TECHNOLOGY TRACKER: Can Kindle light a fire under inflight mags?
Online trader Amazon has introduced a new version of Kindle, the electronic book reader that first hit the market at the end of 2007.
With its reader-friendly display and ability to receive new content wirelessly, Amazon Kindle 2 and similar products from Sony and others could hasten the demise of the inflight magazine and airport blockbuster in paper form. Carriers like Emirates have already started taking a close look at the weight penalties associated with seatback literature. They must be tempted by the prospect of one day being able to ditch paper altogether, delivering exactly the same content by cabin WiFi to passengers’ own devices.
At just a third of an inch thick, Kindle 2 is slimmer than its predecessor as well as offering longer battery life (four to five days’ reading on one charge), faster page turns, over seven times more storage (2Gb, enough for 1,500 books), sharper images, and a text-to-speech capability. According to Amazon, its high-resolution 6in screen looks like real paper, allowing users to read for hours without suffering the eyestrain imposed by conventional backlit displays. It also weighs just 10oz, lighter than the heftier paperbacks.
More than 230,000 books, including 103 of the 110 current New York Times best-sellers and new releases, are now on sale in Amazon’s Kindle Store at typical prices of $9.99. Leading US and international magazines and newspapers are also available - newspaper subscriptions cost $5.99 to $14.99 a month, magazines $1.25 to $3.49 a month. Priced at $359, the device will start shipping to US customers on February 24.
Kindle 2’s key technologies are in its “electronic paper” screen and wireless capability. Unlike a conventional flat panel display, which uses a backlight to illuminate its pixels, electronic paper reflects light like ordinary paper and is capable of holding text and images indefinitely without drawing electricity, while allowing the image to be changed later. There are several different e-paper technologies, some using plastic substrate and electronics so that the display is flexible. E-paper is considered more comfortable to read than conventional displays, thanks to its stable image, which does not need to be refreshed constantly, the wider viewing angle, and the fact that it uses reflected ambient light.
Content is delivered wirelessly via Sprint’s US nationwide, EV-DO-based cellular network, which Amazon brands Whispernet for its own purposes. Customers can shop wirelessly in the Kindle Store and download new content in less than 60 seconds. Amazon includes the connectivity costs in its overall service charge, so there is no need for the customer to have a Sprint account.