Kindle 2 In The Housssse! (Diner, actually)

Happy Pancake Tuesday! AKA, the day before Ash Wednesday on the Catholic calendar. There’s also a tradition that before you start your Lenten sacrifices, you go off and have a rich, hearty pancake breakfast.

(Ha! See? I’ve just gone and proven that Richard Dawkins is just a big stupid idiot who’s head is filled with stupid! Next time he says nothing good ever comes from religion, spit in his eye. A good, maple syrupy-scented gob of spit.)

My UPS guy met me on the way out the door. And what did he have for me?

The Kindle 2!

So I kept my date with the diner. But I was Pancaking with my right hand while I was Kindling with the left.

Initial impressions:

1) Damn, this thing finally feels like a real, richly-designed consumer product. It’s metal, and has that MacBook Air vibe where the case tapers down into thin edges. You get the impression that it’s a lot slimmer than it actually is.

2) Hallelulia! That flimsy cheap plastic back-cover is now gone. The back actually looks like a generation-one iPhone…a vast, unmarked plain of brushed metal, topped by an inch of plastic (where the wireless antennas live, npo doubt).

3) The transition from your old Kindle to the new one is simple. Natcherly it knows who you are when it arrives. Click into a setup menu and it re-downloads all of the content you’ve purchased via the Amazon Kindle Store. But none of the docs or public-domain ebooks that you might have emailed into the device will show up…that’s on your shoulders.

4) WhisperSync works fine. I was in the middle of re-reading Michael Palin’s wunnerful Python Diaries on my Kindle 1 yesterday and when I clicked the book on the 2, it opened it to (almost) the page I was on.

5) Text-to-voice is…functional. As expected, it sounds like very, very good text-to-speech. I do think it’s more of a feature for people with vision problems than any sort of replacement for the audiobook edition of a title. But it’s perfectly understandable, if a little American Idol-ish vis a vis artistically and convincingly interpreting and performing a piece. The speaker’s kind of weak. I was in a not-at-all-busy diner and I had to hold it up to my head to really hear it. The speakers are flat on the bottom-backside of the device.

6) The new interface is a five-click joybutton instead of the rolling elevator. But the MO is mostly the same. Instead of having a separate LCD stripe on the side of the screen, the thing you’re about to click on is underscored with a line. It works fine.

7) The device is devoid of all but a single mechanical sliding switch, which powers it up when it’s off and wakes it when it’s asleep.

8) I might have to take back my longstanding complaint about Kindle 1’s paddle switches for page turns. It annoyed me that I couldn’t put down the Kindle, take a two-handed bite of my sandwich, and pick it up again without being one or two pages away from where I was. The Kindle 2 has some conventional pushbuttons mounted flush with the surface of the device and I find that I have to push them with a little but of authority to get a buttonclick to register. Whereas the paddles on the K1 responded to a gormless flick of the thumb.

(I stress that this is a brand-new, out of the box device. So it’s possible that the K2’s page-turn buttons haven’t been broken in yet. It’s also possible that I’m just used to the feather-touch of the K1. But let it be noted that it’s the first thing that struck me as a step back, after a whole 21 minutes of experience with the Kindle 2).

(Added: Now I’ve been reading with it for about a half an hour. A little experimentation indicates that the “most clicky” part of the button is the edge nearest the screen. Now I’m finding it much more comfortable to use.)

9) The tech specs say that the display has been upgraded. But it’s a subtle thing. I don’t find it any more readable than the Kindle 1’s perfectly-fine screen. The only spot where I actually noticed the improvement was in the “sleep” wallpapers. So now these dead publishers’ faces are smoothly-shadded instead of stippled. Which is a win; it was kind of creepy to glance and think “Wow, Harriet Beecher Stowe really needs a shave.”

10) Damn…the “standard as hell” USB connector on the bottom of the K2 is now a “Crap! I forgot to pack the cable that charges my Kindle!” connector.

My full review for the Sun-Times will come in a couple of days. My overall first impression is that this is a step forward.

Hey, photos!

