Out of stock since November Amazon was pretty slick in holding off would be buyers of the Kindle 1 by releasing the new Kindle February 9th and telling all those who ordered the new Kindle would ship to those that were on the ‘waiting list’.
And it appears that Kindle 2 will be an improvement over the current model. All the good features of the original – instant downloads, note taking, and an-easy-to-use-interface are in evidence and added to that are 16 shades of grey ink font to choose from (as opposed to one now), a joystick controller, AND Whispersync which allows users to start reading the book on their Kindle and then continue reading on another Kindle or mobile phone. Also upgraded is space to hold 1,500 books (as opposed to 200 on the current model). No color yet however and no ability to back light the display when you want it. That is an inherent problem with the e-ink display which is an asset when you want to read your Kindle in bright sunlight (no problem) but in the dark it’s as good as a paper book. Which is to say it’s not? But bestsellers will still cost $ 9.99 which is a very good thing.
In what I perceive to be the most interesting new feature – the ability of the Kindle to ‘read’ the book to you (they call it text to speech) – or not, you can apparently you can turn on and off this feature depending on your mood and desire. I have not yet heard the voice or if there is a choice of voices (I imagine having Kathleen Turner read Thomas Friedman’s ‘Hot Flat and Crowded’ might make it even more interesting) – but I doubt they will offer any voice choice. From what I can tell it seems like a computer voiced Robby the Robot type monotone will be the reader, and I wonder how long people will find that to be acceptable?
Already there has been some noise made on Amazon’s ‘right’ to have a voice program read the book or text (newspaper/magazines). Somehow I don’t think this is going to kill the audio book market as a human voice reading a novel is going to be vastly different than a computer generated voice (think the voice prompts for airlines are horrible to listen to? – this could be worse!)
So for the most part I think the new Kindle 2 will be a hit. Except for one thing that really bugs me. As an early adopter/customer I had my first Kindle within a month of the release. Well sort of. The first one did not work and I had to send it back and Amazon promptly sent me a new one. Then after nearly a year the second one died and I had to send it back and again Amazon sent me another new one – no questions asked. In both instances I returned the old one after the new one arrived in and Amazon paid the shipping. Great.
On the other hand the new Kindle is actually $ 40 less expensive than the one I bought in November 2007. Ok I can live with that. But if I want to get the Kindle 2 I get to pay the same $ 359 that everyone else does. I derive no benefit from being a previous buyer and current customer. That is a very poor example of CRM and building on a great customer relationship. I have raved about the Kindle since I got it and told MANY people of its benefits. Those like me also rave about the Kindle (just ask Oprah) – but to ignore our previous patronage of the first release and not incent previous customers to get the new one is very surprising from a company that for the most part gets it right when it comes to customer relationships.