Amazon has officially launched its second-generation Kindle e-book reader. The rumour mill hit fever pitch in the past few days, with leaked images and basic details purporting to be the Kindle 2 surfacing.

The images correctly reflected the new Kindle's notably more svelte and contoured industrial design. Kindle 2 is priced at $359 in the US and Amazon is taking orders today. Units are scheduled to ship on February 24. Current Kindle that order by February 10 will jump to the front of line to receive the Kindle 2.

The second-generation Kindle bears a passing resemblance to the first-gen model. It's still a shade of white, it still has a keyboard at the bottom, and the front face is still dominated by its E-Ink display. But its front buttons for paging through texts have been completely redesigned.

It measures 0.36in thick and weighs 10 ounces, according to Amazon, which added buttons and a 5-way controller for navigating the text display. Amazon also says the text is crisper, with 16 shades of gray instead of the four in the original Kindle; the 6in display supports 600 by 800 pixel resolution.

The new unit also has 2GB of memory (up from 180MB) and supports an SD card, and Amazon says its battery lasts 25 percent longer.

PC World US magazine