South Africa gets Kindle


Amazon's Kindle will be available to South Africans from the middle of this month. While cracked versions of the famed e-book reader have been used in the country, the official version was previously only usable in the US. However, this morning, the company announced it has released an international version that will be available to 100 countries around the world, including SA.

According to Amazon, the Kindle can be pre-ordered from the Web site for just over R2 000 ($279 at today's exchange rate, and without shipping and import duties) and shipping will begin on 19 October.

“We have millions of customers in countries all over the world who read English-language books. Kindle enables these customers to think of a book and download it wirelessly in less than 60 seconds,” says founder and CEO Jeff Bezos.

Kindle uses the same 3G wireless technology as cellphones, and the company Web site shows that SA is almost entirely covered for book downloads. While most sites will make use of GPRS or Edge, most of the major cities will use 3G speeds for download.

South Africans will have access to New York Times Best Sellers and New Releases from $11.99 (R86.65), and other books will be available from $5.99 (R43.29). Some of the experimental features will not be available to South African readers, including the basic Web browser and the blogs service.

Analysts have pondered the likelihood of Amazon developing the Kindle into a tablet-like device for tasks like e-mailing, texting and surfing the Web, thus competing with devices reportedly being developed by Apple.

But Bezos reiterated his intention to optimise the reading experience, saying the company rejects compromise, whether it be a touchscreen that affects legibility or computer displays that eat up too much power.

At the same time, Amazon is working on making Kindle digital books available on more devices. Besides the Kindle, those books can now be accessed on the iPhone or iPod Touch.

"We want you to read your Kindle books on laptops and smartphones, anything with an installed base," Bezos said. He said he was not "in principle" against making the works available on rival devices like Sony's, but was focused on platforms with "large installed bases".

E-readers are expected by some to be the hottest gadget this holiday season, and Bezos said he had "a lot of confidence" that it would be a "great holiday quarter for Kindle". Bezos said that for every 100 customers who buy a book, 48 buy it as an e-book, up from 35 five months ago.