A little over a year ago, I wrote my first Kindle review, and now it’s time for me to review the new Kindle 2 from Amazon.  I am amazed at some of the lousy reviews I’ve read so far of the Kindle 2 — not that the authors don’t like the device, they do — but rather because it’s obvious they have never really used a Kindle every single day as part of their information dissemination system.  I use my Kindle all day every day.  I pay my own way buying Kindles and content.  I apologize upfront for the awful iPhone 3G images of my Kindle — that’s the price we pay for quickness and speed in getting this review online.  You can still tell the differences between the first Kindle and the Next Generation, though.  The most obvious, and welcome, change in the Kindle 2 is the information bar is now at the top of the screen where it belongs so you can see, upfront, how your Whispernet internet signal is doing and the status of your battery!  Images on the Kindle 2 are also deeper and richer than the first iteration.

The Kindle 2 feels great in your hand.  It is sleeker and snappier in every respect and the original Kindle feels heavy and clunky in comparison.  Once you hold a Kindle 2 in your hand, you’ll never go back to your old Kindle again. 

Charging the Kindle is also easier.  The wire is longer and thicker (that’s what she said!) while the plug is now dual purpose:  Plug it into your wall outlet or transform it into a USB plug to charge your Kindle 2 with your computer.

My biggest concern — as a previous owner of two of the original Kindle — was how to move all my content from my Amazon account to my two new Kindle 2s. 

I was pleasantly surprised, as you can see in the image below, that the Kindle 2 is now more “content aware” of where all my junque is located. 

The “Archived Items” list contains information on all my purchased books and blog and newspaper and magazine subscriptions on the Amazon server.  By clicking on that link, I am provided a list of my content that I can then “open” and have it downloaded to my Kindle 2 as an active book.

Here’s what my “Archived Items” list looks like.  All 104 items are “in the Amazon cloud” and if I want to read them, I click on the title and the Kindle 2 will download the book for reading. 

Depending on the size of the book the “Opening” screen can last
anywhere from 10 seconds to a couple of minutes. 

Once the book has
been “Opened” once from your Archive, it becomes an active book for
reading on your Kindle 2 and then reading it becomes just as blazing
fast as you remember it to be on your Kindle original.

The Kindle 2 home screen is still recognizable and basically unchanged.  I’m so glad the scroll wheel is gone.  The five-way controller is much more intuitive to use.

Here’s a peek at my morning download delivery on my Kindle 2.  Reading the blogs and newspapers is quicker on the Kindle 2 even though I do not like the new navigation buttons.  I prefer the old Kindle buttons.  

The new Kindle 2 action buttons require an inward press instead of an outward one — and that is immediately thumb unfriendly because, when you’re holding a Kindle 2 in your hands, the more natural way to interact is to press the outer edge of the device instead of having to turn your thumbs inward and down to get a button to fire.  Working the new buttons are unnatural to use and uncomfortable to perform.

You can have up to six Kindles registered to a single Amazon account.  You can see all four of my Kindles listed below.  You can deregister any of the Kindles in your management screen.

You can also check the delivery status for any of your Kindles in the online management area.

I also like the new “on” switch to turn on your Kindle 2.  There’s no more awkward double button chording needed to wake up the machine.

The new keyboard is okay.  I don’t use it much, but it feels and looks more discrete.

Your Kindle 2 can read books aloud to you.  I found this “experimental” feature to be silly and unbearable.  Don’t buy a Kindle 2 to make your current books into audiobooks.  The experience will disappoint you.

I love the official Kindle 2 cover.  It’s a separate purchase, but worth it.  The cover is slim and well designed.  Stay away from the nylon Patagonia case for the Kindle 2:  It’s ugly and cumbersome and ill designed.

I mourn the loss of the SD card slot in the Kindle 2 to add extra capacity.  I understand why Amazon deleted it, though, and it has nothing to do with how many books you can store on your Kindle.  It has to do with controlling your content.

With an SD active, Amazon cannot “control” your Kindle’s content to know what you have and have not downloaded if there is a technical problem.

I was in the habit of always moving my dead content to my SD card — the process was slow and persnickety on the original Kindle — but I liked the idea of having books on an SD card and active content like newspapers and magazines directly on the Kindle’s base memory.

The control issue I discovered was if you moved a book to your SD card, Amazon could not remove the book from your Kindle.  They could remove the book from your online storage and from the Kindle’s active memory, but if your content was on the SD card, Amazon could see it on your Kindle, but they could not remove or edit the content.

I discovered this “SD card content protection scheme” by chance early in the life of the original Kindle when I purchased several older books that did not have the proper Kindle formatting and I asked for a refund because the books were unreadable on the Kindle. 

