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Amazon unveils new version of electronic book

Latest update : 2009-02-10

Amazon has unveiled the new version of its popular electronic book, the Kindle 2. The new version is slimmer and faster, with an improved on-screen display and increased storage space, as well as a "read aloud" feature.

AFP - Amazon unveiled the latest generation of its popular electronic reader, the Kindle, on Monday making it slimmer and faster and adding a feature which reads a book aloud.

One thing Amazon did not change, however, is the price -- 359 dollars through its online store.

"Kindle 2 is everything customers tell us they love about the original Kindle, only thinner, faster, crisper, with longer battery life, and capable of holding hundreds more books," Amazon founder Jeff Bezos said.

"If you want, Kindle 2 will even read to you -- something new we added that a book could never do," the Amazon chief executive added.

The Seattle-based Amazon said the Kindle 2 is available for preordering through for 359 dollars, the same price as the previous model released in November 2007. The first units will be shipped February 24.

"With the latest electronic paper display, pages turn an average of 20 percent faster than the original Kindle for an even smoother reading experience," Amazon said in a statement.

It said the Kindle 2 has two gigabytes of memory, allowing it to hold more than 1,500 books compared with 200 for the original Kindle, and 16 shades of gray text as opposed to four in the first Kindle.

It has a built-in dictionary and 25 percent longer battery life, Amazon said, going four to five days on one charge with wireless turned on and for over two weeks with wireless turned off.

Amazon said the experimental "Read-To-Me" feature "converts words on a page to spoken word so customers have the option to read or listen.

"Customers can switch back and forth between reading and listening, and their spot is automatically saved," Amazon said. "Pages turn automatically while the content is being read so customers can listen hands-free.

"Customers can choose to be read to by male or female voices and can choose the speed to suit their listening preference," Amazon said.

"Using the read-to-me feature, anything you can read on Kindle, including books, newspapers, magazines, blogs, and personal documents, Kindle 2 can read to you," the online retail giant said.

Ian Freed, an Amazon vice president, declined at a press conference here to say whether Amazon was making money with the Kindle. "We’re really focused on the customer experience, and if we can do that, the rest will take care of itself," he said.

Amazon does not release sales figures for the Kindle but according to analysts it has sold more than 500,000 of the devices.

Freed confirmed a report in The New York Times that Amazon planned to make its electronic books available on mobile phones but did not say when it would happen.

The release of the new Kindle comes just days after Internet search giant Google said it was making its vast online library of more than 1.5 million public domain books available for mobile phones.

Google said mobile versions of the books could be read on devices such as the Apple iPhone or T-Mobile G1, which is powered by Google's Android software.

Google will initially only be offering books in the public domain -- those which are not under copyright -- for mobile phones.

Amazon, on the other hand, offers the latest releases and 230,000 titles in all in its Amazon Kindle Store, including 103 of the 110 current New York Times bestsellers.

Plastic Logic, a California company which plans to introduce an electronic reader shortly, announced on Monday it had signed a content agreement with a firm that offers electronic versions of The Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, USA Today, The Washington Post and other publications.

Plastic Logic plans to market its eReader, tailored to mobile business professionals, in 2010.

Date created : 2009-02-10