Amazon launches a sleeker, spookier Kindle 2

Amazon hosted an event today at the Morgan Library in New York that officially unveiled the second generation Kindle which surfaced in leaked photos as far back as October 2008.

The new Kindle has the same screen size as the original version, but has received an upgrade to the shape and durability of the chassis. Now only a fraction of the thickness (0.36" at its thickest), and stuffed with a purported seven times the amount of storage of the first generation Kindle, the latest version has incorporated a metal back plate into the body design.

Amazon also announced a content deal with bestselling horror author Steven King, where his newest story will be distributed exclusively on the Kindle platform.

Popularity of the device has proven to be unprecedented. Even before the holiday shopping season, Amazon had a message the Kindle product page warning consumers of limited availability. "Due to heavy customer demand," the page says, "Kindle is sold out. Please ORDER KINDLE NOW to reserve your place in line. We prioritize orders on a first come, first served basis..."

Early pic of second gen Kindle, "leaked" last week

That message today has been replaced by a personal message from Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, "Since launching the original Kindle a little over a year ago, customer response has far surpassed our highest hopes -- and we're grateful and appreciative for that. More people are reading more books, newspapers, and blogs on Kindle sooner than we ever imagined."

Kindle 2 has several newly-added features, such as text-to-speech reading capability, Whispersync, the ability to sync two or more Kindle devices with marked pages, and the one Betanews is most excited about, Kindle experimental, a sort of Google Labs testing ground for new Kindle functions.

Because of the Kindle's scene-stealing popularity, companies like Plastic Logic are given an instant audience for their own e-paper products. Unsurprisingly, that company chose today to also make announcements regarding its Reader product. When the Plastic Logic Reader is launched, the company says it will now offer an "app store" of sorts with content from Financial Times, USA Today, Ingram Digital, LibreDigital, and Zinio. Plastic Logic intends to produce the first business and enterprise-oriented E-ink product in the last quarter of this year.

The second generation Kindle, however, is for sale now, and will be shipping on February 24 for $359.99. Despite Bezos saying "We kept everything readers love about the original Kindle," the Kindle 2 will not include the carrying case like the last generation. Instead, owners will have to shell out between $30 and $120 for a third-party sleeve.

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