Note: this article originally ran on September 29, 2011

Yesterday, Amazon announced a new family of Kindle devices, including the Kindle Fire with an advanced web browser and full color screen, the Kindle Touch (obviously, with a touch screen), and a low cost $79 model. It’s mere coincidence that I happened to write about the Kindle for another article that appears on the site today. That article (What I like About My Kindle) was written prior to the Amazon announcements. Let’s take a moment to review the new models.

I listed the prices for the “With Special Offers” and without special offers. For example, the Kindle shows a price of $79 / $109. It’s $79 With Special Offers or $109 without. What are “special offers”? These are offers that appear on the screen saver and home screens of the devices (but not within the text of a book). The “with Special Offers” versions of the devices are $30-$50 less than the standard version. The general consensus seems to be that the deals that appears are good deals (I heard of one person getting a “20% off the purchase of a laptop” deal), so my thought is that most people will want this version. A friend of mine who owns a previous version complained that he couldn’t get Special Offers on his Kindle …

Device Thoughts
Kindle Fire$199 Here you go – a tablet for under $200 that isn’t being discontinued (a la the HP Touchpad). This might not be an iPadkiller, but if you were going to buy a Kindle anyway, it would be tempting to spend the extra money to get this model. Amazon touts their Silk browser as revolutionary and fast – and perhaps it is. They also mention thousands of apps in their App Store – including Angry Birds.The 7″ screen is small than the DX but larger than the other models. The Fire has 8GB of storage, compared to 4GB for the DX, Touch and Keyboard and 2GB for the base model. Any downside to the Fire? Well, it’s only available as a WiFi device. I doubt Amazon will make a 3G option in the near future. Why? Because the Silk browser is going to allow people to view much more rich content than the Experimental Browser on the other Kindle models. That means more bandwidth. With a Wi-Fi connection, this is being provided by your ISP, so Amazon doesn’t care. But if they had a Fire version with free 3G, they’d be footing the bill for the bandwidth. While they’ve been generous so far in allowing free web browsing with the Experimental Browser, I doubt they are anxious to multiply their bandwidth costs by giving free 3G access to Fire owners.Another drawback?? Battery life is much shorter. The Kindle has a listed battery life of 1 month, the Kindle Touch and Kindle Keyboard two months, the Kindle DX three weeks … and the Kindle Fire 8 hours for continuous reading or 7.5 hours for video playback. Realistically, you can probably stretch the battery life out for a few days, but there’s no escaping the point that the Fire will drain its battery faster than the other devices.Finally, the Fire doesn’t have e-Ink technology (thanks for pointing this out, Evan). e-Ink can display color and doesn’t have fast enough refresh rates for video. Amazon has long trumpeted the readability of e-Ink – will users see a noticeable degradation in readability when they sit down to read War And Peace?
Kindle$79 / $109 It’s the cheapest of the Kindles, weighs the least (5.98 ounces) and has the least storage (2 GB). Having said that, 2G of storage is still a ton if you’re just reading books. Most books are less than 1 MB. If space is an issue, you can always delete the content and re-download later (no additional charge). The cons: there’s no keyboard and no 3G. If you’re also planning to use the device as a portable web device, this could be a show stopper (however, you can probably get a good deal on a previous generation 3G model.For $79, it’s hard to find much fault with this.
Kindle TouchWi-Fi$99 / $1393G

$149 / $189

The Kindle Touch has twice the storage of the basic Kindle (4GB) and twice the battery life (2 months). Obviously, it also has a touch screen.Personally, I don’t really see the appeal of the touch screen if you’re just using the device for reading. The Kindle is a pretty easy device to use. I guess it does remove some mechanical pieces, so maybe these devices would be less subject to breakdown – although I haven’t heard of anyone wearing out the buttons on their Kindle.For $50 more, you can get a 3G model that has free access to Amazon’s Whispernet network. This allows you to download new content from anywhere – but the more important aspect is that it allows you to surf the net with the Kindle’s web browsers (which, admittedly, isn’t the greatest in the world, but gets the job done).The 3G model has both 3G and Wi-Fi.
Kindle KeyboardWi-Fi$99 / $1393G

$139 / $189

This is basically the old Kindle model. The keyboard has a fairly standard layout, and while you’re unlikely to type 100 words per minute on it, it’s serviceable. I’ve used it to leave comments on blogs that I read with the experimental browser. The physical size of the device is a bit larger to accommodate the keyboard.If you’re not planning to use the device for web browsing, then you might not need the keyboard.Once again, the 3G version is available at a higher cost.The 3G model has both 3G and Wi-Fi.
Kindle DX$379 The DX is the most expensive Kindle. The 9.7″ screen is much appreciably larger than the 6″ screen of the Kindle, Kindle Touch, and Kindle Keyboard. Do you want the largest Kindle screen possible, or will you accept (or even prefer) a smaller screen? That’s the big question. Personally, I like the easy portability of the 6″ Kindles but obviously you can display more content on the DX.The DX does have a keyboard. Note that it is 3G only – it does have have Wi-Fi. It always weighs in at a hefty 18.9 ounces.

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Kosmo is the founder of The Soap Boxers and writes on a variety of topics. Many of his short stories have been collected into Kindle books.

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