Amazon unveils Kindle 2 e-reader

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos this morning unveiled the next-generation Kindle, the company's e-reading device that first appeared in November 2007. The new Kindle improves upon the old one by making the chassis even thinner, increasing the battery life, jacking up the memory, and adding a few extra features. As expected, the chassis is exactly what we've been seeing in leaked photos, but it's surprising just how slim it is: Kindle 2 is 0.36 inches thick, half as thick as the old one. It also has 25% more battery life, said to be good for two weeks of reading without a recharge. And the 2GB of memory is a huge improvement over the 256MB in Kindle 1, letting you store up to 1,500 books onboard.

Also new is Whispersync, which uses Amazon's 3G Whispernet wireless tech to automatically sync your content between multiple Kindles (old and new) and, in the future, other wireless reading devices (iPhone, anyone?). The built-in dictionary lookup has been improved as well, with definitions of highlighted words appearing instantly at the bottom of the screen.

Interesting upgrade: The new Kindle has built-in text-to-speech, so the device can actually read to you when you want it to (say, while you're doing dishes). Unfortunately, the voice sounds like the most awful GPS you've ever heard (think the evil computer in WarGames), so you probably wouldn't want to use it for anything but the most basic of articles.

Kindle 2 will be available Feb. 24 (but Amazon's site actually estimates a March 2 ship date) for the same price as the original: $359. If you have an old Kindle and want a new one, you should order before 12:01 a.m. on Feb. 11 so you can get to the front of the line.

See for yourself just how thin the new Kindle is in the gallery below.