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It's Official: Amazon's Kindle 2 on the Way

Amazon Kindle 2

Online retailer Amazon.com unveiled the latest incarnation of its digital book reader, the Kindle, on Monday in a slimmer version with more storage and a feature that reads text aloud to users.

The new Kindle, which will still sell for $359 on Amazon's Web site, is available for preorder and will ship Feb. 24, the company said.

Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) said the new version fixes a problem with involuntary page turns, is thinner, and sports a new five-way controller that allows users to jump between articles and sections of newspapers. A power charger is more portable and a cover that comes with the device is more secure, it said.

The new Kindle is "thinner, faster, crisper, with longer battery life, and capable of holding hundreds more books," said Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos in a statement released alongside a company event at New York City's Morgan Library.

Amazon shares were down 0.7 percent at $65.05 after the news of the release.

First launched by the Seattle-based company in November 2007, the Kindle allows users to read books and newspapers wirelessly on a device weighing less than a typical paperback.

It took sales away from Sony, whose Sony Reader beat Amazon to market, and Amazon touted its existing relationships with book publishers as a plus.

Kindle fixes

But Kindle users had criticized the device's less-than-inspired design and complained about the placement of its buttons, lack of backlighting, slow page turns and high price.

The new version fixes a problem with involuntary page turns and sports a new five-way controller that allows users to jump between articles and sections of newspapers. A power charger is more portable and a cover that comes with the device is more secure, the company said.

The new "text to speech" function converts words on a page to speech. Users can choose a male or female voice to read to them and choose a speed.

Also Monday, Amazon said Stephen King, the bestselling author of horror stories, will release a novella, "Ur," exclusively on Kindle.

The company has not disclosed Kindle sales figures. Citigroup analyst Mark Mahaney has estimated Amazon sold a half-million Kindles in 2008, about one-third more than the number of iPods sold by Apple in its first year.

The latest model of the Sony Reader retails for about $400. Its display is about the same size as Amazon's new Kindle, but the Sony Reader holds only about 350 digital books. It can play MP3 and AAC digital music with headphones.