Amazon Debuts New Kindle Devices Not Even a Year After the Last Kindle Release

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Last week, Amazon debuted their latest crop of Kindle devices. Three new models at a range of price points and each with new upgrades and features. The problem? It was only nine months ago that Amazon's Kindle Fire tablet -- the first real competitor to the iPad - went on sale. Will Kindle users ditch like-new devices to upgrade to the shiny new models?

First let's take a look at the new offerings:

Kindle Paperwhite e-reader - This is the upgrade to the basic model. It will have 62 percent more pixels than the Kindle Touch. It will have a touchscreen and be lit with a fiber-optic lighting system that has been in development for four years. Even with the lighting system turned on, it will still have eight weeks of battery life. The Wi-Fi-only version will cost $119 and 3G versions will be $179

Kindle Fire - a new version of the current tablet, which has twice the RAM, is 40 percent faster and has a longer battery life. It will sell for $159.

Kindle Fire HD - This will come in two sizes, 8.9 inches and 7 inches. It will run a modified version of Google's Android operating system, has a laminated display intended to reduce glare from external light by 25 percent has dual stereo speakers with Dolby Digital Plus and two antennas. They'll have a front-facing camera, Bluetooth connectivity and an HDMI port. The 16 GB 7-inch Fire HD will cost $199 and the 8.9-inch version will go for $299. There will also be 32 and 64 GB versions of the 8.9 inch with 4G LTE connectivity that will go for $499 and $599, respectively.

There also seems to be significant software upgrades, with better Whispersynch technology for saving places in books and audiobooks, an X-Ray feature that automatically pulls up related internet pages on anything you tap, like an actor's face in a movie or a term in a textbook, and better parental controls, among other things.

Possibly the most significant upgrade is the basic Kindle. Now with touchscreen, built-in lighting and better battery life, it seems that Amazon has finally made the Kindle that every Kindle user was asking for. In general it does seem like Amazon has done a good job a making glossier versions with new features likely to hook a lot of people into buying new models.

The Impact

Tablets can actually help us to consume less. They take the place of books, DVDs, DVD players, TVs, CDs and even for some, a home computer. For someone buying their first one, having a host of features to take advantage of can actually help to lighten their environmental footprint if it means that it replaces the consumption of other gadgets and products, but for the many who already have a tablet or e-reader, these constant product releases can actually add to a bad and growing e-waste problem.

When new waves of devices come out, it's hard to quash the urge to upgrade. But, it's important to step back and think about whether it's really necessary. Every year 20 to 50 million tons of electronics are tossed, with only 10 to 18 percent being recycled. When tech companies keep releasing shiny new versions of their products every year, or in the case of the new Kindles, even more frequently than that, it only serves to fuel the trash and upgrade cycle. Check out this great graphic that breaks down what's really happening when we treat electronics like disposables.

But in the case of people still using one of the original Kindles, it's hard to blame you for wanting to upgrade. You can ditch the external light, have 3G accessibility and more. Stay tuned this week as I some give you some pointers for making upgrades in the most environmentally responsible way that you can or finding ways to be happy without making that upgrade in the first place.

Tags: E-Waste | Gadgets | Technology