As was widely anticipated, Amazon launched the Kindle 2 yesterday at an initial price of about $360. Though the new Kindle has many improvements over its predecessor (and some surprising regressions), it still falls short of what I wish for in an electronic book reader. Despite its shortcomings, the Kindle 2 provides a great overall package compared to other electronic book readers, but only if you live in the US.
The first thing I noticed was that the pictures of the Kindle 2 leaked last October were right on the mark. This means that Amazon does not seem to have done much to improve the look and the design of the Kindle. The Kindle 2 seems to have a faster and sharper display that can now display 16 shades of grey (instead of just 4). It sports a faster wireless connection, more built-in memory, longer battery life and is lighter and slimmer than its predecessor. If you are curious, Ars Technica has a quick review of the Kindle 2, while the Amazon.com page for Kindle 2 has more details and some promotional videos to give you a feel of the Kindle 2.
The removal of the SD-card slot seems like a surprising regression to me. Why would Amazon want to remove the capability to store more books on the Kindle than what its built-in memory can support? The text-to-speech feature that reads out a book to you seems like a specious add-on, especially after having listened to the weird robotic voice from the demonstration in one of the promotional videos that would quite likely get very irritating very fast. I think the display is smaller than what it ought to be - it looks especially small in the new design because of the wide margins and the keyboard.
Note that the well-integrated overall package of the Kindle is still available to you only if you live in the US. I wonder why Amazon continues to omit Wi-Fi connectivity for the Kindle to connect to its on-line store. I also wonder why many of the electronic books are still priced quite unfairly compared to their dead-tree cousins, especially when you consider the very low cost of providing them and the DRM-laden format used by the Kindle.