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Amazon Kindle neck and neck with iPad, selling 8 million in 2010

Amazon looks set to ship an impressive 8 million of its lovely new Kindles this year, way up on last year and close to the mighty iPad.

Amazon is set to flog a whopping 8 million of its Kindle ebook readers this year, according to BusinessWeek sources. That figure -- if correct -- would put it within touching distance of Apple's iPad, which had sold 7.5 million units by the end of September.

Last year around 2.5 million Kindles were sold, according to BusinessWeek, and the gadget is now Amazon's most popular product. Apple will reveal how many iPads it sold in the new year. 

Amazon launched a new model of the Kindle earlier this year, which we praised as its best yet. Smaller, cheaper and better looking, it seems to have been a huge hit for the company.

We loved its design, its no-contract 3G downloads, its clear display and excellent battery life, decreeing in our review, "The Kindle 3G is an excellent ebook reader that makes finding, downloading and reading books a pleasure."

CNET UK editor Jason Jenkins nominated the Kindle as Greatest Gadget of the 21st Century in our recent competition. The voters disagreed, knocking it out in the second round, although it was defeated by the iPhone, which went on to win.

The iPad, meanwhile, arrived in April this year to much fanfare and hype from publishers as the future of content delivery, but recent sales -- 4.2 million in the three months to the end of September -- have disappointed industry watchers. By comparison, the iPhone 4, introduced two months later, has already shipped 14 million units.

The iPad and Kindle are at the forefront of a tech movement to put entertainment in people's hands, in gadgets that are easier to use and enjoy than mobile phones. Book and newspaper publishers and movie and TV distributors are all fervently hoping they'll catch on and people will start paying for their stuff again.

A new wave of tablet computers, inspired by the iPad and powered by software such as Google's Android, is expected to be revealed at the CES tech show in January. Apple is widely tipped to launch a sequel to the iPad next April.