Amazon's new Kindles: up close

Amazon unleashed a torrent of new Kindles and features Thursday that, coupled with its content, make Amazon a force to be reckoned with--again.

Amazon's Bevy of Tablets and E-Readers

The Kindle Fire has been a scorching success, but Amazon can't afford to rest on its laurels.

In time for the holidays—and in an effort to stay ahead of the competition—Amazon unleashed on Thursday several new Kindle Fire tablet models and Kindle ebook readers. The prices on these products range from an impulse-buy $69 to an iPad-like $499.

Faced with the success of Google's Nexus 7 and rumors suggesting the debut of a smaller iPad tablet, Amazon had to make a move. Here's a closer look at the models that Amazon hopes will outshine even the original Kindle Fire.

Kindle Fire HD 4G LTE

Amazon's top-of-the-line Kindle Fire HD 4G LTE tablet tacks 4G data onto all the specs found in the other Fire HD tablets. You'll also get 32GB or 64GB of internal storage in this version, as opposed to the 16GB or 32GB available on the non-4G models.

Available for order now, the tablet—which Amazon says will start shipping on November 20—will cost a competitive $499. Compare that to a 32GB 4G LTE iPad, which retails for $729.

Service for Kindle Fire HD 4G

Amazon's 4G LTE package, intended to go with its Kindle Fire 4G tablet, features the lightning-fast data service for just $50 a year. That will give you 250MB per month of data, along with 20GB of Amazon cloud storage and a $10 Amazon Appstore credit.

Kindle Fire HD 8.9-inch

The Kindle Fire HD 8.9-inch tablet features a 1920-by-1200-pixel full HD IPS (In-Plane Switching) display with a resolution of 254 pixels per inch—just shy of the new iPad's 260 ppi. The 8.9-inch Fire HD is available with 16GB or 32GB of internal storage as well as a fast OMAP 4470 processor, and Amazon says its MIMO Wi-Fi is 41 percent faster than the iPad's.

You can order the Kindle Fire HD 8.9-inch tablet now for $299, and it ships on November 20.

Kindle Fire HD 7-inch

Amazon also announced a 7-inch version of the Kindle Fire HD, which shares the same hardware specs as its 8.9-inch sibling (see the previous slide). Although this model technically still has an HD display, the resolution of the 7-inch Kindle Fire HD's screen is lower (1280 by 800 pixels), but it remains sharp for its size.

You can order the 7-inch Fire HD now for $199; it ships on September 14.

Latest-Generation Kindle Fire

Amazon gave the original Kindle Fire a few upgrades Thursday, while cutting its price to $159.

Amazon says the new version will feature longer battery life and include an upgraded processor and twice the RAM (the old Fire had 512MB). Available for order now, the new Kindle Fire ships on September 14.

Kindle Paperwhite E-Reader

Amazon upgraded its flagship e-reader, adding the Paperwhite system for illuminating its electronic-ink screen. The front-lit display will offer adjustable brightness, and Amazon says the technology makes it just as readable in direct sunlight as in the dark. The company says that the unit should offer eight weeks of battery life with the light on.

The price starts at $119; a 3G version will be available for $179. You can order either version now, and shipping starts October 1.

Current Kindle Now $69

Amazon's previous-generation entry-level Kindle e-reader is seeing a few modest updates, including 15 percent faster page turns, new fonts, and crisper text.

But perhaps the best upgrade is a downgrade: The updated Kindle will be available on September 14 for $69—a full $10 less than the model it replaces.

X-Ray Feature for Movies and Books

Amazon also announced the X-Ray feature for movies and textbooks. If you're watching a movie on a Kindle, you can tap on an on-screen actor and—without leaving the movie—review the actor's profile and information, provided by the IMDb entertainment database.

X-Ray works similarly for ebooks and textbooks, bringing up relevant information about characters and content.

Immersion Reading

"What if you could fuse together the Kindle book and the audiobook?" Jeff Bezos asked the crowd at Thursday's announcement event. On Kindle Fire models, Immersion Reading uses Amazon's "Whispersync for Voice" service to sync up your ebook with an audiobook, allowing you to jump seamlessly between reading a book and listening to a professionally recorded version of it.

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