The Eink Kindle series has joined the touchscreen revolution with two Kindle Touch models. The cheaper of the two undercuts the current most affordable model - the Wi-Fi only Touch edition set to retail for just $99. An even cheaper non-touch model has also been announced.
A trio of new Eink Kindles have already appeared on the US Amazon site, having been revealed onstage at a press conference by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. The readerly trio is completed by the $79 non-touch Wi-Fi only model and the $149 3G Touch edition. Sadly, the only one to appear on Amazon UK so far is the non-touch model, at a dispiriting £89.
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These new ereaders mark a big change from the current Kindle 3 design, lopping off the Qwerty keyboard in favour of a minimal look popular with other ereader markers. Sony is perhaps the most apt design comparison, as the new Kindle Touch models also use the same touchscreen technology found in the Sony PRS-350 and PRS-650.
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Their screens use IR (infrared) to sense where your finger is on-screen, although they don't tend to require actual contact with the screen itself. The benefits we've found in using a touch interface on an ereader include that it makes looking up words in a built-in dictionary much easier, as well as skipping between any glossary or bibliography references built into the text.
You'll also be able to tap on the left and right sides of the screen to turn pages. Amazon is introducing its own way to exploit the avenues opened by touch navigation, too. The X-Ray feature lets you read up on facts, links and anecdotes online relevant to what you're reading. Best of all, IR-based touch won't compromise the screen contrast and clarity - so the Kindle reading experience should be just as good as it is with the Kindle 3.
We can't help but feel we're getting a bit of a bum deal in the UK, paying £89 for what costs $79 stateside, but these new products should further tighten Amazon's grip on the ereader market. The non-touch model is available to pre-order now, and will ship on 12 October. We'll keep an eye out for news of UK Touch models on the horizon.