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I’ve only been using it off and on for a few hours but so far Kindle 2 is the trophy wife — sleek, Botox tight and a lot less comfortable than its predecessor. Part of my reaction surely is due to the way I adapted to K1 during my months with my right wrist in a cast and splint last year. I knew all its flaws and how to get around them; the scroll was my friend. Not so with K2, which appears to have dumped a lot of the shortcuts I like. Then again, to be fair, it took a while to learn K1, which came to me only because it turned out to be to difficult to manage physically for the original buyer. (He’s going to try K2 soon and let me know if it’s any better for someone who has issues with dexterity.) Some quick hits from this first look:
— Looks: Eight: K1 was the device equivalent of the Chorus Line number Dance: Ten; Looks: Three. K2 is at least an eight on the looks scale, ultra-thin, with a dainty qwerty keyboard and a tiny control called a “5-way button.” Amazon (NSDQ: AMZN) avoids the clunk factor of the brown cover from K1 by not shipping with any cover, effectively raising the cost of the unit beyond $359. On the dance scale, after a couple of weeks of use I might feel differently but right now it’s about a six.
Lots more on some fixes and some flaws after the jump…
— Big changes: Amazon added a home and menu button. I wish the developers had left the other ways of getting there in place. Same thing with the way the unit awakes from sleep mode — before, a key combo did the trick. Now moving the power toggle at the top does the trick; not sure why they couldn’t leave the shortcut in place. The dual switches for managing power and wireless are gone; wireless is now managed by menu, something to keep in mind on my next plane trip. The charger is the less used micro-USB, not mini, but the device should be chargeable through a PC USB connection now instead of AC-only. The headset plug has been moved to the top, which is good for people using it on the move and not so good if you’re sitting. The search button has been removed.
— Migrating to Kindle 2: Amazon has made migration as easy as possible. Books can be set for download through an owner’s Amazon.com archive even before the unit arrives — or they can be managed directly through the device.They can be moved back and forth and so far, multiple copies are working just fine on my multiple Kindles registered to the same account. Subscriptions require more effort and are less cost effective in the multiple-device sense because subscription content can only be delivered to one and there doesn’t seem to be a way to transfer one issue between devices. Individually purchased magazines and newspapers can be downloaded again.
— Talk to speech: A very cool feature that may help a lot of people. Unfortunately, the first article I picked was from the *New York Times* Latest News blog about the president’s speech to Congress — and the nice man’s voice is trained to say O-Bama as in Alabama — not Oh-Bah-Ma as in Bahama. The sound is pretty decent.
— Fixes: While the larger nav buttons were easier for me to manage at times, they also made it easier to hit the wrong things. The K2 version should avoid much of that. Unstructured blogs like HuffPo and periodicals in general are easier to navigate because the “articles list” is a click away and a user can move back and forth between articles with the 5-way button.
— Some flaws linger: One thing that drove me crazy about K1 was being returned to the main store menu after a purchase instead of the section I was just in — for instance, when I’m buying single issues from multiple papers. Still there. The experimental web browser is still capital E experimental but at least it’s there.
— Packaging: Also sleeker but still too fussy and cute. I am considering making a bracelet out of the black pull tab with the text of “Once upon a time” that led to opening the actual box but most of the packaging adds little to the experience. I’ll take a little less wrapping and a rudimentary cover.
— Customer service: Amazon was smart to offer Kindle 1 owners the chance to be in the first wave of shipping and the execution was close to flawless, including advance welcome e-mails. (It would be nice if an Amazon Prime membership plus being a repeat buyer could get the shipment there before noon.) As soon as I powered on, I got a message from CEO Jeff Bezos, a K2 Users Guide and a note explaining how to handle the upgrade from Kindle 1. My current account was linked automatically and I was able to add a new subscription instantly.