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Bring the paperback
By Nick Burklow

On Feb. 23, Amazon began selling the second version of its electronic book reader, aptly named the Kindle 2. This go-round, it seems that Amazon has made a really beautiful, well-thought out device for reading on the go. But is it really worth the price of $359?

For that price, you get a 10.2 ounce, .036 inch thick piece of square white plastic with rounded corners. It has a 6-inch E-Ink electronic paper display with a resolution of 600 x 800, and can show your eyes 16 different levels of the color gray. To complete the exterior, you will find a full qwerty keyboard, five-way navigation stick, 3.5 mm headphone jack, external speakers on the back, a USB port and buttons for next and previous pages on both the right and left sides of the device.

The Kindle 2 differs from its predecessor when it comes to storage and battery life. It has a built-in 2 GB of storage (1.4 GB usable), and the battery is supposed to last 25 percent longer, giving you up to four days of reading time with the wireless connection on, or up to two weeks with the wireless connection off.

Speaking of wireless, the Kindle 2 includes a free wireless connection to the Sprint 3G high-speed data network. This allows users to search for and download content without ever hooking up the device to a computer. Amazon calls this connection Whispernet, and it utilizes optimized technology to deliver books to the device in less than 60 seconds.

The Kindle 2 features adjustable text size, text to speech (when made available by the rights holder), annotations for making notes and a built-in dictionary. You even get free access to the popular online encyclopedia Wikipedia. For a full rundown of all the features of and improvements to the original Kindle, visit www.amazon.com/kindle.

The success of a device like this is dependent on the available content and how that content is delivered. Amazon, being a massive online book retailer, has more than 245,000 books ready to go as well as monthly subscriptions to blogs, newspapers and magazines. Prices for books are about $9.99, which seems reasonable. Prices for the rest vary, but the blogs are usually the cheapest at $1.99 per month.

Amazon seems to have streamlined the delivery method. You are able to search for and purchase content, before delivering it straight to the device via Whispernet. All purchased content is backed up online at Amazon.com, and can be re-downloaded for free to the device at anytime. This allows you to comfortably delete content in order to free up space for new items.

To take in all those books, blogs, newspapers and magazines, the Kindle 2 sports the aforementioned 6-inch E-Ink electronic paper screen. The display uses ink, just like normal printed materials, but then displays that ink electronically.

This black-and-white screen is touted as having the same appearance and readability as paper. There is no backlight and the device never gets warm to the touch. The screen is also readable in sunlight and has no glare to it, just like paper.

Gadget lovers and heavy readers who like to travel light will see the value of the Kindle 2. However, at $359 I feel that it is out of range for the average person.  

As a gadget lover, I find myself perplexed when it comes to the Kindle 2. It is a gorgeous device with many amazing features and benefits, and to be honest, I really love it. However, I can only envision myself using it to read blogs, newspapers and the occasional magazine. You see, when it comes to reading a book, I want my paperback. I want to feel the pages as I turn them, and more importantly, I want to be far away from a screen of any kind. Books are my one real escape from the electronic world I live and work in. I am in front of a computer, phone, TV or some other gadget more often than not. I need that one thing in my life that doesn't consistently need power to be used. Books are that thing for me.

It's not to say that the Kindle 2 isn't right for everyone, but I know it is not right for me. The market is there; this we know. The first device sold well. The second version is a huge improvement upon the first, and thus should sell well also.  

Some people are even calling the Kindle 2 the "iPod for books." I am not sure I would go that far, but I guess time will tell what successes await this new reading innovation.


Nick's Pick: Apple Mac Mini

The Mac Mini from Apple has been around for a while now. It's nothing special, but you know, that is part of what I like about it. You see, I just bought one thanks to a nice bonus from my day job. It makes a great second computer for the household, and it's perfectly suited to be used as a multimedia hub as well.

Apple recently refreshed the Mac Mini and in doing so gave it a speed bump with the new 2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor, 1GB of RAM, 120GB hard drive and NVIDA GeForce 9400M integrated graphics. This base configuration should be enough for the average user and will set you back $599. I would recommend increasing the RAM to 2GB, because it also bumps the shared video RAM from 128MB to 256MB. That upgrade will set you back another $50.

Now all you need to do is hook it up to that nice large flat-screen TV that is taking up the whole wall in your living room, add a wireless keyboard and mouse and install Boxee to get yourself set up with a sweet media center computer. More to come on Boxee in a future review.

Story published Friday, May 1, 2009 ( Volume 4, Number 3 )

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