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Rekindling the market

tech-reviews Updated: Oct 27, 2009 20:29 IST
Dhamini Ratnam
Dhamini Ratnam
Hindustan Times
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Now, for the first time, the Kindle e-book reader is available outside the United States. The International edition of the second-generation Kindle was launched on October 19 and can be ordered off the Amazon.com website by users from around the world. According to Laura Porco, director, Kindle Books, the cost of this Kindle, previously pegged at $279 (Rs 12,960), has been brought down to $259 (Rs 12,030) — at par with the recently re-priced US edition.

A working 3G device
Equipped with a 3G chip of US service provider AT&T, the Kindle will not charge any monthly roaming or service provider charges. “Amazon will take care of verything,” said Porco, referring to their Whispernet or Amazon’s wireless service.

The browser, available on the US edition, which Porco calls “very experimental”, is not available on the Indian version. (Wired, however, reports that the browser will be available for the models going to Mexico and Japan, although the users there won’t be able to access blogs that US customers can access.) There is no Wi-Fi either, and the device sports a US power adapter. There is however, a micro USB port to transfer files (the Kindle can read mp3, PDF and text files).

For reading off the Net
Kindle users get an account with an email id, to which they can send their documents and download them on their device. So, if you are interested in reading a free e-novel like J C Hutchins’s recently-serialised science fiction novel, 7th Son, you would have to download the text file to your PC, mail it to your Kindle id, and then download it on the reader. But the email id you mail the text from — like your Yahoo! or Gmail id — must first be entered in the Amazon site, for Kindle to recognise it.

The 2GB memory of the device is capable of holding 1,500 books. An online resource library is also available on the Amazon cloud, where readers can retrieve from and archive books to. “There are nearly 2.8 lakh English-language books available for Indian customers, of which nearly a lakh cost $5.99 (Rs 278) or less,” says Porco.

Other features of the Kindle include a digital Oxford English dictionary and a notes feature, where you can type in notes and references that are searchable on the device. A five-way toggle helps you flip pages, and books. There is no backlight, which means, you need to have a light source to read.

There is no way of knowing the size of the book you are downloading. You can only share books between different Kindles that are linked to the same account. (This means that you can’t share between two separate Amazon accounts.)

Tough competition
A day after Amazon released the Kindle International, Barnes & Nobel came out with what is being termed as the ‘Kindle killer’. Their e-book reader called the Nook, costs $1 more than the Kindle International, but has a 3.5” colour multitouch keyboard through which you can also browse books. Built on the Android OS, the Nook allows users to share books with other readers, computers and smartphones. Apart from wireless 3G connectivity, it also has in-built Wi-Fi and supports open formats. It is also capable of downloading books from Google Book Project. It too can hold up to 1,500 books, and has a memory capacity of 2GB.

While the device has not yet come to India, and issues like a limited Wi-Fi use still need to be ironed out, the tough competition it presents for Kindle will only force Amazon to step out of its “walled garden” approach.