Amazon customer support were always wonderful in refunding my money, and then deleting the book from my Kindle — and then telling me later on that the problem was fixed and that I could re-download the book for purchase again.  It was pretty amazing to watch a book “disappear” from your Kindle’s main memory in the blink of an eye.

If, however, I had already moved a “bad font” book to the SD card from my Kindle’s main memory, Amazon could not delete it from my Kindle even though they could remove the book from my online Amazon locker. 

I don’t think Amazon realized early on that they could not delete content from an SD card unless they were actively looking for a confirmation/false confirmation from the Kindle itself that the content had been removed. 

My sense is that not even a Kindle OS update could touch the SD card content and, in Amazon’s purview, that’s a bad thing, because they were refunding money paid for books that were still on the device — even if the content was unreadable.   

As well, if there’s an update to a book or a formatting fix, those editorial and design modifications cannot be performed on the book if the book is on an SD card and not the Kindle’s main memory. 

One great power of publishing eBooks as an author and publisher is you can embed perceived value by promising your readers automatic updates to the book as ideas change and as new understanding is created. 

Removing the SD card slot from the Kindle 2 altogether fixes that niggly problem of content control.  Make no mistake about it.  You do not own the content on your Kindle.  Amazon does.

I know some people are concerned with this sort of “censorship” by Amazon in that books — and history and the law and newspapers — can be “rewritten” and “invisibly updated” to conform to a particular political passion or business viewpoint. 

You can always download your content to your computer and store the originals in a safe place — I don’t know many Kindle owners who do that because it’s an extra messy step in the process — but that protection is there if you want to invoke it for posterity.

The real magic in the Kindle 2, and beyond, will be in the ongoing inevitable ability of creating a pool of your purchased content that is particular to only you and then allowing you to do deep, visual, searches to create tendrils of meaning between disparate books, magazines and blogs that will help you frame a context of understanding beyond just plain text.

You can already do plain text cross-content searching on the Kindle using its native search function, but that process only provides basic results from your active Kindle content, or the Kindle store, or Google, or the embedded dictionary, or Wikipedia or “the web” itself. 

Having the Kindle search for connections you don’t know are there and then presenting them all interconnected and bubbling in the frame of time, relationships and divination, is the next, great, step in eBook reader publishing.


  1. I see you have purchased a copy of the excellent novella Kate by that fabulous Gordon Davidescu. What a great choice! 😉
    I thought the only way you could put MP3s on your Kindle was through the SD – is mp3 playing no longer available?

  2. Hi Gordon!
    Yes, Janna and I are both enjoying the fabulous “Kate” novel you wrote on our new Kindle 2s!
    Music is still there:

    Transfer MP3 files to Kindle to play as background music while you read. You can quickly and easily transfer MP3 files via USB by connecting Kindle to your computer.


  3. I look forward to both of your reviews! 🙂
    Glad to know that the MP3 is still there – though I don’t even use MP3 on my Kindle due to having an ipod! 🙂

  4. I love my new Kindle 2. I took it to work today and read on the trains. The smaller size is so much better for handling and reading. I don’t like the new buttons. Crampy.

  5. JMS in the house! Thanks for that real world report. Did it look like people wanted to grab your new Kindle 2? How does the screen look various lighting conditions?

  6. People always look at my Kindle and want one. The screen is a little too good in that respect because it’s so easy to read over my shoulder. The new screen is even better in the strange lights you find in and around the PATH train and NYC subways. Always crisp and clear. Cartoons and photos look great now and that includes the screen savers.

  7. Love the report from the field, Janna, thanks! Please keep us updated. I can imagine it’s creepy having creeps gandering your Kindle over your shoulder. Darn those beautiful screens! I wonder if they sell privacy filters for the Kindle 2? SMILE!

  8. Oh yeah, and I agree about the Amazon cover. Must have it even though it’s leather. But is it? Some people say it isn’t even tho they’re selling it as such. The Patagonia case is very high school. Pre-school, actually. Not a good look for an adult and it doesn’t seem to protect my Kindle as good as the Amazon one.

  9. Yes, the controversy around the official Amazon Kindle 2 cover being leather or not is sort of funny to read. It certainly is stinky, though. The Patagonia case is, indeed, pre-school and non-adult. It even has a pocket for your crayons and a note from mommy.

  10. I just received the Kindle 2 and I am loving it. I like the way it feels
    to hold, love the dictionary when I’m reading a book and don’t have
    to bother searching through a regular one, like having lots of books
    downloaded on one thin device, and the screen is terrific. I ordered
    a leather cover for mine and it hasn’t arrived yet, so the vote is out
    regarding whether I’ll like it.

  11. Thanks for the comment, Freya!
    I agree the Kindle 2 feels great in the hand. I prefer to use it without a cover because it is thinner and has a better feel in the hand. If you plan to travel with it, though, you need to have a good cover.
    Keep us updated on your Kindle 2 experience!

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