NEW YORK-Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos announced the release of the Kindle 2 electronic reader at the Morgan Library and Museum, one of the nation's most iconic depositories of paper-based books. With a starting price of $359, the Kindle 2 comes out 14 months after the original Kindle made its debut.
A reading by horror-book maestro Stephen King capped the Feb. 9 presentation.
There are currently 230,000 books available for download from Amazon's Kindle online store. The Kindle 2, designed to download books in less than a minute, allows users to read pages on a 6-inch gray-scale screen. Pages can be navigated via a five-way controller.
Amazon has also entered into partnerships with several newspapers and magazines, including The New York Times, the New Yorker and USA Today, to deliver content. Bezos demonstrated reading both the Feb. 9 edition of The New York Times and a book.
"Our vision is every book ever printed in any language in under 60 seconds," Bezos said during his talk, describing his ultimate aim for the device and its downloadable library.
In addition to its consumer application, both the Kindle 2 and its predecessor hold benefits for enterprise users.
"It converts PDF and Word documents, and sends them to Kindle," Jay Marine, director of product management for Amazon, said in an interview after Bezos' presentation. "Every Kindle has a unique e-mail address; you can just send everything wirelessly."
The device can store 1.4GB of user-accessible data-that's roughly 1,500 books-and features 3G wireless delivery. At 0.36 inches thick, it is also designed for a lightweight carry.
Bezos demonstrated a feature new to the Kindle 2, text-to-speech, in which the device reads the displayed text to the user in either a male or female voice, at adjustable speeds of "slower," "default" and "faster."
At the end of the presentation, Bezos stepped aside to let King read from a new novella, "Ur," written exclusively for the Kindle 2.
"I don't even know how to say the word -Zeitgeist,'" joked King, who purchased the original Kindle in December 2007. "I thought I had a chance to say something about reading off a computer."
Like the original Kindle, the newer Amazon Kindle 2 allows users to adjust font size for increased readability, and it has been designed to be readable even in bright sunlight. The new device features 25 percent more battery life than the old version, with more than two weeks' continuous use on one charge.
"I think that Amazon is attempting to portray itself as the arbiter of the publishing industry, and frankly, anybody in publishing in their dealings with Amazon would do well to take a look at the record companies and Apple," Charles King, analyst with Pund-IT Research, said in an interview. "Throwing all your eggs into one basket can sometimes lead to unpleasant results."
The Kindle 2 ships Feb. 24.
Editor's Note: This article was updated to include quotes from an analyst.