Amazon’s New, Slimmer Kindle 2 Due Feb. 24

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Amazon has taken the wraps off the Kindle 2, a new version of its popular ebook reader. The Kindle 2 aims to improve on the original Oprah-beloved Kindle reader by offering a sharper screen, a sharper 6-inch e-Ink display, substantially expanded storage, a new slim design, and an experimental “read to me” feature that uses text-to-speech technology so users can listen to books, magazines, newspapers, and other content using the Kindle.

“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,” said Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, in a statement.

The Kindle 2 features a 6-inch 800 by 600-pixel e-Ink display that supports 16 shades of grey, rather than the four shades on the screen of the original Kindle—Amazon also says the new display is about 20 percent faster than the original Kindle’s screen. The new Kindle is also slimmer, coming in at just over a third of an inch thick, with new buttons that enable users to easily turn pages regardless of how they’re holding the unit. The Kindle 2 also sports a five-way controller for easier navigation and note-taking, and a more-portable power charger for taking Kindle on the road.

Under the hood, the Kindle 2 comes with 2 GB of memory (which Amazon says should be enough for up to 1,500 books) and a battery life 25 percent longer than the original Kindle. And, of course, it still supports Amazon’s WhisperNet wireless capability, using Sprint’s 3G network to pull books into the Kindle throughout the United States with no monthly fees or subscription plans. The Kindle 2 also automatically syncs up with the original Kindle and (Amazon hints) future Kindle devices, so users can easily transition between units. Amazon says the Kindle 2 will be able to sync with mobile phones in the future.

And where does Kindle content come from? Amazon’s Kindle Store, which currently offers over 230,000 books, an increase from the 90,000 available when the original Kindle launched in 2008. The Kindle Store also offers many current magazines and newspapers, along with more than 1,200 blogs.

Amazon will start shipping the Kindle 2 on February 24 at a price of $359; pre-ordering is available as of today.

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