The Kindle is a hand-held device that downloads books, magazines, newspapers and blogs to readable “electronic paper”.
It costs US$400 (AU$450), is around the same size as a paperback but claims to be lighter and thinner, and can store up to 200 items, downloaded by a built-in wireless Internet connection.
Amazon founder and chief executive Jeff Bezos said the device had been more than three years in the making.
“Our top design objective was for Kindle to disappear in your hands — to get out of the way – so you can enjoy your reading,” he explained. “No computer is needed — you do your shopping directly from the device.”
Amazon says the screen works “using ink, just like books and newspapers, but displays the ink particles electronically.
“Because it reflects light like ordinary paper and uses no backlight, it eliminates the eye strain and glare associated with other electronic displays such as computer monitors,” the company said in a statement.
Some 90,000 books will be available for downloading onto the gadget, with bestsellers retailing for about US$10 (AU$11.40). Customers will be able to download and read the first chapter of most books for free.
The device uses a high-speed data network called EVDO used on many mobile phones, so customers will not need a computer or Wi-Fi connection.
Amazon will not charge a subscription fee or for connection time, but customers will pay for books or other content delivered to the device.
The device has received mixed reviews from the high-tech community.
“The Kindle isn't the most elegant looking gadget ever created (in fact it looks like it came out of the 70s), but it packs an impressive list of features and could finally bring e-books mainstream,” said Michael Arrington in a blog posted on the website TechCrunch.
“That's something Sony couldn't accomplish with its much more elegant Sony Reader.”
Mr Arrington said Sony 's reader had failed because its device required syncing with a computer to download content, while Kindle will offer connections for free.
But Peter Kafka at Silicon Valley Insider said: “No matter how nifty a gadget Jeff Bezos' company has created, it won't have the same impact on publishing that Apple's iPod had on the music business.”