Amazon announced at a live event today that its popular Kindle e-reader is getting an upgrade. The most significant upgrade is a new display which has a higher resolution and is (front) lit. As a result of the new display, Amazon is calling the new Kindle e-reader the Kindle Paperwhite, suggesting that the e-ink display is now closer than ever to replicating actual paper (though without the new book smell).
The new Kindle Paperwhite comes in two versions, one with free (whispersync) 3G and the other with only Wi-Fi. The physical keyboard is replaced with a touchscreen (like the Kindle Touch) and the e-reader is now 9.1mm thick and 7.5 ounces (a bit under half a pound). The Verge quoted Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos in saying the Kindle Paperwhite is "thinner than a magazine, lighter than a paperback." Further, the display panel has a stated 62% more pixels than its predecessor, with 212 pixels per inch (PPI). Due to the nature of e-ink, Amazon had to get creative with the lighting and had to place the lighting element above the display (e-ink is reflective). This new “Light Guide” is a thin layer of material that takes light produced by LEDs along the edges of the display and spreads it over the entire display. Doing this allows Amazon to maintain the thin form factor and make the e-reader useable in more environments (readable in bed, or outside on a clear day, for example).
Software improvements allow the Kindle to start up in 60 seconds, 15% faster page turns, and free storage in Amazon’s Cloud Drive. In addition, the Kindle Paperwhite supports showing book covers in your library, (reading) time remaining in book chapters, and X-Ray reference material technology. According to Amazon, the Kindle Paperwhite’s battery has also been improved, allowing up to 8 weeks between charges (I’m assuming that includes stand-by time, not just when active/reading).
The new Light Guide used to light up the Kindle Paperwhite's display.
Both Kindle Paperwhite e-readers will be available on October 1st, 2012. The 3G model will cost $179 while the Wi-Fi model will cost $119. Amazon is currently taking pre-orders for the devices, as well.
Meanwhile, the current Kindle e-reader is going to continue to be available – and is getting a nice price cut. At a new price of $69, I expect it to sell like Honey Buns (forget hotcakes). That is a price that is definitely impulse buy territory, and also makes it easy to give as a gift. I expect that it would also make a good device to give to kids to try to get them interested in reading. At $69, it won’t be as big of a deal if they break it (heh).
What do you think about the new Paperwhite Kindles? I’m interested to see one of the displays in person, to see if it lives up to the claims of replicating the look of paper. You can find more photos of the new Kindle over at The Verge's live blog of the event.