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The Lowdown: Amazon Launches Next-Gen Kindle E-Readers and Fire HD Tablets

Amazon officially launched the next generation of Kindle e-readers and Kindle Fire Android tablets at a press conference held at Santa Monica, California (US). Here is a quick lowdown on all the announcements made by the company:

Content: Amazon’s founder and CEO Jeff Bezos stated that Kindle Store now has 180,000 Kindle-exclusive book titles which has been purchased, downloaded, or borrowed from the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library more than 100 million times. He also stated that Amazon’s Prime Instant Video service now offers 25,000 movies and television episodes. However, it should be noted that Amazon’s Prime Instant Video service is not available in India, yet.

– Kindle Serials: Bezos launched a new type of content called Kindle Serials, which enables publishers to offer stories in a serialized format and allows users to buy a book once and get future episodes at no extra cost. Bezos said that the future episodes will be directly appended to the back of the current episodes. Amazon is offering eight Kindle Serials at launch at an introductory price of $1.99 for each different title.

Kindle Paperwhite: Bezos announced a new member in the Kindle e-Reader family, the Kindle Paperwhite. This is the fifth generation of Kindle e-Readers and Bezos claimed that it is the most advanced e-reader ever built. Kindle Paperwhite features a Paperwhite backlit display which has 25% higher contrast and 62% more pixels at 212 pixels-per-inch (PPI) from the previous Kindle displays.

It also has a thin and light form factor, a built-in front light, Wi-Fi support, and Whispersync technology which allows users to synchronize their reading progress, bookmarks, annotations and other information across Kindle hardware devices and and Kindle reading applications. Kindle Paperwhite claims to provide 8 weeks of battery life and is priced at $119 for the Wi-Fi variant and $179 for the 3G variant. Note that these prices are for the ad-supported variants and users will have to pay an extra $20 for an ad-free model.

The e-Readers are currently available for pre-order on Amazon.com and will start shipping from October 1, however it is not clear as to when these e-readers will be available in India.

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New Entry-level Kindle: Amazon has also slightly improved its entry-level Kindle e-reader, bringing in improved fonts, faster page turns and a reduced pricing of $69 (ad-supported model) and $89 (ad-free model). The improved Kindle is currently available for purchase on Amazon.com and will start shipping from September 14. We hope that Amazon will soon extend this e-Reader to Indian offline retail stores, considering that it had recently partnered with the retail electronic chain Croma to launch the Kindle exclusively on Croma’s online store and all Croma stores across India at an introductory price of Rs 6,999.

Kindle Fire HD: Bezos introduced the next generation of its Kindle Fire tablets – called Kindle Fire HD. The new Kindle Fire HD will be available in two different variants – a 7″ variant and a 8.9″ variant. Both the variants feature almost similar specs like Gorilla Glass IPS display, HD front facing camera, 16/32GB storage capacity, OMAP 4470 processor, dual stereo speakers with Dolby Digital Plus technology, 11 hours of battery life and support for connectivity options like Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and HDMI. The only obvious exception is the screen size and the resolution. The 7″ variant has a 1280*800 display, the 8.9″ variant has a 1920*1200 display. Also the 8.9″ variant will be available in an additional 64GB storage capacity.

Both the variants of Kindle Fire HD are currently available for pre-order on Amazon.com. The 7″ Kindle Fire HD is priced at $199 (16GB) and $249 (32GB) and will start shipping from September 14 while the 8.9″ Kindle Fire HD is priced at $299 (16GB) and $369 (32GB) and will start shipping from November 20. Note that both the tablets are ad-supported and there is no-ad free version at present. Further, there is currently no information as to when these tablets will be available in India.

In addition to the above variants, Bezos also announced a 4G variant of Kindle Fire HD available at $499 (32GB) and $599 (64GB) along with a 4G data package of $49.99 per year which offers 250MB data per month. This variant is currently available for pre-order on Amazon.com and will start shipping from November 14.

– New Kindle Fire: Amazon has also upgraded Kindle Fire launched last year, with a faster processor, double the RAM, longer battery life and reduced pricing of $159. The new Kindle Fire is currently available available for order on Amazon.com and will start shipping from September 14. Note that the tablet is ad-supported and there is no-ad free version at present. Also, there is still no information on the availability of these tablets in India and Amazon’s digital content like movies, music, television episodes, apps and magazines are still not available in the country, with an exception of books on Amazon.com

Whispersync for Voice and Games: Amazon introduced new features called Whispersync for Voice and Games for Kindle Fire. Whispersync for Voice allows users to automatically sync their reading progress of books, across the text and audio versions of the same book title on Kindle Fire. For instance, users can start reading a book on Kindle Fire and then automatically switch to listening from the same place from a companion audiobook. Amazon has partnered with Audible for this feature. Similarly, Whispersync for Games allows users to sync a game’s progress across various Kindle tablets.

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Immersion Reading: Amazon has also partnered with Audible to unveil a new feature called Immersion reading which allows users to sync Kindle reading progress with the corresponding Audible.com audiobook.

Parental Controls: Bezos also previewed a new feature called Kindle FreeTime for Kindle Fire tablets which allows parents to controls what content they kids can see on the tablet and set time limits for different types of activities on the tablet.

Other Significant Details

– Bezos stated that out of the top 100 Kindle Books, 27 books were published using Kindle’s direct publishing platform. Amazon has recently extended the Direct Publishing platform to independent authors and publishers in India.

Kindle Singles: Bezos stated that Amazon has sold 3.5 million Kindle Singles till now and 35 of Kindle Singles reached the Kindle Top 50 charts. Launched in Jan 2011, Kindle Singles are one-off essays and short stories which range typically between 5,000 and 30,000 words i.e. longer than a magazine article but shorter than a novel.

– Bezos also said that the company aggressively prices its tablets so that they can earn back the money from the usage of its services. He said ” We want to make money when people use our devices, not when they buy our devices”.

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Here is Yesterday’s Keynote Video From Jeff Bezos:

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