I have longed for an ebook reader for some time, but the most popular one - the Amazon Kindle - has long been reserved solely for the US market. Whilst it has many competitors, like the Sony Reader, I had to wonder about how many titles were available for such platforms. I used to use my iPhone to read public domain books.
Amazon recently started exporting the Kindle to other countries, so I bought one. Amazon struggled to negotiate deals with European carriers, which was one reason why the Kindle was not already available to the European market, so instead, the Kindle roams from the AT&T network.
The features are fairly similar to those available to American customers. One can subscribe to and download newspapers, magazines and buy and and download books. One can't, however, download the images inside the newspapers and magazines, browse the Web or subscribe to blogs. This is all down through a mobile internet connection, either 3G/GPRS.
The 3G coverage in my house is somewhat intermittent, although I still think it is just about tolerable. I find a 2G signal perfectly reasonable for downloading a book or browsing the Kindle store. I initially thought it strange that the Kindle lacks WiFi, unlike many of its competitors, but I have since realised that WiFi is unneeded.
As the mobile internet coverage is included in the purchase price of the Kindle, Amazon prevent users from browsing the web on it outside the US due to the high costs they would face. This would prove annoying to some users, although I imagine web browsing on the Kindle would prove clumsy, due to fact it's black and white.
The Kindle can also play MP3s, so audiobooks, music and podcasts can be placed on it. I believe that you need to connect the Kindle to a computer to transfer them onto it. For books, magazines and newspapers, no computer is needed. Files can be coverted into Kindle format by emailing it to an address that will automatically send them to the Kindle (at 0.99USD/MB), by using a free Kindle email conversion service and transferring the files via USB, or by using software like Calibre. The Kindle handles the Mobipocket format, so you can get free public domain books from websites like Feedbooks and transfer them on.
The battery life is very good, due to the way text is displayed. E Ink, which the Kindle employs, has extremely low energy consumption. If you turn the wireless off, it can keep going for weeks without being charged. Charging takes a couple of hours, although the charger supplied is a US socket. It does charge via USB so this isn't an issue.
It has a couple of other nice touches, too. One can annotate texts, have them read aloud via a text-to-speech feature (although this doesn't work very well) and has a very attractive standby screen which rotates between different images of different writers and writing-related objects.
The International Kindle costs $260, plus postage and import tax. Altogether, mine cost around $340. This is equivalent to about £210 or €225; roughly the same as its competitors. The mobile internet is a big selling point which many competitors lack. They are only purchasable from Amazon.com, so any discounts or vouchers you may have for other Amazon sites won't work. Also, books are only available from Amazon.com, so you pay notice the absence of the work of your country's authors. I hope that eventually we will be able to relink our Kindles to our own national Amazon sites, although there is no certainty (or even indication) that Amazon will permit this.
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Ghacks is a technology news blog that was founded in 2005 by Martin Brinkmann. It has since then become one of the most popular tech news sites on the Internet with five authors and regular contributions from freelance writers.