Technology as a way of life

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Online retailer Inc unveiled a slimmer version of its Kindle digital book reader on Monday, with more storage and faster page turns, but kept a high price tag that could discourage mass adoption.

The new Kindle, still priced at $359 on Amazon's website, is available for preorder, and will ship February 24, the company said. Amazon shares fell nearly 1 percent to $66 on Nasdaq.

Bernstein Research analyst Jeffrey Lindsay said the new Kindle was an improvement, but its price showed Amazon was not moving aggressively to make the device mainstream.

"Really we don't see them as having taken the device to the next level," he said. "We think it's an incremental step of improvements. They're advancing very conservatively."

While the previous Kindle could store over 200 titles, the new version holds over 1,500 and includes a feature that reads text aloud to users, Amazon said.

Customers awaiting their first versions on back-order will be automatically upgraded to the new Kindle, Amazon said.

The new Kindle is "thinner, faster, crisper, with longer battery life, and capable of holding hundreds more books," said Amazon Chief Executive Jeff Bezos in a statement released alongside a company event at New York City's Morgan Library.

First launched by the Seattle-based company in November 2007, the Kindle allows users to read books and newspapers wirelessly on a device weighing less than a typical paperback.

The device is a tiny part of Amazon's web retail business, but attracts out-sized interest from investors and analysts as a potential source of new growth.

It took sales away from Sony Corp, whose Sony Reader beat Amazon to market, and Amazon touted its existing relationships with book publishers as a plus.


But Kindle users had criticized the device's less-than-inspired design and complained about the placement of its buttons, lack of backlighting, slow page turns and high price.

The new version fixes a problem with involuntary page turns and sports a new five-way controller that allows users to jump between articles and sections of newspapers. A power charger is more portable and a cover that comes with the device is more secure, the company said.

The new "text to speech" function converts words on a page to speech. Users can choose a male or female voice to read to them and choose a speed.

Also Monday, Amazon said Stephen King, the best-selling author of horror stories, will release a novella, "Ur," exclusively on Kindle.

The company has not disclosed Kindle sales figures. Citigroup analyst Mark Mahaney has estimated Amazon sold a half-million Kindles in 2008, about one-third more than the number of iPods sold by Apple Inc in its first year.

The latest model of the Sony Reader retails for about $400. Its display is about the same size as Amazon's new Kindle, but the Sony Reader holds only about 350 digital books. It can play MP3 and AAC digital music with headphones.

No Kindles were hurt during the disassembly.

New Features & Enhancements:

  • Slim & Lightweight: Just over 1/3 inch and 10.2 ounces
  • Books in under 60 seconds: Get books delivered in less than 60 seconds; no PC required
  • Improved Display: Reads like real paper; now boasts 16 shades of gray for crisp images and text; even reads well in bright sunlight
  • Longer Battery Life: 25% longer battery life; read for days without recharging
  • More Storage: Take your library with you; holds over 1,500 books
  • Faster Page Turns: 20% faster page turns
  • Read-to-Me: Text-to-Speech feature means Kindle can read every book, blog, magazine, and newspaper out loud.
  • No Wireless Bills: No monthly wireless bills, data plans, or commitments. Amazon pays for Kindle’s wireless connectivity so you won’t see a monthly wireless bill.
  • Large Selection: Over 230,000 books, plus U.S. and international newspapers, magazines and blogs available
  • Low Book Prices: New York Times Best Sellers and New Releases $9.99, unless marked otherwise


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