Huzzah! It's finally arrived. It's never fun to sit and drool while other cats in other countries get to play with all the best tech and, at last, we in the UK can get our clutches on the Amazon Kindle 2. So, it's here but so are one hell of a lot of eBook readers. The question is, do we still want it? See if this helps to make up your mind one way or the other.
Get it now
1. It's Cheap
As premium eBook readers go, the Kindle 2 is a bit of a bargain. There's a slew of budget models out there at the same £200 mark but none of those have the connectivity and over the air book store access. You can argue that the hardware on the Sony readers and the recently released iRex is better, but the tops of their lines are only available in the US at the moment and they're $100 dearer anyway.
2. Epic Kindle Store
Probably the biggest advantage in opting for the Kindle is access to the epically large Amazon Kindle book store which currently houses 350,000 plus titles. Google is looking to redress the balance somewhat by scanning a million books for free into the public domain, but it still doesn't change the fact that currently it's only Amazon in the UK that allows users to access and download from a store over 3G direct to their reader. Very useful.
3. Good Storage
It may seem strange to big up the internal storage on the Kindle 2 when there's the elephant in the room, namely the fact that it doesn't have an SD card slot or any other kind of removable media unlike most other readers. But, what Amazon does do is offer 2GB of internal space which is double what most manufacturers have come up with. That gives you room for around 1500 books which should be enough to get from London Paddington to Calcutta several times over and without both the added expense and faff of SD cards.
4. Text to Speech
The use of the text to speech function for most people is debatable, but there's a huge population of partially sited users in the world who'll be able to plug their headphones into the Kindle and have the device read their books to them. Whether you use it or not, it's good to know that the company you've signed up for is trying to cater for as many people as it can.
5. The Apple Effect
Arguably one of Apple's greatest factors for success is that they make the devices and they make the software that goes with them. Amazon has a similar thing going on in with eBook readers in that they make the device and the sell the books too. Many readers rely on sideloading through online stores like Waterstones and, as good as they are, these stores simply can't be tailor made to fit one device and its software. Of course, the other side of it is that you're not tied into any one ecosystem but then there's no need for financial negotiations or deals of any sort in the background with the Amazon solution which tends to make for a smoother and often slightly cheaper end service.
Give it a miss
1. Screen Issues
Firstly, none of the Kindles has a touchscreen which is beginning to make gadgets look like they were built in the last century. One of its main rivals over here, the Sony Reader Touch edition, as its name suggests, does. The Kindle 2 does have a QWERTY if you don't mind getting old school - and indeed, some people prefer it - but there have also been some complaints with the quality of the contrast, and the 16 shade grey-scale has made some people feel so ill that they've switched back to the original Kindle.
2. Size Issues
Manufacturers like Sony and iRex are starting to offer readers in different sizes. Of course, Amazon offers the 10-inch DX but that has a fairly specific market and isn't the size that most people are after. A six-inch eBook reader may be the standard at the moment but it rules a section of the public out who'd rather choose from something more pocket size to the new wave of 8.1-inchers.
3. Limited File Support
Amazon has chosen a closed DRM file system for the Kindle, meaning that it only supports a very small number of strange sounding file types - .AZW, .MOBI, .AAX and .TXT plus MP3s as well. If the Google scan project does go ahead, which looks likely, the files offered by the internet giant will be PDFs and EPUBs, neither of which currently work on the Kindle 2. Amazon is looking to introduce PDFs and they do provide a file conversion service, but it can cost money and adds a certain pain-in-the-arse factor.
4. Too Specific
As Steve Jobs pointed out, in this age of convergence, something as specific as an eBook reader might not be worth your money even in the relatively short term. According to the Apple supremo, it's usually more general devices that are successful, with a possible hint towards the much rumoured and probably similar sized iTablet. One obvious reaction to his words are that it's the e-paper that makes readers what they are, but then perhaps that's a clue to just one of the features in the forthcoming Apple gadgets? Nobody's perfect but Jobs has made an immense career out of some well-judged calls. He may have a point.
5. Who needs a reader?
eBooks aren't just the preserve of readers. You can download them onto your phone or your handheld games console. They may not be so easy on the eye to read but it's an option. Another choice, of course, is to buy a paperback. There's still plenty to be said for hard copy books. They're cheaper than a reader, not such a problem if you loose them, harder to damage and they look pretty good on a shelf once you're done with them.