So now we know why the Kindle 2 has been out of stock at Amazon. First there was the Kindle, then there was the Kindle 2, and now we have... the Kindle! Yes indeed, Amazon is dropping the numerical suffix and going back to calling its 6" e-reader simply the Kindle, and a new model is coming out on August 27th (but is available for pre-order now).
Last month Barnes & Noble undercut Amazon by offering a WiFi-only Nook for $149. It seems Amazon saw that as a gauntlet thrown, because the newest iteration of the Kindle comes in two versions, and the WiFi-only version will be $139. Your move, B&N. The 3G version will be $189, the same as the now discontinued Kindle 2 (and $10 less than the 3G Nook). So what else is new? Nothing revolutionary: this is still a gray-scale E Ink device. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos told the Wall Street Journal that he wasn't interested in making an Amazon tablet computer and said:
"For the vast majority of books, adding video and animation is not going to be helpful. It is distracting rather than enhancing. You are not going to improve Hemingway by adding video snippets."
You have to admire the purity of his vision but I rather like the fact that I can use my iPad both to read Kindle books and to watch the 1943 movie version of For Whom the Bell Tolls on Netflix. Of course at $139 the new Kindle is affordable enough to be a second device to have for when you want to read outside where the sunshine renders the vampire-esque iPad's screen non-functional. But getting back on track, there are some improvements between the Kindle 2 and the Kindle New. Engadget has some details and those lucky b-- lucky bloggers also got some hands-on time. Quick bullet points: more storage, lighter, thinner (while maintaining the same screen size), faster and some massaging of the controls to make it an overall better experience. I refer you to their post for more details but they sounded quite pleased. Of course you're still going to need a light to read by (and to bother sleeping partners with), and I'll be very interested to see how fast page turns are (one of my gripes with most E Ink devices is the weirdness of turning a page and waiting for the refresh). Still, I spent more than $139 on plastic instruments for playing Rock Band. I think now's the time for me to take the E Ink plunge. What about you? Has the price dropped low enough to nudge you off the fence? Or are you just not interested in e-readers? Or is $139 still too much to pay?