Amazon Unveils Kindle 2

Hands-On With the Amazon Kindle 2

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Amazon Unveils Kindle 2

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Some Kindle Features Added, Others Missing

One addition is text-to-speech capability. This feature, powered by technology from Nuance (makers of Dragon Naturally Speaking) and accessible either via a menu option or a keyboard shortcut, offers two digital voices--Tom and Samantha--and up to 3X reading speed, in case you're fast-forwarding. The voices are clearly computerized but tolerable; I could see using the feature in a pinch, such as if you're following a recipe or needing to be lulled to sleep.

The Kindle 2 now powers up from USB--a boon for all of us who hated carrying an extra charger with the original device. The micro-USB port at the bottom works not only for power but also for allowing the Kindle 2 to act as a USB mass-storage device, in the event you want to drag and drop files to the handheld.

Regrettably, Amazon has ditched the SD Card slot; instead, you get 2GB of on-board storage (a typical audiobook ranges from 40MB to 80MB, while a typical Kindle book ranges from 700KB to 800KB, per Amazon's own estimates). Amazon claims that the Kindle 2 will hold over 1500 books. Your book selections are stored in the cloud on Amazon's servers, so if you ever have to erase something to free up space on the unit, you can redownload books later as needed.

You don't get a case anymore, either. Instead, the Kindle 2 has two holes on its right edge; those holes allow the unit to snap into any of a selection of third-party cases. The design effectively creates a hinge, which makes handling the Kindle 2 easy. Amazon's no-frills leather case will sell for about $30.

Another drawback is that Amazon hasn't changed the device's file handling. That means you still have to go through the awkward conversion process of sending a file (such as a PDF or a Word document) to yourself if you wish to view it on your Kindle.

At least that leaves Amazon room for improvement on the Kindle 3.

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