensy bit self-referential in pasting in this paragraph from p. 92 of the August 2008 paperback print edition of The Complete User’s Guide to the Amazing Amazon Kindle:

Since I ordinarily come at these things from a bookselling perspective, I’ve been thinking for a while that the time should come soon when Amazon should arrange with Stephen King or J.D. Salinger to release his or her next book for the Kindle 60 days ahead of print, and then keeping doing this about once a month. Of course Amazon already knows that: nothing sells TVs like must-see TV.

After all, this one is not rocket science. But I’ve had a crush on Sissy Spacek for over 30 years and it is great fun that somebody managed to snap that picture of her holding her Kindle….

Useful new features in the Kindle 1.2 firmware upgrade

With the Kindle 2.0 Jazzed Level at Code Red, it would have been easy to miss important features that are included in the version 1.2 firmware upgrade that Amazon has been zapping in waves to the 713,451 Kindles* that are currently in the field.

So the sometimes helpful Amazon Kindle Team posted this announcement on the Kindle’s own Amazon discussion forum:

A new software update for Kindle has rolled out. This update (version 1.2) adds the following features:

– Zoom any image in Kindle books or periodicals by selecting the image using the scroll wheel.
– Individual items and groups of items can be deleted directly from the Home screen. Simply scroll to the item you wish to delete and push the backspace key.
– Improved character and font support including Greek characters and monospace fonts.

To make this process as effective as possible for all of our customers, not all devices will be sent the update at the same time. When the software update is available and your Kindle is connected wirelessly to Whispernet, the update will download to your Kindle automatically. Then, the next time Kindle is in sleep mode, it will take advantage of the idle time and apply the update.

The zoom feature will be important for all of us who have been frustrated by the Kindle’s previous inability to show us useful graphics of art, maps, diagrams, tables, etc. Obviously, this feature will greatly enhance the Kindle publishing platform’s appeal for publishers of academic texts, other textbooks, and travel guides, among others.

The upgrade that allows us to clean up our personal Kindle library by deleting titles directly from the home screen is an important convenience, but like many of the features missing from the Kindle 1.0, it deserved to be more remarked “in the breach than in the observance.”

Then there is the Greek alphabet thing. H’mm. Maybe it’s a signal that the first destination for a global Kindle roll-out will be among American ex-pats on the island of Crete. Or not. Maybe it’s all about academic texts. Maybe it ties back to Jeff Bezos’ original launch day statement that the Kindle would eventually be able to access “every book ever printed” and illuminates a commitment to go all the way back to those pre-Gutenberg texts that Caesar used as Kindling 2057 years ago. In any case, I’m yet to be convinced that this one will change my life.
* I arrived at this scientific quantification of the Kindle’s installed base by drawing from two sources: the time showing on my Kindle as I began typing, and the temperature at which paper becomes spontaneously combustible. And no, you can’t check my work.

Counting down to Amazon’s Kindle press conference

from TeleRead: Bring the E-Books Home:

TeleRead Editor’s Note: We are happy to welcome Stephen Windwalker as a regular contributor to TeleRead. Stephen has been writing about Amazon’s strategic innovations since his niche bestseller on online bookselling in 2002, and his Complete Guide to the Amazing Amazon Kindle was the top-selling title in the Kindle store for 17 weeks in 2008, but on advice from Amazon’s attorneys Windwalker refuses to divulge how many books have been sold. Stephen is also publisher of the Kindle Home Page blog and the weekly Kindle Nation email newsletter. Paul Biba

Far be it from me, just hours before the heralded launch of the Kindle 2.0 (or whatever Amazon plans to call it), to pull back the curtain with wild claims about any of the device’s new features. Tomorrow I’ll do my best to base all of that on the actual news, rather than the rumors, and pack it into tomorrow afternoon’s felicitously timed weekly issue of my Kindle Nation email newsletter.

Tonight seems like a better time to look back at the prospective Kindle 2.0 features that I suggested last summer in The Complete Guide to the Amazing Amazon Kindle. We could all agree on the obvious fixes demanded by thousands of Kindle owners including, most notably, those pesky next- and previous-page bars and a user-friendly system of content management folders or labels. Other hardware enhancements such as quicker refresh, a touch screen, and a color display will happen when the technologies are ready.

But the more significant questions to be answered at Monday’s press conference may tell us how aggressively Amazon is prepared to pursue the still unrealized revolutionary potential of the Kindle. Without making too much of the fact that these suggestions are discussed in much greater detail in my book, let me here provide the briefest of discussions of a few of the high notes Jeff Bezos could hit in between those signature fits of forced laughter. [Read rest of post]

Kindling the Googlezon Future

1.5 million books in your pocket

Most people on the outside of Google, Apple, and Amazon see them as competitors, and of course they are. But their status as partners — constantly connecting the dots of hardware, content, and network to maximize usefulness as well as revenue — is far more important, and it is at that nexus that future revolutions in reading and knowledge and publishing will be ignited, or kindled.

On the Kindle 2.0 – Just to summarize….

Two days before Amazon’s big Kindle press conference on Monday in New York, and here is a quick summary to put things in perspective:

* If you have already placed an order for the Kindle, you will be at the head of the line for the updated version that will ship in February. If you select 1-day delivery ($3.99 with Amazon Prime), you will probably receive your Kindle between February 12 and February 25, but a slight further delay is possible for most recent orders because Amazon will probably be shipping over a quarter of a million Kindles this month. (During the past 24 hours Amazon has updated my projected receipt date to February 25, from a window that began on March 4).

* It looks increasingly like the “switch” from the backordered “Kindle 1” to the ready-to-ship “Kindle 2” will be seamless, with no price change, no change in ASIN, and possibly even no designation of model “1” or “2.” I had earlier reported my expectation of a 10 per cent price increase, but I will be happy to concede error on that one as Amazon figured out that it could make the entire “switch” more seamless if it did not have to get permission for an additional charge on the hundreds of thousands of Kindle backorders in the pipeline.

* While the primary focus for gadget heads may be form factor enhancements highlighted in the “leaked” pictures of the updated Kindle that have been showing up since October, those of us who actually own the Kindle will be more interested in software enhancements, such as content management folders, which will be rolled out Monday and transmitted wirelessly to all Kindles in the field over the course of this month in the form of a firmware version update.

* The most important Kindle “announcement” of February 2009 will probably turn out to have been a staffer’s tip that Amazon is “working on” apps that will allow users of devices such as the iPhone, the iPod Touch, and the Blackberry to buy books and other content instantly from the Kindle store.

* Before the end of 2009, the most important known Kindle metric will be the number of Kindle Store app downloads from Apple’s Apps Store. Say that three times fast.

Let’s plan to be in touch on Monday if you have a minute….