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Amazon started shipping its new Kindle Paperwhite front-lit e-reader this morning. It’s not the first lighted e-reader to hit the market, as Barnes & Noble made sure everybody knew over the weekend. However, the early reviews suggest that Amazon has a winner on its hands.

The big question: How is the screen?  Roberto Baldwin of Wired writes that “the light-up screen on the new Kindle surpasses the one on the Nook because it solves most (but not all) of the light uniformity issues evident on the earlier device.” One annoyance, he says, are the “blossoms” of LED light at the bottom of the screen, but they’re less pronounced than on the Nook.

Dwight Silverman of the Houston Chronicle offers a similar take: “The quality of the display is excellent. Amazon has increased the pixel density and contrast, and I suspect this would be an excellent reading experience even if it didn’t include its own light. But having a smooth, soft light makes a big difference in readability, even in a brightly lit room. The light spreads from the bottom, and is distributed evenly, for the most part — there are some slightly brighter spots near the bottom edge, but they’re ignorable.”

A couple things to know if you’re planning to buy one: This is a touch-screen device, using regions of the screen for navigation rather than hardware buttons. The only physical button on the bottom edge, for putting the device to sleep or shutting it down.  Also, as Barnes & Noble noted over the weekend, it doesn’t ship with a power adapter.

The device starts at $119 for a version with sponsored screensavers and a home-screen ad. And if you order one today, you’ll have to wait a couple weeks. A version with 3G and no ads goes for $199. Because of demand, Amazon says new orders won’t ship until later this month.

Also see reviews by USA Today, Engadget and Gizmodo.

Previously: Live: Amazon unveils new Kindles and ‘Kindle Fire HD’

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