Kindle fans upset that Kindle 2 drops SD slot, replaceable battery

Amazon calls the changes improvements, not a downgrade

Users of Inc.'s original Kindle are registering disapproval that the Kindle 2, due out Feb. 24, doesn't have a slot for an SD card or a removable battery.

"I'm pissed at Amazon," said one person named Vicki, commenting on an forum after the Kindle 2 was unveiled. "I've had my Kindle for almost a year and I really like it. When it dies, as all electronics do, the 'upgrade' will be a downgrade that won't be as useful as my current Kindle."

She joined more than 20 other current Kindle fans on the Amazon site voicing concerns about the Kindle 2's lack of an SD slot and its use of a battery that's not user-accessible.

Elsewhere on the Amazon site, other fans griped about how the online retailer has given less-than-ideal treatment to original Kindle users with the announcement of Kindle 2. Amazon offers more than 1,000 Kindle-related discussion topics, underscoring the e-reader's popularity.

Many of the complaints that have bubbled up since the Kindle 2's unveiling Monday came from users who like to add an SD card to the original Kindle so they have enough storage for plenty of books. Some said the 2GB of storage offered in the Kindle 2 won't be enough.

Users also criticized the new battery, saying they have grown accustomed to removing the battery in the original Kindle to reboot the device. After a year, many said the battery needed replacing anyway because it wouldn't hold a charge.

While the changes seem like downgrades to some, Amazon's Kindle unit director, Charlie Tritschler, said both moves will actually improve the Kindle 2. "Compared to the original Kindle, the Kindle 2 makes it convenient to keep content in one place," Tritschler said today. And the built-in 2GB of storage in the Kindle 2 means 1.4GB is available to the user -- almost eight times the 180MB of storage offered in the original Kindle, he said.

"That's room for 1,500 books," Tritschler said, noting that any book a Kindle user buys is backed up on Amazon's servers -- and is available to the reader at any time. "There's no need for additional storage."

Some users complained that Amazon might be eliminating the SD slot to force its Kindle customers into buying only Amazon content. But Tritschler said the Kindle 2 still allows users to access non-Amazon books, text files and even some music that is not protected by Digital Rights Management systems. They can do so via a USB cable connected to the Kindle 2 or through e-mail, since each Kindle has an e-mail address, he said.

As for the battery, Tritschler said it was made nonremovable to accommodate the Kindle 2's thinner size. "We really pushed to make it as thin as possible," yielding a device that is just 0.36 in. thick.

A nonremovable battery does not require solid casing like the removable kind do, meaning they take up less space, he said. And Kindle 2 now has a chip for active battery management that was not in the original. That chip regulates charge flows and helps make the battery last for two weeks when not in wireless mode, or four days when connected wirelessly, he said.

Tritschler announced today that the Kindle 2's battery can replaced under warranty for a year. After that, it can be replaced in the Amazon factory for $59.

Asked how users can reboot Kindle 2 since there's no removable battery, Tritschler said a new command takes care of that problem. "We've solved that as well," he said. "You hold down the power switch for 14 seconds."

Expanding on Amazon's explanations about the changes, Gartner Inc. analyst Van Baker noted that Amazon -- and all device makers -- constantly seek to cut down on the cost of materials. An SD card slot on top of the added built-in storage might have cost too much, Baker conjectured. "With any new product, you always get some complaints about how 'stupid' the manufacturer is for not doing something," Baker said.

Tritschler's final take on the SD card/battery brouhaha: "The Kindle 2 is a better product in both respects."

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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