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Amazon introduces $139 Kindle. Cheap -- but is it fun?

July 29, 2010 | 11:31 am

Amazon.com has introduced a Kindle for $139. The most inexpensive e-reader offered by the online retailer, which is Wi-Fi only, will ship Aug. 27. A $189 model, also available next month, will be equipped with 3G.

Only last month, the cheapest Kindle e-reader listed for $259.

The new Kindle will have the same reading area, but the body of the device will be smaller and lighter. The screen is sharper, and Amazon.com boasts that downloading will be so fast that you will be able to "think of a book and start reading it in 60 seconds." 

Last week, Amazon.com announced that sales of Kindle ebooks on its website had outpaced hardcover sales

Amazon.com is emphasizing its connection to readers. In its announcement of the new generation of Kindles, Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos writes, "Reading is important. Reading is why we build Kindles."

That's a not-so-veiled reference to Apple, whose iPad has an e-reader -- and video streaming, email, animated comics, photo sharing games and a myriad of other interactive applications. With all those features, Apple's iPad is far more expensive -- its Wi-Fi only version is $499, and 3G goes up to $830.

At Bloomberg, Joseph Galante writes, "Amazon.com wants to ensure that it’s not left behind as consumers embrace digital books on a mass scale." The real question may be whether consumers who want digital books want to read them on devices like the iPad, which serve many purposes, or on stand-alone e-reading devices.

The new Kindle is priced to compete with stand-alone e-readers. Its price is below Barnes & Noble's Nook, Borders' Kobo and Sony's pocket e-reader, all of which are $149. With its enviable, prominent place in the nation's largest online bookstore, the Kindle may be positioned to push these e-readers out of the marketplace.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Amazon.com / Handout

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