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In a pre-emptive strike against the expected announcement of a smaller iPad in the new few weeks, Amazon yesterday unveiled a series of new Kindles in both e-reader and tablet form. Must be nice to have a marketing machine so powerful that it forces all of your competitors to show their hands before you even publicly acknowledge the existence of a rumored new product.

Here’s a quick run-down of what’s new:

Kindle Fire HD 8.9″ and Kindle Fire 8.9″ 4G: Slightly smaller and lower-res screens than an iPad. Basically non-existent app selection, but Amazon Prime members get streaming movies and TV shows and Kindle e-books. Then again, so do iPad owners, via Amazon’s iPad apps. The $499 4G model is too expensive for what amounts to a mobile video and reading gadget, but the $299 Wi-Fi model will hit the sweet spot for many folks, especially those who are tired of having their iPads hijacked by the kids for games and movies. Note that all the new Kindle Fire models are ad-supported (blech), which, combined with Amazon’s admission that they’re selling these basically at cost, would explain the low prices.

Kindle Fire and Kindle Fire HD: You can ignore the $159 Fire – if you’re shopping in this category, you might as well pony up for the nicer screen on the $199 Fire HD. The Fire HD will challenge the Nexus 7 for title of best 7″ tablet, at least until a 7″ iPad is released and lays waste to the market.

Kindle Paperwhite: This will be the biggest hit of the bunch this holiday shopping season. An all-new Kindle e-reader with a better screen and a built-in light. The 3G model is $179, but I don’t see the need for most people, since Wi-Fi is commonly available almost anywhere you go these days. Thestandard Kindle without a light has dropped to $69.

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