Amazon has revealed the newst iteration of its fancypants e-book reader, and this time it’s thinner, faster, and, if you’re too lazy to read even after buying an e-book reader, will even read to you.

While the future of e-books remains decidedly unclear, the future of the world’s most famous e-book reader, Amazon’s Kindle, has been revealed today. Kindle 2, the newest version of the device, will be available within the month. About a third of an inch thick, the Kindle 2 is thin as a pencil and light as an R.L. Stine book.

The new design, which has a much more eye-pleasing sleekness to it than the bulky old one, also sports a 5-way controller that Amazon claims “allows for more precise note-taking and highlighting both up and down and side to side in lines of text” and easy section-jumping when reading e-newspapers. It also features a 25 percent longer battery life, 2GB of memory (that’s a library of 1,500 books) and a half-inch 800×600 display that can render 16 shades of gray. That’s four times as many shades of gray as the first Kindle. 16 shades of gray. What a world we live in.

Other new features include an instant dictionary (that’ll make it easier for me to read my e-copy of Gravity’s Rainbow), intuitive syncing with the first Kindle and an “experimental” feature called Read-to-Me that will have the Kindle convert text into computerized speech. I’m hoping the results will sound more Stephen Fry than Stephen Hawking, but I’m not optimistic.

The Kindle 2 is available for pre-order now for the price of $359 (the same price tag as the current Kindle), and will start shipping on February 24. I myself have never tried the thing and have only seen them used in public a handful of times. Any of you guys Kindle users? What do you think of the new machine?

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