Alert! As you’ve no doubt heard, Amazon.com‘s vaunted ebook reader, the Kindle – plus the device’s attendant ebook, enewspaper and emagazine store and wireless delivery feature – will become available in many places outside the US on the 19th of October, including South Africa.
The alacrity with which Amazon has moved to “go global” was likely prompted by rival products and services – like the rumoured Apple tablet and Scribd.com, the books and document sharing website; at least, that’s what Amanda Andrews of the Telegraph thinks:
As always, Apple is its biggest threat. Apple’s much mooted Tablet device – expected by early 2010 –could feature a wireless ebook with colour features, and Apple is likely to use its iPod and iPhone experience to create a multi-media device.
Then there is Sony. While the Sony Reader presently available in the UK may not be wireless, a rival device is close. Sony will surely use its electronics experience to bring moving images and sound to the device.
For international consumers, the Kindle will cost $20 more than for those in the US: it can be ordered for $189 right now, plus shipping (via international courier), US sales tax and import duties, of course – which turn out not to be too bad, although they do increase the total price by more than 20%. Here’s a screenshot of a mock order placed today, 12 Oct, showing a final price of $342.95 (about R2500) and an impressive delivery date of 28 October at the latest (click for the full image):
You can also order the Kindle via a third party, such as WantItAll – which, it bears pointing out, has been supplying South Africans with Kindles since the device debuted a few years back. Whether WantItAll can get the Kindle for you faster and for less than Amazon remains to be seen.
It’s not just the Kindle that will cost more for non-US users, however – it’s also the books. As the Guardian reports, Amazon plans to charge a 40% premium on titles in its Kindle store purchased outside America:
When asked by the Guardian precisely how much downloads would cost, an Amazon.co.uk spokesman revealed that foreign customers – including those in Britain – would be paying $13.99 (£8.75) per book instead of the American price of $9.99 (£6.25). That amounts to a 40% premium for the same title.
“International customers do pay a higher price for their books than US customers due to higher operating costs outside of the US,” said the spokesman.
The good news is that Kindle’s rather wonderful wireless delivery service will be active in SA, meaning readers will be able to browse the store anywhere there’s coverage, receive their purchases more or less instantly, and start reading right away. Here’s a map showing Kindle wireless coverage (via both 3G and GPRS) in southern Africa:
As you can see, Kenyans, Tanzanians and Nigerians will also enjoy wireless coverage (leading me to guess that the service is supplied by MTN); and Egyptians will, too (couldn’t fit Egypt into the screenshot – sorry!).
One question that remains unanswered is whether Amazon will now allow iPhone users who’ve installed the Kindle iPhone app to access the same content that Kindle owners can purchase. That would be a potentially revolutionary development for ebooks in South Africa: we’d instantly have our first multi-platform local ebooks store.
A second, related question has to do with what content, exactly, South African Kindle owners will have access to. All books in the US Kindle store? That’s highly unlikely, given the morass of territorial rights arrangements that publishers have with one another. I couldn’t find specific information about what exactly will be available to whom, but I did find this:
The Kindle Store offers international customers over 200 thousand English-language books, including New Releases and New York Times Bestsellers, which are typically priced less than physical editions. Over 85 top U.S. and international newspapers and magazines are also available in the Kindle Store for single purchase or subscription.
Two things South Africans won’t enjoy on their new Kindles are the blog import and experimental web browser features – but these are accessories, not central to the device’s main appeal, which is that you can carry a library around in your purse.
So – is a Kindle as good as, or even better than, a book? For a content-carrying device, the specs are impressive:
Kindle is as thin as most magazines and weighs less than a paperback—but can hold 1,500 books. Its electronic-ink screen looks and reads like real paper with no glare—even in bright sunlight. A long battery life means you can read for up to two weeks on a single charge.
The U.S. Kindle Store has more than 350,000 books, including 107 of 112 New York Times bestsellers, plus top newspapers, magazines, and blogs.
And for what it’s worth, as a Kindle owner (first generation, no less), I’ve been very satisfied with all aspects of the device, from getting content (wireless delivery is a dream; and transferring books off the computer is also a cinch) to reading the full menagerie of etexts out there (nonfiction, novels, newspapers and magazines; purchase The New Yorker on your Kindle and it will pay for itself in three years).
This is a preliminary post on a development to which we’ll pay very close attention. I’d be grateful if those with further information about the advent of the Kindle in South Africa would post their notes and links below. Thanks!