"We got a Kindle 2 with us. Would you like to break it down?"
Out of the blue, I received such a good offer. The Kindle 2 is the latest model of the Kindle. It was released by Amazon.com, a US-based leading online book store, in February 2009. Unfortunately, it is not sold in Japan. A reporter working for company X offered us the device for teardown, without requiring anything in return. I, of course, said, "Yes, we will!" on the spot.
On one hand, electronic books are regarded as very promising devices. But on the other hand, it is very difficult to succeed in the business of electronic books because it is quite a new field. As for Japanese manufacturers, Sony Corp and Panasonic Corp withdrew from the business in 2007 and 2008.
Despite those circumstances, the first version of the Kindle was released in November 2007 in the US and sold so well that it even became out of stock. Though the accumulative sales volume has not been disclosed, the Kindle is seen as the most successful example.
The popularity of the Kindle can be explained by the predominant number of books available to the device compared with that available to other e-book services as well as the usability of the device. Currently, the "Kindle Store," an online shop for the Kindle, offers about 230,000 books.
Equipped with 3G communication capabilities, the Kindle enables users to wirelessly buy books and download them to the device. Furthermore, once users buy the Kindle, they do not have to pay monthly communication charges.
Twice as slim as before
The main improvements made to the Kindle 2 include (1) renewal of the design, (2) reduction of the main body thickness (3) increased memory capacity, (4) a longer-running battery and (5) a function to read out text. As for the new design, changes were made to the types of operation buttons and the locations of the page-flipping buttons.
The thickness of the main body was reduced to 0.36 inches (about 9.1mm), about half that of the first version. But the weight of the new Kindle, 10.2 ounces (about 289g), is almost the same that of the first Kindle.
The amount of memory installed increased from 256 Mbytes to 2 Gbytes, increasing the number of electronic books that can be stored to 1,500, 7.5 times that of the previous model. The battery running time increased by 25%. The display is a monochrome electronic paper screen that is manufactured by E Ink Corp and features a display size of 6 inches and a resolution of 600 x 800, the same specifications of the first version.
However, the number of tones improved from four to 16, and the screen refresh speed increased by 20%. The price of the Kindle 2 is US$359, slightly lower than US$399 of the previous model.
My first impression of the Kindle 2 is that it is thin, easy to carry around and neatly designed. The display can be easily viewed. And, probably, it does not weary the eyes even if users read for long hours.
This time, I tried the function to read out text and found that there is no unnatural pronunciation, which is typical for voice synthesis. So, I thought that the function can be used with no problem at least for English text.
Fortunately, we heard that there was the first version of the Kindle, which one of our colleagues bought just in case, in our Silicon Valley office. We asked him to send it to us. And we are now ready to disassemble the first and second models of the Kindle at the same time.