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Amazon officially announces new Kindle Paperwhite, shipping on September 30th

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Gallery Photo: Amazon Kindle Paperwhite review pictures
Gallery Photo: Amazon Kindle Paperwhite review pictures

Amazon has officially announced the new Kindle Paperwhite — just hours after the company accidentally put the page live earlier today and then pulled it down immediately. It looks like it has the same physical form factor as last year's Kindle Paperwhite, but has a higher contrast E Ink display, a faster processor for improved page turning and book opening, and a redesigned built-in light. The touchscreen has also been improved, which should make for an improved page-turning experience.

Between this and the faster processor, it seems reasonable to say that Amazon felt pressure to make page-turning a smoother experience. Other new features include integration with Goodreads, which Amazon purchased back in March, and a kid-friendly mode called FreeTime. There's also an expansion of the X-ray feature Amazon introduced last year — it uses a full dictionary and Wikipedia as well as the X-ray database to improve the Paperwhite's "Smart Lookup" tool.

An iterative change, but still an improvement over last year's model

We had a chance to spend a few minutes with the new Kindle Paperwhite, and while it's definitely an iterative update, the tweaks Amazon made improve what is probably the finest e-reader we've ever used. The improved processor does the job, making the device feel much faster and more fluid than ever before, and the screen is the best we've seen on a Kindle. The light is brighter than before and the improved contrast makes it a superior option compared to the older model.

Overall navigation has been improved, as well — you can preview pages before actually turning to them, which makes looking up an index or map much easier. And the improved X-Ray tool does a much better job at defining words in the context of what you're reading. There's also a nifty Vocabulary Builder tool, which collects the words you've looked up; you can go back through them, or even create flashcards to teach yourself once and for all what "etymology" really means.

It's not a huge change from what Amazon offered already, but there's no question that the new Kindle Paperwhite is yet another step forward. The device starts at $119 with special offer advertisements or $139 without ads and will begin shipping on September 30th. It's available for pre-order now.