Amazon Launches Kindle e-Book Reader has formally launched its Kindle e-book reader, a new portable reading device featuring a 6-inck e-Ink display; wireless connectivity from Sprint for over-the-air purchases of books, newspapers, and other material; a slew of celebrity endorsements…and a $399 price tag.

“We’ve been working on Kindle for more than three years. Our top design objective was for Kindle to disappear in your hands&mdas;to get out of the way—so you can enjoy your reading,” said Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, in a statement. “We also wanted to go beyond the physical book. Kindle is wireless, so whether you’re lying in bed or riding a train, you can think of a book, and have it in less than 60 seconds. No computer is needed—you do your shopping directly from the device. We’re excited to make Kindle available today.”

The Kindle weighs 10.3 ounces, features a QWERTY keyboard, and offers a 6-inch e-Ink display—which doesn’t have a backlight, which is either good if you don’t like reading from a glowing screen, or bad if you don’t have another light source handy. The Kindle reader has enough on-board memory to store about 200 titles, and users can expand the unit’s storage capacity with SD storage cards. Users can purchase books from the Kindle Store, which currently offers more than 90,000 book titles, along with selected newspapers, magazines, and even blogs—new book releases start at $9.99, while newspapers subscriptions run $5.99 to $14.99 a month, with magazines costing $1.25 to $3.49 per month.

Users download material using Amazon Whispernet, which piggybacks on Sprint’s high-speed EVDO cell phone network. Users can also tap into a built-in dictionary, and access Wikipedia. Users can make their own annotations and bookmarks in text, store personal documents in the Kindle reader, and even have customizable Kindle email addresses for $0.10 apiece. Amazon says the Kindle battery goes for a week (wireless-free) and fully recharges in two hours.

So far, industry watchers are giving Amazon high marks for rolling out a comprehensive e-book solution, including a sizable content library and a workable reader with wireless purchasing capabilities. However, the design of te Kindle is leaving many people cold: although some praise its all-white, no-frills design, others find themselves wishing for something a little more classy for $400.

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