Kindle 2 arrives, but books aren't going anywhere

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Amazon's updated Kindle e-book reader began shipping to customers yesterday.

To kick things off, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos appeared on Comedy Central's Daily Show with John Stewart. It's a clip worth watching. The host poked fun at the device, ridiculing its $360 price, creepy robotic voice, and the notion of e-books in general. How, Stewart argued, could the tiny device – even if it is "the iPod for books" – replace the emotional and physical heft of bound pages? In its defense, Bezos cited the gadget's extensive catalog of downloadable titles, its sleeker design, and its ability to read books aloud.

The New York Times' David Pogue ran through a long list of Kindle 2 pros and cons, lauding its screen and battery life and shooting down the notion that it will replace good ol' paper and glue. He offers as good an explanation as any for the reason books are here to stay: "Nothing ever replaces anything."

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E-book readers won’t replace books. The iPhone won’t replace e-book readers. Everything just splinters. They will all thrive, serving their respective audiences.

And those audiences may be different than you might expect. An Information Week article quotes analysts who think the majority of Kindles belong to "professionals who travel a lot and appreciate the alternative to carrying several paperbacks, newspapers, and magazines."

But David Carnoy over at CNET's Crave blog disagrees. He asks readers – What's the average age of Kindle owners? He puts it at 45, noting that seniors and students play a factor – seniors because of the gadget's easy-to-use interface, and students because schools may embrace the device as more textbooks become available on it.

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