New, improved Kindle

Amazon's reader is sleek, lightweight and easy to hold

March 24, 2009|By Nancy Johnston | Nancy Johnston,nancy.johnston@baltsun.com

OK, Amazon. You win.

Remember me? I'm that reviewer who panned your original Kindle. "Poor design," I said. "What do you mean I have to pay $10 for an e-book?" I whined, and "Why can't I keep track of my progress through a text on this thing?"

Well, you took a design lesson from Apple. The Kindle2, which hit the market several weeks ago, is sleek, lightweight and easy to hold. Those buttons that used to run down the entire edge of the device are now limited to a few inches, so clumsy individuals such as myself are less likely to skip through untold pages and become completely lost.

That USB cable doubling as a power adapter was an especially nice touch. There's nothing I hate more than opening up my latest piece of technology and finding enough wires to truss up my loved ones. (Not that I would ever do such a thing.)

And don't think I haven't noticed that I can read for days without having to recharge the device - even longer if I turn off the wireless mode.

The Kindle2 cover is even less bulky, fitting more naturally in my hand.

The 16 levels of gray scale make the screen clearer. While I do miss color pictures, the new Kindle application for iPhone and iPod Touch can provide my fix. Syncing the application and the Kindle so that I can start and stop reading on either device? Well done, Amazon.

I was especially happy to see that those silly little dots were gone at the bottom of the screen, which were supposed to let me know how far along I was in the book. While Kindle2 still has a status bar, the addition of a number to tell me what percentage of the text I'm through helps me keep track of the progress of a story.

Buying books and periodicals is simple and quick - maybe a little too simple and quick for impulse readers like me. And including access to Wikipedia and the New Oxford American Dictionary makes me a happy little nerd.

The selection of books available still leaves a lot to be desired, though. And Google's announcement last week that it's delivering 500,000 free e-books for the Sony reader must have hurt a bit. Don't get me wrong, Kindle's 245,000 titles, mostly new and popular, are nothing to sneeze at; but all those free texts Sony is offering, many of them old classics? That would have been a nice addition.

Nonetheless, your e-books are getting cheaper, and the editing is greatly improved, though there were still a few repeated lines that shouldn't have gotten past your editors.

I'm still not entirely happy with no touch screen, but maybe the e-ink technology isn't compatible. I'll buy that, for now.

But at $359, would it have killed you to include a reading light? Bottom line, this won't be replacing my bookshelf any time soon.

Call me old-fashioned, but I like the book in my hand, and I know I'll actually find all the titles I'm looking for in their original form. But as a travel companion, I can't think of anyone I'd rather bring to work or play.

Baltimore Sun copy editor Nancy Johnston co-writes the "Read Street" blog on baltimoresun.com.

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