Will you be buying the international Kindle?

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.


8 thoughts on “Will you be buying the international Kindle?

  1. I won’t be buying one – because I can download and read content perfectly well on my iPhone.

  2. I’m hoping my sony e-reader touch will come tomorrow :). I have been putting off buying it because the kindle was imminent. Now the facts are available I’ve still gone for the Sony. Wireless doesn’t matter to me particularly as I’m never that far from the internet(!) and also because the Touch in my local branch of Waterstone’s is covered in my finger prints! I’ve had a good play with it, read the extracts and looked at the print sizes etc which I couldn’t do for the Kindle.
    Several libraries now have an ebook collection and now the recent policy announced means that you can join any library in England (not sure about Wales) just by brandishing your local library card so I don’t see why after joining one in say Luton or Essex you can’t go home and borrow ebooks from them online :).

  3. I’m not even sure that it will work here in Oz but even if it did I’m in no rush. I used an e-reader for a while for work and it was good for that purpose (read-once reports and large, frequently updated procedure manuals) but I never had any desire to use it for my leisure reading. Frankly I have enough gadgets that I have to remember to charge and take battery packs and cables for when I travel – and packing a book or two has never been a problem (and I can read them even when there’s no power outlet in the airport terminal for me to recharge).
    And as the post above says…I don’t want to lock myself into an expensive gadget that might be obsolete in a year or two. I’m not gonna be an early adopter on this one.

  4. I have the original 1st generation Kindle and was thrilled with it until the Amazon iPhone/iPod Touch app came out. I do miss being able to search and highlight sections but the lack of backlighting on the Kindle reader means that I can’t read in the bedroom without a reading light which is a real pain.

  5. Thanks for all these comments – though I haven’t seen/tried a Kindle I’ve had a few goes on the Sony reader, and agree with Karen that it has some nice features eg lighting, font size. As I haven’t even got an iPhone or BlackBerry yet, I am obviously well behind the curve on all of this. However, having just spent quite a large chunk of money buying and shipping textbooks to my student daughter for her courses, I do agree that there are some niches where an e-reader would be more convenient. I agree with Bernadette that I wouldn’t want to read it for leisure reading given how much of the day I spend on-screen, and the amount of reading I like to do when I am not at work. The human eye has not evolved to adapt to all that screen time.

  6. I shall have to look into the clip on light you can buy (another £50 though) if it becomes necessary. I’ve approached one publisher about some e-book review copies and they are looking into it :).

  7. Just checking one point of detail, Maxine. I have read elsewhere that you DO have to pay for shipping from Amazon.com (they only do free shipping to the US), and you also have to pay around $45 export duty on top of the published price.
    I certainly won’t be rushing to buy a Kindle – the iPhone is fine for me for any ereading I need.

  8. Thanks, Brian- if so, even less of an inducement to buy one!
    E-book “review copies” are a good idea, Karen. And if you can get e-books from the library, the world begins to open up a lot more (beats paying £10 per book, anyway!).

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