Alright, Amazon. I’m sold on the new Kindle. Now can you deliver?

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When the first Kindle was launched, I admiringly took a look at the features it offered and considered some ways it could be improved. Others had some of the same ideas.  Although the next-generation Kindle that Amazon announced today doesn’t implement all of the suggestions, it improved in two ways that convinced me that I could really use this device to become more productive.

2007 suggestion:

Enable audio and ability to listen in car. This would kill my need to buy a traditional book again, and would be well worth the cost. In fact, I’d pay three times as much for each book if the audio version were included, in spite of the difficulties above. Then I could listen to books on my commute and read and reference books elsewhere. I’d even repurchase the books I’d already bought just so I could listen and/or read on my own terms, in my own time.

Kindle v2 improvements

Read-to-Me Feature – Now Kindle can read to you. With the new Text-to-Speech feature, Kindle can read every book, blog, magazine, and newspaper out loud to you. You can switch back and forth between reading and listening, and your spot is automatically saved. Pages automatically turn while the content is being read, so you can listen hands-free. You can choose from both male and female voices which can be sped up or slowed down to suit your preference. Anything you can read on Kindle, Kindle can read to you, including books, newspapers, magazines, blogs and even personal documents. In the middle of a great book or article but have to jump in the car? Simply turn on Text-to-Speech and listen on the go.

Audiobooks – With Kindle, you are able to download and enjoy more than 50,000 audio titles from Audible.com, including bestselling audio books, radio programs, audio newspapers, and magazines. Due to their file size, audiobooks are downloaded to your PC over your existing Internet connection and then transferred to Kindle using the included USB 2.0 cable. Listen via Kindle’s speaker or plug in your headphones for private listening.

I should mention that a couple of my 2007 criticisms were off the mark. For instance, owners would be able to access their entire library online, so if they lost or destroyed their Kindle, their library wouldn’t be at risk.

Although I still recognize the social nature of discovery and therefore believe in the utility of temporary book sharing (peer-to-peer and library-to-user)  the practical side of me says that publishers will never agree to it as long as they fear poaching, which is always. However, their Whispersync technology may eventually prove me wrong.

All said, even with a $356 price point, the Kindle may be the must-have device of 2009. Hopefully Amazon will be able to overcome the manufacturing difficulties that plagued the launch of their first device. – Cam Beck