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Kindle 2's Ballyhooed Debut Unfolds

When avid reader Oprah Winfrey raved about the digital reading device called "Kindle," it shot to the top of the holiday "must-have" list.

A new and improved Kindle, called Kindle 2, hits the market Tuesday and, on Early Show, CNET-TV Senior Editor Natali Del Conte gave viewers a sneak peek at that and the latest versions of similar devices.

She says Kindle "has lived up to the hype. It's one of those things you don't absolutely need, but once you get it, you can't live without it."

Among Kindle 2's improvements over the first one:

  • It's thinner
  • The original held 150 books; the new one holds ten times as many
  • 3G downloading means you'll get books downloaded on the fastest mobile network available in the U.S.; download a book in less than two minutes
  • It has text-to-speech reading of books
  • It plays MP3 music files

    The original Kindle retailed for close to $400. Kindle 2 is still pretty pricey, at $359. But Del Conte says it's worth it "if you're an avid reader. If you average it out, you're going to be saving money on books, because buying the books online is less expensive (than doing so conventionally) and you purchase the device only once. There are a lot of ways to read books online if money is an issue."

    A bonus for Kindle purchasers, Del Conte points out, is that, if you're waiting for delivery of the old Kindle, you'll get the Kindle 2.

    To read a review of the Kindle 2 by CNET, which has the same parent company as CBSNews.com, click here. Del Conte attended the Kindle 2's launch event. To see her report from that day, click here.

    Sony Reader

    This is in its third generation. It's been out since November, and it's got a few new things Del Conte likes:

  • It's small and light
  • It has a touch screen
  • It features a back light.
  • It reads PDF files (meaning you can read documents on it)

    Other things to note:

  • You have to physically download the books unlike with the Kindle, for which Amazon does it.
  • It doesn't have an on-board dictionary, as Kindle does.

    The Sony Reader retails for $299.

    To see CNET's take on it, click here.

    Other Options

    Most mobile devices have a book reader. You don't pay extra; just get a free application for it. Just download the program.

    There are also lots of books in the public domain you can get at eReader.com. You can also read those books on your computer, and they're free.

    Books on iPhone or iPod Touch

    Software goes for $199 - $399 at Apple.com.
    View the CNET review by clicking here.

    There's eReader software for the iPhone. It supports books from FictionWise.com or eReader.com. It enables you to sync books you've already bought or buy more books via the application.

    Another program that enables you to read public domain books on your computer is called Stanza.

    Some other e-book readers Del Conte is excited about (but they're not available yet):

  • eSlick: Will be $230. At Foxit
  • Readius: Will have a flexible screen. At Readius.com.
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