The only way to kill it is with a Ticonderoga #2 through its heart!
The only way to kill it is with a Ticonderoga #2 through its heart!
One click installs all of your K1's purchased content to the K2.
One click syncs all of your K1's purchased content onto your new K2. Note "underscore" highlighting of the item you're about to click.
From back to front: Kindle 1, Kindle 2, YUM.
From back to front: Kindle 1, Kindle 2, YUM.

27 thoughts on “Kindle 2 In The Housssse! (Diner, actually)”

  1. Yeah. Looks good and all but I still think it’ll be a while before they get the positive true whites of the powdered sugar to contrast against the black text. Oh! Wait. I see. Ya. That Kindle 2 looks good [not as good as the pancakes…but good nonetheless. It does sort of humiliate the Kiddle v.1 one in that kind of comparison. 1989 needs it’s book reader back.

  2. Thanks for the drool-worthy first impressions (both the Kindle and the pancake). Now if only Amazon would get their act together and release it in Canada so I can buy one.

  3. Lovely…except that organizationally the Kindle 1 broke down after about 5 pages worth of books. Sometimes the author meta data was inconsistent (sometimes author was “last,first” and other times “first last”) and you couldn’t change it.

    I wish the Kindle would also implement some kind of organizational hierarchy, like “collections” on the Sony.

    But that’s just me.

  4. Hope you will give your opinion on whether upgrading to K2 from K1 is worth it. Seems great if you don’t have a Kindle, but looks like a step forward and a step sideways or back (no SD card) from K1. Always enjoy your writing. Tivo’d the geek fashion show; need to go look at that!

  5. re. Text to speech…

    What if Amazon sold an e-book/Audible book bundle that you put on your Kindle? You could read the e-book, but when you, say, got in your car, you could switch over to the audio book which would pick up where you left off in the e-book. And vice versa.

    Happy Fat Tuesday! (We just had King Cake here at the office)
    Steve L.

  6. The only issue I’ve ever run into with the “standard as hell” usb connection on K1, is that whenever you needed to do a harder reset (the kind with power), is that there wasn’t sufficient juice. I’ve spent a few bookless trips because I figured I’d just use the USB mini cable (that I’m carrying anyway) to top up.

  7. @Gil – I do own a Kindle 1. The K2 is a loaner (it goes back in two weeks) and I don’t think I’ll be buying the uprade. It is indeed nicer. And I think the Kindle is the best ebook reader on the market and worth its money to a new user. But I haven’t seen anything yet that commands me to replace what I have now.

  8. Can’t help but feel that book loving geeks around the world are eager awaiting the availability of the Kindle outside the US. I know that I would be getting one the moment they ever come out in the UK.

    It would be interesting to read if there is anything in this version that makes it more likely that it will be released elsewhere,

  9. Great article Andy! I just got back cooking a pancake dinner for our parish (Episcopalian) with bacon (yes we had a small grease fire… no worries).

    Sounds like Amazon is working on making this a great product. I still love my paperback though. However, I have been reading Huck Finn on my iPhone with Classics tucked in bed before I nod off.

    I’m still not sold though.

  10. Andy, do I lose my geek credentials if I’m far more excited by the pancakes then I am the Kindle? As hard as I try, the only thing the Kindle seems to evoke in me is a resounding “meh”…….oh well, keep trying Amazon.

  11. Ok, I’m a putz. I just twittered you asking when a full review would be up.

    Annnnnnywho, can you expound on how one Twitters via the Kindle 2? Do you simply log-in to Twitter.com or by some other means? Also, why is it not an ideal Twittering device?

  12. Got the kindle 2 yesterday, my first ebook reader. Very happy.

    Just one thing: no password protection on purchases (like on iPhone/iPod touch). This means you could find yourself with some extra purchases if you let someone unfamiliar with its purchasing model use it.

  13. Is it the syrup? Those pancakes must be absolutely incredible, as they have to counter stuff such as the inquisition, various holy wars, 9/11, cult suicides, bombings in the name of $Deity and/or $Religion etcetera. But that’s OK, as long as we have some syrupy pancakes on our table on some random day of the year. Yaay religion!

  14. @andrei – I’m going to leave your reply up. But I don’t think you’re honoring the rational, thoughtful, and confident opinions that are expressed by mainstream atheism.

