International customers are furious with Amazon this morning, because neither the new Kindle Fire, a $US199 7-inch tablet, nor the e-ink Kindle Touch, a $US99-189 6-inch keyboard-free ereader, will be available outside the US in the foreseeable future.
There had been an Apple-like build-up based on rumour and hype in the lead-up to Amazon’s Kindle Fire announcement overnight.
Some of us had been hoping that, as Apple, Kobo and Sony do, Amazon would schedule an international rollout for its new gadgets that would include Australia.
Instead, there was no mention of timing.
We’ll have to be content with the $US79-109 (prices for all e-ink models vary depending on whether you are prepared to wear special offers and sponsored screensavers, and for the Touch models, on whether you choose wifi or 3G) “all-new Kindle”, which is wifi-only and has a 5-way controller rather than a multi-touch screen, or one of the older models with the clunky keyboard. Thank God that’s on the way out.
Shoppers on Kindle’s UK website vented their anger after the launch, but those posts have mysteriously since disappeared.
Here in Australia, we’re used to being treated as second-class citizens by Amazon. The previous Kindle was available in graphite or white in the US and certain other markets, but only graphite in Australia (the new price for this soon-to-be obsolete model is $US99-189).
I got round that by ordering a white one to be sent to my stepbrother in New York. He handed it on to my father who delivered it after a US trip a couple of weeks later.
It felt like Christmas for a day or two, until I realised that most of the books I wanted to read weren’t available via Amazon, and that fruitless hunting for them using the appalling keyboard was infuriating.
I couldn’t transfer my existing non-Kindle ebook library to the device (not easily, anyway, there are workarounds, but I’m looking for a seamless, one device solution for ereading).
Because the Kindle lacked email, video, diary, Australian newspapers and social media, I found I had to carry my iPad with me as well.
So I sold it, and said good riddance.
Am I considering ordering a Kindle Fire or Touch the same way I did the last model?
No. And nor should you.
The Kindle Fire, like all the Kindles, is largely locked into Amazon’s content line.
Amazon has not yet got to the stage where they’ll allow you to easily read books bought from Booku or any other retailer on their devices.
Amazon’s cloud storage, a key feature of the Fire, is not available outside the US. Nor is Amazon Prime, the retail giant’s movie and TV streaming service.
While the device is based on Google’s mobile operating system, Android, it’s a tweaked version, so there are no guarantees existing Android apps will work on the device.
There’s a dedicated Amazon Appstore, but again, it’s unlikely its contents will be available to Australian customers without complex workarounds.
In any case, for the foreseeable future the iPad is the way to go if you want access to all ebookstores and existing libraries, the best apps and dedicated Australian content. You won’t be able to watch ABC iView on the Fire.
As for e-ink, given the Kindle walled garden, you would be better off looking at the new Kobo eReader Touch, due in Australia next month, or the next generation Sony Readers, which offer wifi and touch screens and are available for pre-order now from Sony’s Australian website (I note with some sadness that they’ve discontinued the cute little silver PRS350SC, which was the 5-inch model, though – probably because at that screen size, we may as well read on our smartphone).
Speaking of smartphones, stay tuned for the iPhone 5 launch at 4am on Wednesday (10am Tuesday, California time). I’ll be blogging about it early that morning.
Charlotte’s posts on books, digital publishing and social media also appear on Twitter (@ebookish), Facebook (www.facebook.com/ebookish) and at ebookish.com.au.