Amazon this morning intro'd what are easily the best e-book e-readers extant. As expected, the company unveiled the Kindle Fire, a 7-inch touch screen LCD tablet that is more than a mere e-book reader but less than a full iPad-like tablet, and priced at $199.
It also unveiled what may be the cheapest e-ink e-book e-reader, a new, light (5.98 ounces) $79 Kindle, along with it's first Touch Kindles, a $99 model with just Wi-Fi, and a $149 version with free 3G for quick content downloads.
You can order all four of the new Kindles right now. You can get the $79 non-touch Kindle immediately; the two Kindle Touches will ship November 21, the Fire will become available November 15.
Where's the Fire?
Fire is less an e-book reader and more a multimedia device. It's designed to access and play movie, TV, music, magazine, apps, games, and (duh) e-books acquired from Amazon's varying online media stores.
However, no mention was made of e-mail, calendar, address book or any other personal information aspects that make iPad and other tablets as useful as they are for work and play. Also not discussed was whether or not Fire would run all, some or no standard Android apps.
It's interface slightly resembles Apple's iBook bookshelf look. Across the top are access taps for Newsstand, Books, Music, Video, Docs, Apps and Web. Under this is a large carousel area occupying the middle half of the screen featuring recently accessed and/or purchased media or books. Below this is a shorter shelf with frequently-accessed items that you can "pin" to a spot.
In addition to multimedia play, Amazon has invented a new mobile Web browser called Amazon Silk. Amazon's idea was to use it's own extensive technology to help Web pages load faster by doing a lot of the heavy processing lifting in the cloud. As a result of this technical legerdemain, Web pages on Fire are designed to load faster than on other mobile devices.
At first glance, Fire is a giant leap forward past the Nook Color, which also is $50 more expensive. Fire is faster, lighter and can access a wife variety of Amazon multimedia content.
Whether the new Kindle Touches are superior to Nook Touch remains t be seen. They're certainly cheaper and offer a new feature called X-ray - along with the e-book, you'll get loads of "contextual" information - historical and biographical data for both real and fictional characters - via Wikipedia and other sources, accessed via a special page view.
That may sound a bit confusing, but I'll have more on all the Kindles tomorrow.