At a Monday morning press event at the Morgan Library & Museum in New York, Amazon.com is expected to turn the page on its e-book reader business.
The company is widely expected to introduce its next-generation Kindle device (CNET News plans to live-blog from the event later Monday morning). Rumors of its imminent launch have circulated since last summer, and in the fall, a photo of what is purported to be the Kindle 2 leaked on the Boy Genius Report blog. On Friday, a fresh set of purported Kindle 2 pictures hit the Web.
What the final product will look like is unknown, but if a new Kindle is launched Monday it's easy to imagine it will be lighter, slimmer, and have an updated look. The original design was largely panned for being too bulky and having too many sharp edges, as well as an interface that wasn't as user-friendly as some had hoped.
Even beyond that, there are a whole host of tweaks to the device consumers want to see in the next Kindle: wider support of file formats like PDF; a color screen; touch-screen capabilities like swiping to turn a page (as with Sony's Reader); and, more particularly, redesign of the "next page" button, which is located near the spot where many hold the device while reading.
But despite the wish list, the Kindle is clearly the most popular e-book reader. The device's access to the 230,000 titles in the Kindle Store and the ability to download books wirelessly are what ultimately sets it apart.
The Kindle got off to a rocky start when it was introduced in November 2007. Sales grew slowly until a year later, the device got the ultimate consumer seal of approval: Oprah's endorsement. At the close of 2008, one analyst said he counted 500,000 Kindles sold, which is fairly impressive considering the device's slow start and recent stocking issues.
The next-gen Kindle was expected before the winter holidays, but it never came. Instead, the device has been out of stock for months and Amazon insists it can't keep up with demand. Recently, readers have reported that Amazon is telling them back-ordered Kindles will now ship March 5. It's possible they'll receive the new version of the Kindle instead of the old.
Early Monday, The Wall Street Journal reported that the new Kindle will have a slightly larger screen than the original device, citing Prime View International, the Taiwanese company that makes the screens. Amazon has asked Prime View to boost production of the screens to avoid shortages of the device if sales spike, the newspaper said.
A new device may not be the only introduction at Monday's event. A recent New York Times article quoted an Amazon representative saying that the company will eventually make its electronic book titles available for download to mobile devices beyond the Kindle. While they didn't say exactly when that would be, it would be wise for Amazon to offer something soon since Google is just beginning its push to allow e-books to be easily read on handsets.
The Journal said Monday that Amazon has signed Stephen King, the prolific and best-selling author of horror stories, for a new work that would be available exclusively on the Kindle.
And it wouldn't be much of a stretch for the company, since an e-book publisher that Amazon owns, called Mobipocket, already allows downloads to a variety of smartphones.
CNET News will be covering the event today live. It's scheduled for 10 a.m. Eastern, so be sure to check back to see what Amazon announced.