With the announcement by Jeff Bezos of Amazon that the Kindle is now available to order from many countries outside the US, the UK included, for delivery from 19 October, I thought I'd attempt to weigh up the pros and cons.
As I'm sure everyone knows by now, you can't actually buy the Kindle in other countries, you have to order it via the US site (though you won't be charged for shipping) and therefore there are some questions about the wireless access – in effect, this seems to be via US wireless networks (via the deals Amazon has with service providers there) not UK networks. What I'm not sure about is the effect this will have on costs to the UK user long-term, after Amazon does introduce a UK-centric Kindle (later this year apparently).
As the big advantage, or rather selling-point, of the Kindle compared with currently available e-readers eg the Sony is the wireless access, I think this point is worth anyone looking into, before purchasing. The Sony and other e-readers need to be plugged into a PC before e-books can be bought and downloaded.
I advise checking into pricing – I think that Amazon will be charging more for an e-download on its international Kindle than the amount charged by existing readers available in the UK (certainly Amazon will charge more to international users than it charges to US Kindle users – eg $11.99-13.99 for a typical bestseller to international users compared with $9.99 to US users). Also, of course, an e-reader like the Sony is cheaper to buy than a Kindle, which is $279 for the international version.
Another factor to bear in mind is availability of books. Sony uses the e-pub format which is the nearest there is to a universal standard among British publishers. Amazon, on the other hand, has not completed its negotiations with publishers on rights and formats before announcing the Kindle's wider availability, so although many have signed up, others have not – notably Random House, OUP and PanMacmillan. Therefore, Kindle users may have a while to wait before being able to download any book they want, even if it is available in e-format. Nevertheless, apparently 200,000 titles are available via Kindle so the owner is not exactly stuck for choice.
In sum – e-readers have not taken off hugely in the UK, not least because of the lack of wireless access. It seems to me that this first-generation Kindle (for non-US users) is perhaps a premature investment. If you are in the UK, it might be better to buy a reader like the Sony or similar, which apparently offers a nice reading experience, even though it doesn't have the wireless access; or wait for the UK-centric Kindle which will be available fairly soon; or hang on for the Nirvana of the single device (phone, internet, e-reader, email and music). From what I read, the most likely winner in that game will be Apple, not Amazon or Sony, who may find themselves having produced expensive "interim" devices that nobody will want in a year or so.