  15. Andy, the text-to-speech being functional at best? That’s a good thing if you want to keep the Author’s Guild off the Kindle 2’s back!

    I’m serious – my wife is an Author’s Guild member, and they are out in full hue and cry over the “possible loss of ancillary revenue” (apparently believing nobody will pay for audiobook rights if the Kindle 2 can read to them instead). She keeps insisting this is a real concern, even after I played the section of your Kindle’s text-to-speech feature on last week’s MACBREAK WEEKLY to her – she says, “And it can’t get better – so we won’t be screwed?” I pointed out my belief that it would take some form of serious AI to make the reading even approach that of a human reader – and that by the time that was practicable, the Author’s Guild should have figured out a way for its members to profit from the potential loss of audiobook revenue or they aren’t representing authors very well, are they? (Why is it that industry groups like the Author’s Guild, SWFA – or the RIAA or MPAA – think that they can litigate progress out of existence, and that’s a positive?)

    As for the “No SD Card” slot? That’s a dealbreaker for me, as I store a ton of Baen Publishing MOBI format titles (which work w/the Kindle fine, but aren’t DRM’d and are about half the cost of comparable Kindle Store titles) on SD Card which I keep in my Kindle 1.

  16. I only had two issues with the Kindle 1 (definitely not deal breakers) and they seemed to have solved them with the Kindle 2. I’m so happy with my purchase. My Kindle goes absolutely everywhere with me! It’s one of the best gadgets in the world!

  17. Does anybody know why the Kindle is only available in the U.S.?

    Typo alert:

    > a big stupid idiot who’s head is filled

  18. Rick Says:
    ::Does anybody know why the Kindle is only available in the U.S.?::

    Two reasons, Rick:

    – Rights Issues – in most publishing contracts, eBook rights are granted to the US/Canada publisher for those countries only. In order for the Kindle to be available in the UK or Australia, Amazon would need to negotiate the eBook rights for those countries with their publishers, which generally means negotiating them with the UK publisher for the rest of the English-speaking world outside US and Canada. (“Generally” doesn’t mean always, though – YA fantasy author Tamora Pierce’s recent UK/Australia books originate out of Australia, for instance.)

    – WhisperNet Wireless Connectivity – Amazon could conceivably offer the Kindle in Canada, if all they had to deal with was rights issues – in fact, Sony’s eBook Store is available in both the US and Canada. However, the Kindle’s big cool-guy feature is “WhisperNet” wireless connectivity with Amazon’s Kindle Store, and to a limited extent the Internet in general. WhisperNet is tied to a mobile wireless provider in the U.S. (Sprint EVDO, I believe), so a Canadian Kindle would need a similar setup in Canada – and there’s the rub. As greedy and mingy as U.S. Internet providers are compared to Europe or Asia, they are as the Bounty of Heaven compared to Canadian mobile wireless providers Rogers and Bell Canada, who charge $.10/KILObyte for wireless data transfer!

    When Tammy and I went to Toronto for Ad Astra SF Con last weekend, I checked with my cel provider T-Mobile about international roaming. They said sure I had it – but cautioned me of how much more expensive it is to use in Canada, especially for roaming data. I figured it was just the international roaming deal until I spoke with several Canadian attendees, who told me that’s what they pay too. WTF?!?!?

  19. Rick – I’m sure it’s not “intractable”…just complicated, and made more so by Amazon using a copy-protected format for their Kindle books. Since Amazon’s already offering a Kindle app for the iPhone, they may already be working on a global solution – or at least a workaround.

    In Canada at least, the Sony 505 eBook Reader is almost as popular as the Kindle is in the US – and except for WhisperNet, probably a superior overall product. I got to look at several Canadian authors’ 505s while at Ad Astra, and I have to say that the screens are better, the Contents interface far superior, the ability to natively accept multiple eBook formats a definite advantage over the Kindle’s DRM’d MOBI or text only, and the design and build quality are excellent, especially when compared to the Kindle 1’s somewhat thrown-together feel.

  20. You mentioned the Palin memoir on the podcast for the iPad as well. However, is that the same one you mention above? I cannot find that exact title. Are you referring to: Diaries 1969-1979: The Python Years?

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