Why Amazon's Kindle 2 just isn't good enough

Kindle 2
Electronic paper has huge potential but this isn't it

Amazon.com has unveiled its latest Kindle - or as Amazon puts it, "Kindle 2: Amazon's New Wireless Reading Device (Latest Generation)".

Geeks are swooning and there's speculation that unlike the first version, Kindle 2 is coming to the UK: all it needs is a different 3G chip and some deals with the phone companies.

May we suggest that Amazon doesn't bother?

We're very excited about electronic paper's potential, but we're not convinced the technology is quite there yet. There's lots to like about the Kindle 2: Amazon's New Wireless Reading Device (Latest Generation) including a nice screen, the WhisperNet/WhisperSync networking that should enable you to keep your place across multiple devices and a super-slim form factor, but there's lots to dislike, too.

Leaving aside the fact that the paperback book is pretty much perfect, Amazon's device doesn't do colour and you're not going to use a $359 gadget to kill wasps, there are three big problems with it.

The first is that despite the redesign, it still looks like something Noddy and Big Ears would use. The second is that Amazon has removed some key features, making it less flexible than before. And the third is that it simply isn't good enough when you compare it to other gadgets.

Where the Kindle 2 falls down

While Kindle 2: Amazon's New Wireless Reading Device (Latest Generation) boasts a better screen, better wireless connectivity and better battery life, the battery itself is no longer replaceable. Another omission is the SD card slot present in the first generation. It's not particularly important for storing books - those files are relatively small - but it's a pain for anyone who likes to play MP3s while they read or uses their Kindle to play audiobooks as well as display printed ones.

Last but not least, there's the "not particularly good" problem. There's a web browser, but it's a basic one. It does blogs, but only a selection of them - and you'll pay for the Kindle Editions of blogs such as Lifehacker and TechCrunch that you can read online for free.It does newspapers and magazines, but only a handful of them.

By making the device do more than just ebooks, Amazon has taken it into proper computer and smartphone territory - territory where you'll find better browsers, better blog readers, proper PDF support and Google Book Search.

Ultimately, Kindle 2: Amazon's New Wireless Reading Device (Latest Generation) is a less useful iPhone or netbook with a really nice screen and a really big price tag. It'll sell to constant travellers, textbook-toting students and the "look at me! Look at me! Everybody! Look at me!" crowd, but we can't help but think of those dinner plate-sized MP3 players that briefly caught people's attention before the arrival of the iPod.

It's a good device. We're just not convinced it's good enough.


Carrie Marshall

Writer, broadcaster, musician and kitchen gadget obsessive Carrie Marshall has been writing about tech since 1998, contributing sage advice and odd opinions to all kinds of magazines and websites as well as writing more than a dozen books. Her memoir, Carrie Kills A Man, is on sale now and her next book, about pop music, is out in 2025. She is the singer in Glaswegian rock band Unquiet Mind.