Meet the Kindle 2

Amazon's new wireless reading device is sleeker, faster—and will even tell you a bedtime story.

02.09.09 4:19 PM ET

What a difference 14 months makes. When Amazon introduced its first wireless reading device, back in the fall of 2007, there was a press conference, but little fanfare. On Monday, the introduction of the new Kindle 2 was a major publicity event: formal press lists (strictly enforced), packed room at the Morgan Library—I even heard it mentioned on the local New York  NBC news affiliate in the morning. And it was a star-studded event: Amazon founder Jeff Bezos conducted the press conference—and introduced his  Kindle-loving friend, author Stephen King, who read from a story, Ur, that he specially wrote about a Kindle with mysterious powers. He also showed off the one-of-a kind version Bezos gave him—it’s hot pink—but that’s not going to be available to the public. 

Stephen King showed off the one-of-a-kind version his pal Jeff Bezos gave him—it’s hot pink—but that’s not going to be available to the public. At least not yet.
King was the only bona fide celebrity in attendance—but what was striking to me was the number of publishing “celebrities” in attendance. Such agents as Sterling Lord Literistic’s Ira Silverberg, publishers David Shanks (Penguin) and Carolyn Reidy (Simon & Schuster) and foreign scout queen Maria Campbell were there—as was new Random House CEO Markus Dohle.

Is the Kindle really that important? Most estimates put all downloadable books at about 1 percent of the market, and the Kindle is only one device. The company is and remains very tight-lipped about how many they’ve sold, though Bezos is happy to tell you that in 14 months, they’ve gone from having 90,000 titles available in the Kindle-ready format to having 230,000. Yet somehow, even though some publishers have said privately that they prefer the Sony Reader over Kindle, version 1—their attendance at the kind of event that used to be the province of geeks and publishing reporters (sometimes the same person), suggests that a shift to Kindle 2 is upon us.

So how is the new Kindle different from the old one?

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Sara Nelson is the former editor in chief of Publishers Weekly and the author of the bestselling So Many Books, So Little Time.