Ina Fried

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Amazon’s Kindle Paperwhite: Four Years in the Making

Amazon executives gush about their new e-reader as the Kindle they always wanted to make.

While the latest Kindle Touch came out last year, the technology behind the Kindle Paperwhite’s new lit screen is four years in the making. Amazon purchased a Finnish company a couple years back that was working on the front-lit screen technology, and Amazon has been refining it for the Kindle ever since.

CEO Jeff Bezos said Thursday that when Amazon set out to create the device, the technology didn’t exist.

“We had to invent it,” he said. The device is going on sale now, but will ship Oct. 1. A Wi-Fi only model will sell for $119, while the version with a built-in 3G connection sells for $179.

Unlike other lit screens, Amazon’s Paperwhite technology is highly power-efficient, meaning the new Kindle can still get as much as eight weeks of battery life, even with the screen running much of the time.

There are a few other notable tweaks to the new Kindle. It’s noticeably thinner, in part because it now uses the kind of capacitive touch found on most phones and tablets, rather than the infrared technology on the first Kindle Touch. In addition to allowing the device to be thinner, capacitive touch means that the screen won’t be fooled by a stray dog hair or other errant object.

The pixel count has been upped noticeably, now supporting 212 pixels per inch. That’s about 60 percent more dots, allowing for more readable fonts at smaller sizes, as well as support for more intricate fonts.

To save cost, the Kindle Paperwhite no longer supports audio, doing away with audiobook support, but also with the cost of the required hardware and MP3 patent licenses.

One nifty new feature shows how many minutes worth of reading one has left before the end of the chapter. The feature bases its projections on the individual user’s actual reading speed. Amazon also added the digital equivalent of a book’s dust jacket, adding information about the author and, of course, links to their other Kindle books available for purchase.

The device also features some software design cues carried over from the Kindle Fire tablet, including a more graphical user interface.

The Amazon event is just getting started. Click here for live coverage.

AllThingsD’s Tricia Duryee contributed to this report.


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