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Kindle 2: Predictions vs. Reality

Last week, I posted about what I expected–and didn’t expect–from Kindle 2.0; today I’m comparing those predictions with the reality of the new Kindle.

(The long and the short of it is that Kindle 2.0 is a bit underwhelming.)

Let’s do this.


Kindle 2.0 WILL HAVE predictions:

Better page-turn buttons: Right

Prediction: “I imagine Amazon started working on new buttons approximately the day after they released Kindle 1.0.”

Reality:According to Amazon, “The page-turn buttons now flex inward to prevent any accidental page turns when picking up or handling Kindle.” Sounds like they’ve been thinking about it.

The same ugly design: Right

Prediction: “I don’t think they’ll revamp completely.”

Reality: Again, a bit better, but the device is still way too big for the screen size, for my taste.

A better battery: Right

Prediction: “Why the hell not?”

Reality: According to Amazon, the battery’s 25% better. It wasn’t like they were going to make it worse.

USB charging: Right

Prediction: “If your device can get its own content, why make it a requirement to plug it into a computer ever? I hope they at least have a slick adapter like Apple’s.”

Reality: They do include an adapter. I’m still not sure how this is a bonus if you have to email all your documents to your Amazon account anyway.

A better contrast ratio: Hmm…

Prediction: “I think Amazon’s going to lean on readability as their physical difference from the Sony Reader.”

Reality: Amazon describes the E-Ink display as “crisp” and says images will be “sharper” with 16 shades of gray. I’m guessing this means they didn’t improve the contrast ratio, as they make no mention of it. Also, I don’t know who’s looking at images on an ereader, but I guess it’s better now.

Open PDF support: Wrong

Prediction: “It’s the thing people want most, and I don’t think Amazon will ignore it completely.”

Reality: Wrong, they ignored it completely. You still have to email anything that’s not Amazon-proprietary, TXT, or unprotected Mobipocket.

Something great nobody sees coming: Hmm…

Prediction: “If Amazon has a feature that’s not driven by the feedback from Kindle 1.0, it’ll show that they’re thinking with Apple-like innovation.”

Reality: There are a few neat features that I listed at the bottom of this post. Most useful for the casual reader will probably be the built-in dictionary advancement. According to a reviewer at DVICE, the text-to-speech is actually not bad. All in all, nothing really groundbreaking in the new design.


Kindle 2.0 WON’T HAVE predictions:

Secure PDF support: Right

Prediction: “Why won’t Amazon let you read secure PDFs? It would open the door for a universal ebook format to emerge, and Amazon wants to use its proprietary store as leverage to sell more Kindles.”

Reality: Modestly speaking, nailed it.

The ability to borrow library ebooks: Right

Prediction: “Without the ability to read any secure format that’s not the Amazon proprietary, Kindlers still won’t be able to read borrowed ebooks.”

Reality: Nothing changed in Kindle’s format support, so nothing changed in regards to library ebooks. This is still my biggest reason not to own a Kindle.

A color display: Right

Prediction: “I think Amazon is more likely to stay conservative and aim for a really sharp black and white display, rather than a muddy color prototype.”

Reality: If “sharp” means more shades of grayscale, as Amazon defines it, I guess the new Kindle is sharper.

A touchscreen or integrated light: Right

Prediction: “The Sony Reader PRS-700 has these, and it had to sacrifice contrast ratio and glare reduction to get them. I think Amazon will go the other way and sacrifice a good interface for readability.”

Reality: Righto.


Unpredicted new features

Faster processor

20% faster, according to Amazon. Third-party tests, however, don’t show a noticeable improvement.

More storage space (but no SD cards)

A Kindle can now hold over 1500 books, which will be great the next time you take a vacation for thirty or forty years. Also, according to GOOD, there’s no SD card slot, so that kind of hamstrings the mp3 capability. The best of no worlds!

Text-to-speech reader

At first I thought this would be great for blind readers, but wouldn’t they just get the audiobooks and not bother with a Kindle? I can’t imagine I’d use this, but some reviewers like it.

Whispersync

“Have more than one Kindle? Our new Whispersync technology allows you to seamlessly switch back and forth between your Kindle devices while keeping your reading location synchronized–simply pick up reading right where you left off.”

This is quite useful as I plan to buy 4 and keep one in each room of my apartment. Nothing like reading while you cook.

Basic web browser

In this post, I quoted the following from Cory Doctorow:

The more you do with your computer, the more likely it is that you’ll be interrupted after five to seven minutes to do something else.

That’s why the web browser gives me pause. The more things the Kindle is capable of, the more likely I will be to use it for something else instead of reading.

Onboard dictionary improvement

Slightly more convenient in that the words pop up at the bottom of the screen. Probably the best new feature of Kindle 2.0. Which says a lot about the new features of Kindle 2.0.


The bottom line: New “features” mask same old Kindle

The Kindle is the default ereader right now, and Amazon has no motivation to make significant design advances. So, until another company’s device catches up (meaning: gets wireless), look for Amazon to keep rolling out the same basic Kindle with minor additions and tweaks. In rounder and rounder versions, it seems.

If you didn’t want a Kindle before, 2.0 offers no compelling reason to get one now. As for other companies: the race to build the perfect ereader is still anybody’s to win.

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