Amazon launches two new Kindles, one with Wi-Fi only

They are faster, offer more storage, sell for $139 and $189

Amazon launched two new Kindle e-readers priced at $139 and $189 late Wednesday, with the cheaper version a Wi-Fi-only e-reader and $10 less than the Wi-Fi-only Nook.

The third-generation devices are simply called Kindle and boast 6-in. reading areas but are smaller, lighter and faster overall, with 50% better contrast, according to Amazon's Web site.

Pre-orders are now available online, with actual release slated for Aug. 27.

The latest black-and-white E Ink devices are probably going to compete in a world of e-readers that is a separate market from the multimedia-focused, all-color iPad from Apple, which also is an e-reader, some analysts said.

"The e-reader market is expanding, not contracting, despite the emergence of iPad and competitors," said Jack Gold, and analyst at J.Gold Associates. "IPads and e-readers appeal to different market segments."

Gold said that Kindle and Nook readers are "avid readers who want the best reading experience, not necessarily a multipurpose Internet machine."

Gold said there is "clearly room for both" approaches, with different sweet spots in the market. "I wouldn't write off e-readers at this point," he said, noting that multimedia capabilities are being added to the e-readers. Limited Web browsing is possible over both the Kindle and Nook.

Prices for the new models could also lead to something of a price war among e-readers.

The new 3G + Wi-Fi Kindle weighs 8.7 oz., or 15% less than the last generation, with the Wi-Fi-only model weighing 8.5 oz. Both are about 21% smaller in size than their predecessors, while still keeping the 6-in. screen. The battery life is now estimated at one month with wireless off, and the amount of storage space has doubled so it can hold up to 3,500 books.

Faster processing allows for 20% faster page turns, something that's seen as important to the most active e-reader customers.

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed. His e-mail address is mhamblen@computerworld.com.

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