SANTA MONICA, Calif. - Amazon announced a barrage of new tablets and e-readers on Thursday that makes its challenge to Apple's iPad a little more serious.
Amazon announced updates to its line of Kindle e-readers, including the Kindle Fire HD, a tablet computer that comes in two sizes, one that is nearly as large as the iPad and that undercuts its price by $200.
The company also announced the Kindle Paperwhite, a new version of the black-and-white Kindle that is thinner and turns pages 15 percent quicker than its predecessor. It also has a new high-contrast screen that Amazon says will be easier to read, especially in the dark because it is lighted from the bottom.
The company now has seven models ranging from a basic $70 black-and-white-screen e-reader to a $600 color tablet. (It also still sells an aging model with a keyboard.)
''We are not building the best tablet at a certain price,'' said Jeff Bezos, Amazon's chief executive, who showed off the new devices at an airport hangar in Santa Monica. ''We're building the best tablet at any price.''
The Kindle Fire HD challenges the iPad on several fronts. The larger version of the device has an 8.9-inch display, compared with the iPad's 9.7 inches. The new Amazon device also has a front-facing camera that works with the built-in Skype video conferencing software, competing directly with the front-facing camera on the iPad and Apple's FaceTime video conferencing features. Like the iPad, the new Kindle Fire offers 16 gigabytes of storage.
The larger version of the Kindle Fire HD costs $300; the baseline iPad costs $500. (Apple sells an older model for $400.) Amazon is also offering a $500 version of the Kindle Fire HD with cellular data connectivity, which is cheaper than Apple's least expensive iPad with cellular connectivity, which costs $630.
During the presentation, Mr. Bezos continually compared the Kindle Fire HD with Apple's iPad, talking about both the features of his tablet and its price. In an interview after the event, Mr. Bezos said, ''You can't ignore Apple being a company that is a major player in this arena.''
But he said there was room for both companies to do well. ''My view: these are huge, huge markets, with room for lots of winners.''
Mr. Bezos said Amazon does not compare itself to Apple when designing the devices. ''Our first approach on this is to make sure what we are doing is to follow our own philosophies, our own path, our own way. Then, of course, we look around and see what others are doing.''
One innovation of Amazon's is that using its X-ray feature for movies played on the Kindle Fire HD, viewers will be able to click on an actor in a movie and find out more about him or her using the IMDb.com movie and TV database, which Amazon owns.
Amazon was also defending itself from Google, which recently introduced a seven-inch tablet, called the Nexus 7, for $200. Amazon announced an upgraded version of a seven-inch color screen Kindle Fire tablet on Thursday for $159.
Amazon's approach to selling the devices is quite different from Apple's. Amazon, an online retailer, still makes its money selling the content; Apple profits on its devices. ''Amazon's services are the core of its devices, and the devices enhance Amazon's service: a virtuous cycle where Amazon gains an increasing share of consumers' wallets,'' wrote Sarah Rotman Epps, a Forrester Research analyst who specializes in tablets, in a company blog post on Thursday.
Amazon has worked with a number of partners - including Facebook, Microsoft and game developers - to create applications specifically for the Kindle Fire HD. The apps are for sale through Amazon, along with other material like video, music and books. Amazon is far ahead of its competitors in offering its software on dozens of devices like smartphones, tablets and e-readers, including Apple's iPad and iPhone.
Amazon does not disclose sales figures for its Kindle line, but it did provide a hint last week when it said the Fire had captured 22 percent of the United States tablet market.
Apple has sold more than 84 million iPads worldwide since its debut in 2010 and says it has sold 44 million iPads around the world so far this year.
According to the latest forecasts from Forrester, Americans are expected to own 60.7 million tablets and 40.2 million e-readers by the end of this year. Microsoft said it would enter the fray with the Surface, and many PC makers are building tablets with Google's Android or Microsoft's Windows operating systems.
While Amazon emphasized the top end of the market, it also shored up the bottom with the $120 Paperwhite device. In adding a lighted screen, Amazon matched an innovation introduced last year in Barnes & Noble's Nook. Amazon said the battery of the Kindle Paperwhite could last for eight weeks.
A version of the device with free cellular data service will cost $180. Both will ship on Oct. 1 but can be ordered now.
With the latest updates to the Kindle line, Amazon seems to be putting its corporate acquisitions to use. The touch screen added to the Kindle Paperwhite most likely comes from Amazon's acquisition of TouchCo, a start-up it bought in 2010 that specialized in touch-screen technology. The light system is probably from Modilis, a Finnish company Amazon also bought in 2010.
When asked about rumors that Amazon was building either a phone or a television to distribute the company's content, Mr. Bezos didn't dismiss the idea.
''We'll have to wait and see,'' Mr. Bezos said. ''We won't do something unless we think we have some interesting new way to do it.''
Brian X. Chen and David Streitfeld contributed reporting from New York.