Today, Amazon.com had a big press event to unveil the newest generation of its e-book reader, the Kindle.  Speculation has been running about for while now that Amazon would release a new reader with leaked photos, increased orders of screens, and a long reorder wait at the Kindle store.

So, what’s new about it? Well, not much.  There were some cosmetic changes, which many people called for when it first came out in late 2007.  It’s lighter and thinner, has an estimated 25% increase in battery power, and more memory that will allow it to hold nearly 6 times more books.

What’s in it for manga readers?  Again, not much.  It does boast a new screen that is capable of showing 16 shades of gray, as opposed to the first generation that could only show 4.  This would definitely improve the quality of black and white pictures, which makes up most manga releases.

What hasn’t changed?  The two most important things that would make the Kindle relevant to manga readers; price and content.  The price hasn’t changed, so it’s still $359.  But in this economy, that prices the reader out of LOT of people’s range.  Prices under $200 seems to be the magical limit for most consumers.  The Kindle was designed to be and remains a tool for the affluent and/or business person on the go.  This is most reflected in the content available for it.  You can get  103 of 110 New York Times best sellers, 230,000 total e-books, and 250 blogs and 23 newspapers.  A search of the Kindle store will give you just three manga volumes; Maximum Rider and World of Quest from Yen Press, and Japan Ai from Go Comi, and zero blogs.

This upgrade of the Kindle is more of a 1.75 than a 2.0.  They fixed some little issues and made some cosmetic changes, but little else.  There’s still no graphic support without hacking, and although files can be converted, there’s no support for other formats than the Kindles mobibook.  The SD slot was also taken out, so your 2GB of memory is it.

Jeff Bezos says “Our [Amazon's] vision for the Kindle is to have every book ever printed, in any language, all available in under 60 seconds.”   I would think that would include manga, manga publishers would have to get serious about the format, and not just scoff it.  And then there are issues of licensing and price to consider, with Amazon pushing for lower prices, and taking 65% of that price.  Like the Apple Apps store, maybe it’s just not worth it to publishers, which would truly be a shame.

Is the Kindle 2.0 worth it?  Unless you’re a tech hound, or travel a lot for business, no.  Stay with paper books for now.

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5 Comments for this entry

  • Heather Ward says:

    At a xmas party late last year I ran into a friend that has gone gaa gaa over the Kindle. She has not bought a paper book in 5 months and loves reading stuff off her reader. The problem I have is reading manga. I must be able to see an ENTIRE page of manga all at once, not by panel or 75% of a page. Which is the main reason I do not support scanlations, besides the legality. Only one manga in the last 5 years have I seen online did not force me to scroll down or to side to see a full page. Unfortunately my friend does not read much manga, so she could not tell me how the Kindle performed in that compacity. I am glad Amazon is still supporting this format and hopefully they will one day bring it down in price.

  • I agree with wanting to see the whole page of a manga at one time. I don’t like scrolling either, and tried reading a scanalation on my palm. It sucked. If the Kindle views as good as the Tokyopop viewer, I’d be happy.

    Even if your friend read manga, there’s next to nothing available, and to get scanalations means hacking (not always a bad thing).

    I’m still optimistic about ebooks, and do want an ereader. I’m leaning toward the Sony though, as it’s more flexible and cheaper. But it’s the publishers that need to be convinced to make manga available in the format.

  • I’m still not sold on the viability of the e-book, it seems to be all flash and very little substance. In my life, at least, carrying around a $300 piece of technology that is no better, functionally, than a $5 paperback, doesn’t make much sense. I can carry 200 books? Great, I can only read one at a time, why do I need to cart around 200? Besides, while I wouldn’t feel all that bad about losing that $5 paperback, I’d be really, really upset at leaving my $350 Kindle behind.

    They really need to offer something with an e-book reader that you simply cannot get with a physical book at 1/75th the price. Until they can do that, they’re not getting my dollars.

  • No, there is a lot of substance here. Finally after nearly 10 years, e-books and readers are getting the attention they deserve. While the price might not seem justified to the casual reader, the bibliophile will love it. Especially manga. With titles $10 a piece and a collector getting about 7-10 a month, the $350 pays for itself fast.

    And it’s still early for e-readers. The iPod when through at least 4 generations before it became a standard consumer product. Give e-reader hardward makers and publishers time to get the price down and more books out, and the e-reader will become more substance. Especially for students, who need a product like this more than anyone. I don’t want our kids having back problems before they’re 20.

  • But $10 per title still isn’t cost effective when you can go buy a paperback book for $7-8. Even if the books are exactly the same price as the paperbacks, you’re still losing money. The only way it becomes cost effective is if the e-books cost 50% of the cost of the physical book and you buy a LOT of books. So far, that’s not the case.

    The iPod at least always had cheaper than store-bought music to rely on and you could load music you had on your computer into your player. And frankly, I don’t think the iPod is worth it either, it’s a piece of expensive technology that lets you carry around your entire music collection, but seriously… how much of that can you conceivably listen to in the time you’re out? It’s an ability that has no real-world application.

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