Amazon today announced the new Kindle e-book reader, which, in accordance with its past naming traditions, is simply called the Kindle. The name hasn’t changed, and there are no crazy new advances–color e-ink and video are still years off, and may never be worth the trade-offs in price and quality over LCD–but this is definitely the most lust-worthy Kindle yet.
The big changes: The new Kindle has a significantly smaller design–21% smaller than the previous generation, to be exact, while still retaining a 6-inch screen. That smaller size really works to the device’s benefit: it simply looks better than before, without the large areas of empty plastic that bordered the screen in the previous version. It’s available in both black and white. It’s still significantly bigger than, say, the Sony Pocket Reader–you won’t be fitting it in your back pocket like a pulp paperback anytime soon–but it’s still very thin and light. The weight has been decreased as well, down to only 8.7 ounces, a 15% drop.
The interface has been changed only marginally. The page-turn buttons are now symmetrical, so there’s a “next page” and “previous page” button on both sides of the screen. The little joystick has been swapped for a five-way directional pad, which is a good call, as the d-pad is a bit more finger-friendly than the slightly sharp little joystick. The buttons are also “quieter,” in case your oafish button-clacking was keeping your partner up at night.
There are a few new features as well, the most important of which is a new WebKit-based browser. WebKit is the open-source base for all of our favorite mobile web browsers, including those used by the iPhone, iPad, Palm Pre, and various Android devices. The Kindle’s web browser is, due to hardware limitations, not going to be replacing your iPad for web browsing anytime soon, but I was pretty surprised at how usable it is. For any kind of reading (news, blogs, comedy, Wikipedia, that kind of thing), it’s really not bad.