Wow!  Where do I start?!?  As most of you probably know by now, Amazon introduced THREE new Kindle models this past Wednesday, September 28.  THREE!  Not one or two, like many had speculated, but three.  As someone who has professed to loving both my Kindle and gadgets in general, this has made my head hurt. A lot. What to do, what to do?

 

 

The first Kindle to be introduced was the new $79 Wi-fi only version.  This has changed in one major way from the Kindle 3 that I own and have written about previously: the physical keyboard below the screen is gone, replaced with a single Keyboard button that activates an onscreen keyboard navigated with the 5-way controller.  The device is 30% lighter than the Kindle 3 (K3, as the cool kids call it), now weighing less than six ounces, the body is 18% smaller while retaining the 6" screen size from the K3, and it holds up to 1,400 books (down 2,100 from the K3).  Battery life is up to one month with wireless off, and up to three weeks with wireless on.

The $79 Kindle version is the subsidized "Special Offers" flavor, which means that it includes offers as screensavers, and also displays them at the bottom of the Home page.  I've heard these ads are actually pretty good -- $10 for a $20 Amazon gift card, anyone? -- and that they don't interrupt your reading at all, never showing up when you're actually reading a book.  This same version without Special Offers is also available for $109.  And… they're shipping today!  Click here to order

Sidenote:  The Kindle 3, which I own, is still available but is now called the "Kindle Keyboard."  It's available in both with and without Special Offers starting at $99, and can be pre-ordered here.

 

 

Next up is the Kindle Touch, both with and without Special Offers, starting at $99.  It includes built-in Wi-Fi, but can also be ordered with 3G (which is great, because there's no data plan -- Amazon pays for your 3G service! Good luck getting that from Apple or any other device provider).  They've reduced the body size by 11%, keeping the screen at 6", and it's 8% lighter at 7.5 ounces (all compared to the K3).  Unfortunately, they've also reduced the storage capacity a bit, only allowing up to 3,000 books to be stored. Let's be honest -- that's still a LOT of books that you can store on one little device, and more than adequate for most users.  Battery life is up to two months with wireless off, and six weeks with wireless on.

Here's what puts the "Touch" in "Kindle Touch":  all buttons except the Power button have been removed, replaced with a new multi-touch technology, similar to that found in the Sony Reader and Barnes & Noble Nook.  Certain areas of the screen have been reserved for specific actions.  Touch along the right third to turn to the next page, in the middle of the screen to access the menu, and along the left third to turn to the previous page.  Or switch to Amazon's patented EasyReach feature, which allows you to quickly go to the next page by tapping almost anywhere on the screen.  A narrow area toward the left can be tapped to go to the previous page, and tapping at the top of the screen displays the menu.

Another new feature that seems to be available only on the Kindle Touch (so far…) is called "X-Ray."  They say it lets you explore the "bones of the book" by displaying all passages across a book mentioning specific fictional characters, historical figures, places, ideas, topics, etc.  It also pulls more detailed descriptions from Wikipedia and Shelfari.  I've only seen this demonstrated briefly online, but I find it intriguing, as I read a lot of history and historical fiction.

An updated feature available on both the Kindle and Kindle Touch is the E Ink display, which Amazon is touting as their "most advanced E Ink display" to date.  I haven't seen it yet in person, but people on the Kindleboards.com message board who've received their $79 Kindle say that the difference in E Ink from this Kindle to the K3 is pretty dramatic.

Also available now on all Kindle models is the ability to check out books from your local public library via Overdrive. As an avid library-goer, I've perused the selection online and haven't found a lot to interest me yet, but hopefully this technology will persuade more publishers to expand their catalogs available through Overdrive.

 

 

The final Kindle announced on Wednesday is the Fire:  a full-color, Wi-Fi only, dual-core processor 7" tablet, for only $199!  Fully embracing the power of Amazon's Cloud technology, the Kindle Fire gives you access to 18 million movies, TV shows, songs, magazines, and books.  Its capacity is only 8 GB, so the Kindle Fire is definitely relying on cloud storage, only storing what you select for download -- great for offline viewing.  My Kindle works the same way -- all of the books that I've purchased are stored in the Amazon Cloud for free, and I can download as few or as many books as I'd like, "archiving" them back to the cloud once I've read them, if I so choose.

Amazon Prime members have unlimited access to over 10,000 popular movies and TV shows (commercial-free!), and to sweeten the deal, Amazon is including a 30-day free trial of Amazon Prime to get you hooked and coming back for more.  With their recent announcement of a deal with Fox, even more TV shows and movies have recently become available on-demand, with more to surely follow.  Buffy, anyone?

Along with being able to read magazines and books, and watch TV shows and movies, the Amazon App Store provides a great selection of apps to download (some are free, some aren't).  The Kindle Fire is built on the latest Android platform, although it doesn't have the traditional Android look of other tablets (wait until it's rooted -- aka jailbroken), so all apps in the App Store are Android apps.  I use the Amazon App Store on my Android phone, the HTC Evo 4G, and it's very easy to use.  Now you can play Plants vs. Zombies, Angry Birds, and one of my favorites, Fruit Ninja, right on the Kindle Fire!  And for those of you who actually want to get some work done, a built-in email app is included, as well

A really cool feature that Amazon has brought over from the Kindle is Whispersync.  This technology automatically syncs your library, last page read, bookmarks, highlights, notes, etc., across all of your devices.  It's been extended to include video on the Kindle Fire. This means that when you start streaming a movie on the Kindle Fire and then stop it, you can pick up right where you left off on your TV.  I have a Roku and watch a lot of Amazon Video On-Demand, so this would be very handy.

And… along with all of the functionality you usually have reading Kindle books and your own documents such as Word and PDF docs, you can now read them in color.  Great idea for graphs, charts, pictures, full color e-books, etc.!

The Kindle Fire is available for pre-order now here and starts shipping November 15.

Whew!  Well, that's my rundown of the newly-announced Kindles.  Oh -- but there's one more thing…  According to a new article just out on DigiTimes, Amazon is planning to also have a 10.1" tablet out in time for the holidays.  Stay tuned for more details!

You might be wondering which Kindle I'm planning to purchase, if I'm planning to get one at all (or maybe you're not -- it's okay!)…  If you've read my post about the iPad 2, you already know that I have one and love it.  However, I'm also an Amazon Prime member, and buy all of my music from Amazon's MP3 store (which automatically stores MP3 purchases in their Cloud), and love to watch movies and TV shows.  But, you also know I own and love my Kindle 3, and replaced my Kindle 2 with it about a year ago.

Decisions, decisions…  At present, I'm on the pre-order list for the Kindle Touch with Special Offers.  My interest is definitely piqued regarding the special offers, and if I decide they're intrusive, I'll return it for the version without offers.  And as much as I would LOVE to have a Kindle Fire, just to have it (it's so shiny!), I'm holding off on ordering it -- for now.  That 10.1" version, if it's real, sounds pretty tempting!

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