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Amazon Kindle International Edition review

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Our Score:

7

Many people simply don't get eBooks. The concept of wanting to read literature on an electronic device just seems, well, wrong to lovers of the written word, and to a certain degree I agree with them. I can't imagine myself wanting to read a novel on a computer screen, a mobile phone or portable media player, but a proper eBook is a very different kind of device. In fact it wasn't until I reviewed the Sony Reader PRS-505 that I fully appreciated the eBook, but once I'd spent some time with one, I was pretty much sold on the concept.

When it comes to eBooks, the Amazon Kindle is probably the most widely known and recognised, which is quite odd when you consider that until now it hasn't been available outside the US. Finally though, after what seems like an age, the Kindle has been made available to us in the UK, but was it worth the wait?

First I should make it clear that the Kindle, in essence, still isn't available in the UK, since amazon.co.uk doesn't sell it. If you want to buy this International version of the Kindle, you need to order it from amazon.com in the US, from whence it shall be shipped to you. This means that you could end up paying duty and VAT on your Kindle if you're unlucky enough to have your order stopped by customs. So, that $259 price tag could end up being a fair bit higher by the time you actually take delivery.

Of course this also means that you'll have to pay for your Kindle in US Dollars, but then you'll need to get used to seeing Dollar transactions on your credit card, because you'll be buying all your books that way too. You see despite the fact that Kindle books are essentially just digital files, you can't buy them from Amazon in the UK, instead you'll have to order from the Kindle store in the US, and that means pricing in US Dollars.

Assuming that you're not charged too much for USD transactions by your credit card company, the fact that you're buying from the store in the US shouldn't be too much of a chore, because once you've set your Kindle up, you shouldn't have to go to the Amazon website very often, if at all. Unlike other eBook readers, the Kindle doesn't need to connect to a computer in order to have content loaded onto it. Instead, it has a built-in 3G data modem, which means that you can purchase and download anything from the Kindle store whenever, and wherever you want.

ruthless

November 9, 2009, 7:04 am

I'm tempted to say 'what a waste of money'...

Hamish Campbell

November 9, 2009, 1:55 pm

They really do take the mickey with those prices. Has there ever been even an attempted explantation/excuse/justification made for them?

mark

November 9, 2009, 4:05 pm

The clincher against this for me is the tie into Amazon. OK, I may buy most of my books from Amazon, but I want the choice, & without that forget it.


Some specialist books may not be available from them.


Think student with many expensive text books to cart about. The weight saving would be great but those sort of books will not be available.


Likewise (for me) specialist bird books.


This might be for others but still not for me yet.

piesforyou

November 9, 2009, 4:15 pm

It's more of a joke than an actual product. Why would anyone consider it?

salimnathoo

November 9, 2009, 4:23 pm

I understood from the website that the 3G download comes with a roaming charge also

Doug Ellison

November 9, 2009, 4:41 pm

The books are just too expensive. Not a bit too expensive - twice, three times, four times what I would find acceptable. NEVER should an Ebook be more expensive than I can go and buy a real book for. Until those prices drop hugely, I'm not interested in any E-book tied into a supplier like Amazon.

farki80

November 9, 2009, 4:51 pm

I am glad that I have a PRS-505.

Riyad

November 9, 2009, 5:20 pm

I was actually quite conflicted when scoring the Kindle. I wanted to score it lower, but I couldn’t ignore the fact that the wireless delivery is pretty impressive, and that nothing else is doing that – yet. Also, the screen is fantastic, despite being smaller than the one on the Sony, and the device itself isn’t really any more expensive than the competition.





I think that Amazon needs to make a proper UK version of the Kindle, start selling books on amazon.co.uk, and allow you to load ePub books onto it. As Mark said, even though he buys most of his books from Amazon, he’d still like to be able to put content from somewhere else on the device. Expandable storage wouldn’t go amiss either.

