Amazon launches Kindle 3 in UK

Amazon today launched the third generation of its Kindle e-book reader - and for the first time, it will be directly available to British buyers from the company's UK store.

The Internet bookseller announced today in a 'letter' to British shoppers that it had begun taking UK pre-orders for the new device, which is due for dispatch on 27 August.

Previously the e-book reader had only been available from the company's US store, Amazon.com.

Amazon claims the new device is sleeker - 21 per cent smaller for the same six-inch screen size. Its weight has been trimmed from 289g to 247g. The capacity of the device has also doubled, now offering space for up to 3,500 e-book titles.

As usual, British buyers are expected to pay a transatlantic premium for the gadget. The basic Wi-Fi only version of the Kindle costs £109 from Amazon's UK store, with the 3G version available at £149. Both come with free shipping.

The same models are available in the States for $139 and $189 - around £89 and £121, respectively.

The prices are still competitive enough to substantially undercut Apple's iPad, ensuring the device maintains its lead in the e-book market.

Only a week ago, Amazon announced, in a feat of fancy statistical footwork, that sales of e-books from its US store were outstripping those of hardback books by almost two to one.

The e-book market in Britain was worth around £150 million, mostly in the professional sector. Consumer sales accounted for just £5 million of the total - though the wider availability of readers such as the Kindle could see a steep rise in sales. In the USA, e-book sales now account for around six per cent of the total book market.