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Amazon Kindle Gets Better Screen, Wi-Fi Only Edition

Amazon.com has unveiled a new version of its 6-inch EInk-based Kindle ereader, featuring a smaller body, a 15 percent brighter screen, improved screen contrast, and better performance with faster page turns. But if that weren’t enough, Amazon is also firing back in the price wars in the ereader market, announcing a WiFi-only version of the Kindle that will sell for just $139.

“Readers are going to do a double take when they see Kindle’s bright new screen and feel how remarkably light the smaller 8.7 ounce design feels in one hand.” “If you don’t need the convenience of 3G wireless, we have an incredible new price point,” said Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos, in a statement. “At this price point, many people are going to buy multiple units for the home and family.”

The new Kindles are available both the traditional white and a new graphite case option; Amazon says the new Kindles offer 50 percent better contrast to make text and images sharper—and that no other ereader screen has a comparable level of contrast. The new Kindles have faster page turns and new hand-build custom fonts with proprietary font hinting to enhance the paper-like look of the ereader pages; Amazon has also doubled the Kindle’s onboard storage to 4 GB (about 3GB available for user content), and says the device gets up to one month of use on a single battery charge…with wireless off.

Amazon will be offering two versions of the new Kindle: the Kindle 3G follows the traditional Kindle model, offering both Wi-Fi and global 3G connectivity (no contract requires) that enables users to tap into the Amazon Kindle store, while the Kindle Wi-Fi offers the same Kindle experience without 3G service. The main difference is, of course, price: the Kindle 3G retains the Kindle’s current $189 price tag, while the Kindle Wi-Fi omits the 3G radio (and gets slightly lighter in the process) and sports a $139 price tag. Of course, both units are members of the Kindle application ecosystem: users can sync their titles, notes, bookmarks and reading locations across apps for PCs, Macs, and a variety of mobile platforms.

The new $139 Kindle Wi-Fi is sure to ramp up pricing competition in the ereader market, where Amazon has seen the Kindle undercut by Wi-Fi only devices from other makers. Amazon has never said how many Kindle units it has sold, but continues to tout the device as the top-selling item on the Amazon.com site and the most-gifted item in the company’s history.

Both units may be pre-ordered now; Amazon says they’ll begin shipping August 27.

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