Amazon, which announced a third-generation Kindle just weeks after releasing the Kindle 2, has been in a design race against itself. It was working on Kindle 2 even before the first model came off the manufacturing line in November 2007, Amazon told IEEE Spectrum. And judging from the 10 weeks that elapsed between the Kindle 2 launch in late February and the Kindle 3 announcement in early May, this latest version also had to have been in the works.
Kindle 2 is a sleeker Kindle 1 with better software. Kindle 3, now named Kindle DX, will have a 24-centimeter (9.7-inch) screen, more than twice as big as on the earlier models and, at a resolution of 1200-by-824 pixels, will show twice the content. In form, it is a larger twin of Kindle 2, except the DX has a nifty rotating display.
Kindle 2 was a response to the Kindle 1’s earliest critics—a product-test audience that got to play with that first device months before Amazon energized the e-reader market by developing its own device. Those critics didn’t like the K1’s oddly angular frame, seemingly intended to resemble a paperback book folded backward. Nor did they like its long buttons on both sides. Both the shape and the buttons were gone before Kindle 1 was ever introduced, says Charlie Tritschler, director of Kindle product management. In all, seven designs for Kindle 2 were considered seriously, he says. Several made it to prototype, but the Kindle 1 shape was not to be found among them.
To a large degree Amazon has let itself be informed by its critics, not by the legions of fans who kept the first Kindle perpetually on back order right up to the moment it was made obsolete this February. Even as those early adopters were bragging that their new reading device was the anti-iPod—retrograde, strange looking, and ergonomic only after getting used to it—Amazon was giving the next generation an Apple-like makeover [see ”eBook Shoot-out,” IEEE Spectrum Online, April 2009].
Amazon ignored the nearly unanimous wish lists filling Kindle chat rooms, e-book sites like Mobileread.com, and even its own customer comment area. The No. 1 request was for folders or some other kind of filing system to organize the thousands of books a Kindle can store simultaneously.