New lower-priced Kindle pitched as commodity item

Well, Amazon may have sold out of the original Kindle, but there’s now a replacement. The company has launched two new versions of its e-reader, smaller and lighter than the original.

They’re also cheaper – and founder and CEO Jeff Bezos says he expects  families to end up with several of the devices kicking about the house.

It’s not something that’s likely to happen with the iPad, and Amazon is clearly hoping that this price point will help it maintain or even increase its lead in the e-reader marketplace.

The new Kindle retains the company’s monochrome e-ink screen, but with improvements that give it 50 percent better contrast than its predecessors.

The body is 21 percent smaller and 15 percent lighter, while keeping the same six-inch reading area.

Amazon’s also claiming 20 percent faster page turns, up to a month of battery life and double the storage, allowing users to hold up to 3,500 books.

The standard model costs $189, including free 3G wireless. But for even less – $139 – there’s a Wifi-only version.

“Readers are going to do a double take when they see Kindle’s bright new screen and feel how remarkably light the smaller 8.7 ounce design feels in one hand,” says Bezos.

“If you don’t need the convenience of 3G wireless, we have an incredible new price point – $139 for Kindle Wi-Fi. Kindle Wi-Fi has all the same features, same bookstore, same high-contrast electronic paper display, and it’s even a tiny bit lighter at 8.5 ounces. At this price point, many people are going to buy multiple units for the home and family.”

The new versions are available now.