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Amazon: Kindle Fire HD 8.9 starts shipping today

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Amazon announced Thursday that it’s shipping a larger Kindle Fire HD tablet earlier than the date set when the product launched in September.

“With the holiday season upon us, we’re excited to make our $299 Kindle Fire HD 8.9” available early—we think customers are going to love web browsing, email, gaming, watching TV shows, reading magazines, and more on the large, stunning HD screen, with fast Wi-Fi and exceptional audio,” said Dave Limp, the vice president of Amazon’s Kindle unit.

In addition to opening orders for the tablet on its own site, Amazon is also selling the larger device in Best Buy stores starting Friday. It will add retailers including Staples and Radio Shack in the coming weeks.

The Kindle Fire 8.9 starts at $299 and is going after the budget-minded consumer who wants a larger screen. While slightly smaller than the iPad’s 9.7-inch screen, the larger Fire device is a clear shot at the Apple tablet.

Like the previous generation of the Kindle Fire, the Fire HD is a portal to Amazon’s enormous online store and collection of video, books and apps. It also has a front-facing HD camera for use with video calls as well as an “X-Ray” feature for movies and textbooks that supplements content with information from the IMDB movie service, Wikipedia and YouTube.

The 4G-enabled version of the tablet is due to ship next week, the company said, just in time for the holidays.

The tablet starts at $499. For data, however, users will have to pay a one-time fee of $49.99 for a data package that also includes a $10 Amazon Appstore credit and 20 GB of storage in Amazon’s Cloud Drive.

An Amazon Prime membership — $7.99 per month — offered for all models gives users access to free, streaming video and free two-day shipping.

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