New and improved Amazon Kindle – new price, new colors, new features

Our friends at Engadget have the scoop on some new and improved Amazon Kindle developments. Starting on August 27, you’ll be able to order the new WiFi only Kindle – and by dropping 3G, you bring the price down to a completely insane $139 – a whopping $260 cheaper than the introduction Kindle launched back in 2007.

A 3G version will still be available, for the current price ($189) and still offering international download support on almost any 3G/GSM network.

Other improvements can be found in a faster screen refresh, tweaked buttons, more storage space (4GB) and a new color – graphite. Battery life has also improved to a whopping 30 days standby and 10 days with wireless turned on.

There is no denying that the Kindle has completely transformed the world of books, competition has popped up from every major book retailer, and really made ebooks a very popular choice for travelers.

Being able to leave bulky books at home, and order books over the air without visiting the book store makes travel so much easier. In many cases, an ebppl reader can even replace travel guides and provide a quick way to visit web sites and other online services.

Kindle tips for travelers

The iPad may be the current darling of techie travelers but some of us are waiting for the first generation kinks to be worked out and a decrease in price (or a sudden cash windfall) before taking the plunge. While still a “monotasker” compared to a tablet or laptop computer, Amazon’s Kindle is still a great tool to carry books on the road with a lightweight design and almost limitless capacity to store whatever travel guidebooks, beach reads, or other reading materials you desire. Combined with the easy ability to search within a book for a place name or keyword, a much lower profile than carrying a tourist map, and limited but free web browser, Kindle is a good choice for travelers. Here are a few other ideas beyond ebooks for your next trip:

  1. Google Maps are a fantastic resource when traveling, but lose their usefulness once you are without internet access or unwilling to pay for data roaming. Whether you download individual maps of city neighborhoods or get all fancy with creating your own Google Map of destinations and recommendations, having a “hard copy” on your Kindle is handy when you are offline and want to quickly locate that vintage store in Berlin a friend told you about.
  2. Many free PDF travel guides are available online including In Your Pocket and Arrival Guides. While not as extensive as a guidebook, they provide a few suggestions for where to stay, eat, shop, and what to do in many cities and often cover less-traveled destinations such as Eastern Europe. Lonely Planet has also introduced Pick and Mix chapters for purchase, perfect for when you only need a chapter of a guidebook rather than a whole country book.
  3. Create your own travel guide by saving magazine articles, blog posts, and web pages for your destination with content more recent, relevant and varied than any guidebook. Tote along Gadling’s guide to Paris’ Japanese quarter, The New York Times‘ 36 Hours in Copenhagen, or the Wikitravel page for Mumbai.

How to save documents for your Kindle: most Mac browsers have a Print to PDF feature and PDFs are easily read on the Kindle. PC users can download a program such as PDFCreator to save PDFs. If you have another format including HTML or a Word document (good if you are copying and pasting text), you can email to Amazon and they will convert and send back. Then you can add documents via the USB cord to your Kindle, simply drag and drop into the Kindle documents folder. While many files don’t have the same functionality as ebook format, you can zoom in and often search many of the file types.

While many of these documents can simply be printed, printer access is often scarce on the road and this method saves a lot on paper. Any other travel tips for Kindle? Leave ’em in the comments below.

Florida hotel offers free electronic books

Miami’s new EPIC Hotel is offering something different to guests who want to curl up with a good book–a free ebook on a Sony Ereader.

The hotel’s EPIC Page Turner program will loan free ebooks to their Club level guests and those using the pool deck, and a Sony Reader (pictured here) to read it on. There’s also an EPIC Virtual Nightstand through the rooms’ desktop computers, although this shows only excerpts, not whole books.

The titles include current bestsellers and new releases. EPIC will be hosting a series of readings and social events with authors during the hotel’s daily wine hour.

“Ebook”, for those still stuck in the late 20th century, stands for electronic book, a book that exists as a computer file that can be read on a special reader or regular computer. Ebooks have been around for about 25 years now and are beginning to get noticed. Ereaders are becoming more user friendly and ebook sales have risen steadily for several years now, although they still comprise less than one percent of total book sales in the U.S:

The EPIC program apparently has no connection with EPIC, the Electronically Published Internet Connection, the world’s largest association of electronically published authors. EPIC sponsors the annual EPPIE awards, considered the most prestigious awards offered to electronically published books. I emailed the president of EPIC a week ago asking about the similarity in the name, but didn’t receive a response.

This program sounds like an innovative way to get people to read ebooks, as well as free up space in their luggage, but it has one major flaw–you can’t take the book home with you.

Amazon Kindle 2 – making a great gadget even better

It’s no secret that I love the Amazon Kindle – the electronic book reader made our top 25 lineup of best travel gadgets for 2008, and despite several minor shortcomings, most readers picked it as their favorite gadget as well.

The Kindle has been a massive success – and ever since it was released, it’s been fairly hard to get, with shipping often taking about a month.

That is probably not going to improve any time soon, as Amazon just announced the new Kindle 2 – thinner, smarter design, and a host of other new features make this $359 device a clear winner.

In fact, I’d say the new design is so good, that we’ll see the “iPhone effect” where many original Kindle owners upgrade to the new version.

The device has a better e-ink display, capable of displaying 16 shades of gray, a faster refresh of the screen, and the ability to convert text to speech for the new “read to me” feature. But best of all, they updated the page turning buttons, which were always a massive annoyance.

Needless to say, the new Kindle is probably going to be just as successful as the old one, and should help keep Amazon on top of the ebook market.

Daily deal – Amazon Kindle wireless reading device $50 off

My daily deal for today comes courtesy of Oprah Winfrey! On Friday, Oprah announced that her newest favorite gadget is the Amazon Kindle. The Kindle came out almost a year ago, and is an electronic book reader with wireless access.

What this means to us travelers is that when you are stuck at the airport, you can wirelessly browse and order books directly to the device. The screen uses E-Ink technology, which looks a lot like regular paper, and is very easy on the eyes.

The Kindle usually retails for $359, but if you use coupon code “OPRAHWINFREY” at checkout, you’ll get an additional $50 off. The deal is only valid till November 1st.

One thing to keep in mind is that the Kindle will not be able to access wireless downloads outside the USA, the network only operates within the Sprint coverage area. If you are abroad, you can still purchase books using a computer, and you’ll be able to transfer them using a USB cable.

I managed to get my Kindle the day they were released, and it’s been a very impressive little device. No longer do I have to rush into the local airport book store to buy a book for my flight, and in addition to books, I’m also able to keep up with news and other publications like Time and Forbes. The Amazon Kindle even has a built in MP3 player for adding some background music to your book!

You can read more about the Amazon Kindle here.