Amazon has released a new version of its highly successful electronic book reader Kindle, just days after Google said it would make available large parts of its vast catalogue of scanned books to smartphone users.
The new $359 Amazon device "Kindle 2" will hold up to 1,500 books, boasts 25 per cent better battery life than its predecessor and includes a "talk to me" feature that reads books aloud.
Featuring a six-inch display and weighing about 20 grams, the device is less than a centimetre thick and comes with 2 gigabytes of memory. Amazon offers access to over 230,000 books and thousands more blogs and magazines.
The buyer pays about as much for the electronic version as for the traditionally bound book.
As part of the launch, author Stephen King is releasing a new novella exclusively for the Kindle 2 called Ur.
"Kindle 2 is everything customers tell us they love about the original Kindle, only thinner, faster, crisper, with longer battery life, and capable of holding hundreds more books. If you want, Kindle 2 will even read to you - something new we added that a book could never do," Jeff Bezos, Amazon.com founder and CEO, said in a statement Monday.
"While we're excited about Kindle 2, we know that great hardware is useless without vast selection. That's why the Kindle Store offers customers over 230,000 books."
Bezos said that Amazon was just getting started on electronic books.
"Our vision is every book, ever printed, in any language, all available in less than 60 seconds," he said at a news conference in New York. Amazon also planned to make Kindle books available for mobile phones, he confirmed.
However Amazon is not the only company seeing a bright future in e-books. Google last week said that it had converted the 1.5 million public domain books it previously scanned and made available on computers, for use on the iPhone and smartphones running the Google Android software.
However, the two programmes offer vastly different content. While Google's service offers mostly out-of-print books, Kindle offers many more popular titles, including 103 of the 110 books currently on the New York Times bestseller list.
"We have tens of millions of customers who buy books from us every day and we know what they want to read," said Bezos. "And we are making sure to prioritize those items."