After months of rumors, Amazon's (AMZN) new version of the Kindle has finally arrived. In fact, there are two brand new models: a 3G edition priced at $189, while a Wi-Fi only model that will sell for just $139 -- $10 less than Barnes & Noble's (BKS) Nook e-reader, and the lowest price Amazon has ever offered for one of its devices. Both editions will be available as of Aug. 27 in more than 140 countries and 30 territories.
So what's new about these new 6-inch Kindles?
A new e-Ink screen with a graphite color option that Amazon claims has a "50% better contrast than any other e-reader"
A 20% faster page-turn rate
Double the storage capacity to 3,500 e-books
Up to a month of battery life
A lighter, sleeker build that's 21% smaller and 15% lighter than the previous Kindle model, which now weigh just 8.7 ounces.
About the only thing the new Kindles don't have is color, which won't be on the horizon until next year at the earliest.
CEO Jeff Bezos is understandably enthusiastic about these new devices, as he relayed in an interview with The New York Times. "The hardware business for us has been so successful that we're going to continue," he said. "I predict there will be a 10th-generation and a 20th-generation Kindle. We're well-situated to be experts in purpose-built reading devices."
Clearly the new versions of the Kindle are Amazon's definitive answer to many lingering questions about whether the retailer is in the hardware business for the long haul. Apple (AAPL) may have sold more than 3.3 million iPads, and Barnes & Noble is fast encroaching on e-reader market share, while Amazon still makes lots of money selling e-books through free software for seemingly every given platform under the sun.
Despite reporting second-quarter results that didn't meet with Wall Street's favor, Amazon's new device announcement should signal to investors that they are still very much in the hardware game -- and are determined to win on their terms.