The combination of the lower price and improved contrast won me over. After thinking about buying one of the earlier Kindles but never quite being convinced that it was a good idea, I really couldn’t resist the new Wi-Fi only model at US$139 (plus US$21 for delivery to Hong Kong).
However, there is a problem. When Amazon started selling the Kindle internationally they added a flat charge of US$2 per book to cover the cost of using the mobile phone network wherever you happen to be. Which seems somewhat unfair considering that Hong Kong has probably the lowest cost of voice and data anywhere. But, OK, maybe Amazon were never going to set different prices for each country.
What is much more ridiculous is that even for the Kindle 3 model with Wi-Fi but not 3G, Amazon still insist on adding $2 to the price of most titles. For no service at all.
The pricing is strange in other ways, with plenty of Kindle books priced virtually the same as - or even higher than - the physical book. How can that be? How can it possibly cost more to make a digital copy than to print a book and ship it first to the Amazon warehouse and then to your home?
Yes, of course, it is almost always cheaper to buy a Kindle book (even with the $2 international surcharge) than to pay for delivery to Hong Kong, but that’s not really the point. I understand that international couriers charge to ship books, but it costs virtually nothing to create a Kindle book and send it to me through the Internet, so what justification can there be for some of the ridiculously high prices they charge?
There are still a lot of titles available for
US$9.99 US$11.99, though some only get to that price after an initial period at a higher price. Tony Blair’s autobiography was priced at $17 (+ $2.00, of course) before they dropped it to $9.99/11.99 (when it made it on to the New York Times bestseller list). Who is going to pay the higher price, and how would you feel if you paid that and then saw it reduced a few days later? Madness.
Then there’s the fact that international customers can only buy from the US store. I can buy physical books from either the UK or the US stores, so why can’t I buy Kindle books from both? Actually, it’s worse than that because some titles are in the US store but are not available internationally, and at times this seems totally random - with one book from a series unavailable whilst the rest are available.
There are some free books available, and some very low cost editions of out-of-copyright titles, though when you have to pay $2.00 for most of the “free” books it obviously makes them less attractive. If I have to pay, then I’d rather pay a bit more and get a better quality edition without typographical errors and with proper navigation.
There are also some limited-time offers, but I don’t know how to find them. Searching for free books produces hundreds of old titles and a lot of rubbish, and I can’t be bothered to search through all of that for something worthwhile.
But what about the Kindle itself? I have read a few very negative reviews (of the previous versions), but the Kindle 3 reproduces pictures fairly well, and the only real problem is with big charts or diagrams that either don’t fit on the page or which get separated from the text. Apart from that, it’s fine. On balance I think I’d still prefer to read a physical book, but the convenience of being able to carry dozens of books in one really small unit more than makes up for that.
Now, Amazon, about that $2 charge for nothing at all…