Amazon has announced the release of Kindle 2, the updated version of its popular e-book reader. Kindle 2 (picture right) has longer battery life, faster page turning, seven times the storage space, sharper images, and a new read-to-me feature. Kindle 2’s navigation has been made easier with a joystick. The new Kindle is also slimmer and lighter than the original Kindle. It is .36 of an inch thick and weighs about 10 ounces. Kindle 2’s battery allows 4-5 days of reading before recharging. Amazon brought out the big guns for Kindle 2’s New York launch event, in the form of novelist Stephen King. King’s novella “Ur” will be released exclusively on Kindle.

Amazon does not disclose its Kindle sales figures, but earlier this month, Citi estimated that Amazon had shipped 500,000 Kindles in 2008 before running out of stock in November, meaning that Kindle sales were 32 percent higher than the iPod in its first year.

“Our vision is every book ever printed, in any language, all available in less than 60 seconds,” said Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos. There are currently 230,000 books available for Kindle, most selling for $9.99.

What has analysts most excited about Kindle 2 is that it allows synching between different readers. Amazon is working on synching Kindle with other mobile devices, as well. It’s rumored that Kindle apps are being designed for the iPhone and other smartphones.

Kindle 2 sell for the same price as the original reader, $359.

Right now, the Kindle is aimed at professionals who travel frequently. When Kindle’s price falls out of the luxury range, it will be a must-buy for any reader. Sadly, that time looks to be still a few years away.

The new Kindle will start shipping February 24th.

By Mark Alvarez