Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Kindle arrives

The Kindle is available in New Zealand for the first time. Sure, it could be ordered from Amazon, and the Kindle software offers connection to Amazon’s e-books for Kindle, but until now there was no local seller for the device itself.

On August 31, Dick Smith started selling them and, according to Stuff, it’s already a “best seller”, with 2000 units sold and a restock of 4000. That may not sound like much, but sales in those numbers would make a book a best seller, and these devices have the potential for holding hundreds of books (they claim up to 3500).

Dick Smith is selling the 3G version for $289 ($US227) and the wifi-only version for $209 ($US164). By contrast, Amazon's site offers the 3G version for $240 (US$189) and the wifi-only version for $178 (US$139). It’s ironic that Amazon’s price should be lower, since the high price of printed books in New Zealand is one of the main attractions of e-books.

However, shipping charges are on top of Amazon’s prices, though unlikely to make up the difference. The advantage of buying locally is that there’s easy recourse if the device is faulty.

I actually looked at a Kindle recently, the first time I’ve seen one. They’re smaller than I’d imagined, but also much lighter than my iPad. I thought that the screen was easy to read, and I can see how it would be more readable in sunlight. However, I found the device a little, um, basic. I realise the cheaper materials are part of the reason it’s dramatically cheaper than the iPad, but it felt a little lacking in substance.

Ironically, I considered getting a Kindle as my main e-reading device precisely because of these “drawbacks”: The iPad is very heavy for reading over a long time, and its screen is difficult to read in bright light, meaning I’d have difficulty sitting out on the deck reading an e-book this summer.

However, I use the iPad for more than just reading. Also, I want a colour screen because I also read magazines on my iPad, not just text. It’s rumoured that the new Kindle will be more iPad-like, though I’m not sure that’s a good thing if it makes the price soar.

I haven’t ruled our getting a Kindle, but it’s not currently on my list. I love the Kindle software on my iPad, iPhone and desktop Mac, which works very well for me, and that’s really enough—for now, anyway.

Update September 29: TechCrunch reported that Amazon would announce “Kindle Fire” this week, with availability in November (and only in the US, apparently). The device will be smaller and cheaper than the iPad and will have fewer features (the Atlantic Wire has more on the features). With the Nook Colour 2 due out about the same time, this could be the start of tablet wars, though neither seems a real competitor to the iPad—yet.

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