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A new Kindle early next year?

It'll be too late to make it under any of this year's Christmas trees, but that doesn't mean it won't make a sales splash when it does arrive. TechCrunch says they've learned that Kindle 2.0 will be released early in the first quarter of next year.

According to TechCrunch, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos was the one who pulled the plug on the original October launch date for the new Kindle. He is reported to have wanted some last-minute tweaks on the software.

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TechCrunch also says that the images of the new Kindle seen online earlier this year were for real, which means that the new Kindle is longer and thinner than the original, with easier button manipulation.

Amazon also plans to release a larger-screen student version later in 2009. TechCrunch predicts that a number of new e-book products could be hitting the market next year – perhaps offering serious competition to the Kindle.