updated 08:20 pm EDT, Wed July 28, 2010
Amazon Kindle gets smaller design, Wi-Fi
Amazon in a rare evening launch revealed its third-generation Kindle reader. The new hardware is 21 percent smaller and 15 percent lighter than the model it replaces but is better in nearly every way. It uses a new E Ink Pearl display with 50 percent better contrast and 20 percent faster page turns but can now last for up to a month with wireless off on battery, twice as much as before, and for up to 10 days with wireless on.
The line represents the first Kindle with Wi-Fi and now includes a Wi-Fi only version for those who don't need or want 3G; like modern smartphones, the Kindles with both can switch between connection types automatically. Other features bring voice commands in addition to the earlier text-to-speech, doubled storage that can hold up to 3,500 books, and an improved but still experimental web browser that uses WebKit and now loads faster.
Amazon's new Kindle costs the same $189 as the recently price-cut second generation model with both 3G and Wi-Fi included. The new Wi-Fi only model is one of the least expensive Internet readers yet at just $139, undercutting the Nook Wi-Fi. Both editions will ship to the US and UK August 27 in graphite black and white, and will be accompanied by a new $35 leather case with a $60 version that includes a retracting reading light.
The new design may prove critical to Amazon, which has seen a large increase in Kindle sales but is facing both stiffer competition from Barnes & Noble, Kobo and Sony as well as reading-ready tablets like the iPad. Apple's device is now more than three times as expensive as a Wi-Fi only Kindle, but its color touchscreen allows for a full app platform, video and deep Internet access. Only some buy iPads for reading, but those who own one often drop plans to get an e-paper device like the Kindle.
Amazon has repeatedly said this year that it believes the Kindle will continue to thrive as it's a more focused device that, while not as flexible, is much better for reading and costs much less as a result.