Jay4d0

November 9, 2009, 6:13 pm

Tied into their store = no thanks and no way, even the iPod can load mp3s, the sony even looks better IMO

Nick 15

November 9, 2009, 7:06 pm

Actually you CAN add non-Amazon content to your Kindle. The Kindle accepts .MOBI format documents via the USB cable. Project Gutenberg has the option of downloading ANY of its books in this format for free, plus there are several websites that offer books in the .MOBI format for free. Archive.org has extremely rare books available in EPUB format. Any book in PDF, RTF, LIT or EPUB format is easily converted using Calibre (its free!). I have over 200 books for my Kindle all copyright free and haven't paid a cent for them. If you want the latest books - yes they will cost you money - but thats the same as if you bought paper books. If you are happy to read the classics and rare books you may find the kindle now means you can access the rarest of books in seconds that would have been totally unavailable previously. Calibre will also allow you to create a library so that you can track your eBooks, so if you're running short on space (after 1500 books!) you can move them in and out as you need. Calibre will even give you free access to magazine and newspaper subscriptions AND send them to your Kindle for free - better than Amazons own service.


Sure the KI has some shortcomings content wise but they are very easily circumvented if you do a little research.


the roaming charge only applies to US cuctomers who are outside the US


there is no charge for international customers when they buy or browse. The KI also has free access to Wikipedia - not as good as the free web access US customers get - but still not too shabby either.


Please note as well that Amamzon charges you the VAT and custom duties when you make your order - so there is no hidden or unexpected charge upopn arrival.


The review is good - but I wonder how long did the reviewer actually have the Kindle - because a lot of the criticisms and comments would have been clearly different following some use and investigation.

Mad Iguana

November 9, 2009, 10:19 pm

I wonder, then, is it worthwhile waiting for the Sony Daily Reader, or whatever their equivalent version will be called?

Riyad

November 10, 2009, 12:14 am

@Nick – Thanks a lot for the information. I guess I was talking mainly about the lack of ePub support, since pretty much every other eBook reader does support it. It’s good to know that you can convert ePub titles using Calibre, but really you should be able to do that without the need for third party software, free or not. When it comes down to it, not supporting ePub content is much like Sony’s refusal to support MP3 on its early digital music players – it simply makes the end user’s life more difficult than it should be.





Also, you’re right that you are charged the relevant customs and VAT charges at point of purchase. However, my point was that the $259 price point isn’t really what you’ll end up paying. And although knowing what the final total would be at point of purchase is good on one hand, it also means that you don’t have the chance of your package slipping through the net undetected :)





Ultimately I stand by my conclusion that Amazon needs to create territory specific Kindle hardware, software and stores to make the device truly attractive for non US consumers.

Nick 15

November 10, 2009, 2:38 pm

Riyad


I note and agree re epub and territory specific hardware


I do feel that its no more hassle to convert a book than ripping an mp3 from a cd using itunes for an ipod


I'd be concerned that people would buy something and knowingly try to escape customs - isn't that illegal? From personal experience my Kindle arrived in less than 3 days because the customs was paid upfront - had it been required to be collected on delivery it would have delayed the process by 7 days plus added a whole element of uncertainty to the whole experience


Hopefully Amazon are watching all these forums and the next generation of Kindle will address these issues ;-)

Hend

November 10, 2009, 5:52 pm

Hi Riyad,





I think it is hard to do a hardware territory specific for every territory specially if they are planning to do real international operation. Now it is supposed to be working in 100 countries.


But I agree that the software and store versions might make more sense, specially if they considered selling books in other languages too.


Regarding the price of books, if you look at best sellers’ new books (and this is the main market area for the Kindle and for other e-readers) you will see that new Dan Brown's is $30 for normal hardback paper book and only $10 for the Kindle copy.


I agree that some of the old books are more expensive than they should. But I am glad that we can get a lot of the classics for free on the internet.


Also the Amazon store has a lot of classics either for free or almost free ( I have bought the complete works for Shakespeare for $1.00 from Amazon).

Gavin Dowd

December 8, 2009, 2:42 pm

I am thinking of getting one of these for the missus. We both currently read ebooks on our iphone/ipod touch and use Stanza to get our ebooks onto them.





Checking on the Stanza website the desktop app has an export to kindle feature which will convert any ebook to Amazons propriatry format which you can then copy over using the usb cable. I have no idea what the quality of the conversion will be like but at least it's do-able perhaps something for you to look into and add to the review ???

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