The Amazon Kindle ebook reader is ditching the keyboard for a touchscreen with the new Kindle Touch and Kindle Touch 3G announced just moments ago.
The Kindle Touch is the first ebook reader from Amazon to let you turn pages and look stuff up by tapping on the screen.
Like the current Kindle 3G, you don't need to pay any extra for 3G once you've bought it. Unlike a phone, there's no monthly fee or lengthy contract -- instead, you simply download any book you want, over the air, without plugging into your computer or requiring Wi-Fi. It works in 100 countries, so you can grab a book out of the air even on holiday.
There's also a cheaper version with just Wi-Fi and no 3G.
The touchscreen is infrared, so unlike your phone, where the screen actually senses your finger, sensors are mounted around the edge of the screen and detect where your finger has broken infrared beams. That means that not only can the Kindle be read in direct sunlight, but it can also be poked and prodded with a finger, pen, gloved hand or any pokey implement you care to whip out in polite society. Let's see someone do that with an iPad.
New to the Kindle Touch is the X-Ray feature. As well as checking a built-in dictionary for the meaning of a word, you can search for Wikipedia entries explaining stuff the book refers to. Relevant Wikipedia articles are downloaded with the book when you buy it, which is pretty crazy -- a bit like a DVD bonus feature or director's commentary for books.
An updated version of the current Kindle was also announced today without the touchscreen. And Amazon is adding local adverts to the Special Offers Kindle, an ebook reader that's slightly cheaper because it shows adverts. The new Amazon Local serves up adverts and offers specific to your area.
The Kindle Touch 3G costs just $99 (£65) in the US. It's available there on 21 November, but whether the US services and prices will make it across the pond remains to be seen -- we'll keep you posted.