I held and cuddled a Kindle in the palms of my hands on more than a few occasions and it made no emotional connection like the paper book it was designed to replace. The Kindle is supposed to be an alternative and an improvement to the paper book but I am not sure if people who are addicted to the mysteries and smells of books and bookshelves will appreciate Amazon’s creation. I think one of the problems Amazon is trying to solve with the Kindle is not only how to make books more accessible but how to make more money by turning a want into a need. What you can’t do as easily with a Kindle compared to a real book is sniff the paper, ruffle the pages, put dog-ears on them or enjoy the thrill of breaking down a friend’s door to retrieve your long overdue book. I am not sure how resilient a Kindle is to the spilling of rum and Coke or withstanding a leaking chicken roti but most real books survive these everyday occurrences if acted on promptly. If these spills happen to a Kindle it might have to be returned to its makers for evaluation, deodorizing and a hefty repair bill. I would hate to think I can’t read any of my favorite books because the curry went out of control.
The Kindle is affordable to those who can easily afford to blow TT$320 at Movietowne twice a month. For those who can’t see or read too well, the Kindle can read to you in a voice reserved for curing bouts of insomnia. It is easy to read a book on a Kindle and the adults of tomorrow will wonder how people ever read a paper book without audio. The Kindle is now US$189 down from US$259. Only yesterday on Amazon’s recently acquired popular online store, Woot, the Kindle was being sold for US$149 but those sold out in record time.
The Kindle will work in Trinidad and Tobago as Amazon has negotiated worldwide roaming data charges with cell providers. In Trinidad and Tobago we do not have the fast 3G networks like some parts of the US and Colombia which means we will have to settle for our books being delivered at not significantly slower times using GPRS/EDGE. What customers and potential Kindle customers in Trinidad and Tobago must also note is that not every Kindle book that is available to US customers will be available to us. Many new bestsellers will not be available and we in the backward Third World may have to wait months or forever to have these books on Kindle. Of the top ten bestselling Kindle titles today, only one is available in our region. Don’t blame Amazon for this but blame the wicked and greedy book publishing and distribution mafia. Also blame yourself for being a Third World citizen. Don’t panic too much as Amazon has made 417,446 Kindle books available to the Caribbean and Latin America. But when you consider US customers can buy around 620,000 books, you feel you are being discriminated against. A few newspapers are also available for subscription via kindle like the Shanghai Daily in English at US$9.99 a month and Brazil’s Jornal de Santa Catarina in Portuguese at US$11.99 a month.
There is one very serious issue which makes the Kindle unattractive to US residents and ugly to people not living in the US – the new Kindle has to be shipped back to Amazon to have the battery replaced. The battery may last years but that is a hope and a guess. I can’t recall ever having to return a real book to Amazon or even RIK to so that I can read it. One other issue with the Kindle in Trinidad and Tobago and most countries outside of the US is that web browsing is blocked probably because of the high roaming data charges, so blogs are obviously not supported via the Kindle in our region. If the Kindle had Wi-Fi, web browsing may have been possible outside the US.
As far as the international market is concerned, Amazon has nearly all of the portable ebook market. Their major competitors in the US is the Nook from Barnes and Noble which is still a US-only device. The Nook has nice features that are not present in the Kindle such as a colour LCD touch-screen, SD memory expansion, and Wi-Fi. Despite the Nook having Wi-Fi for downloads of books, any attempt to buy books using a foreign IP address or non-US issued credit card will be blocked. We are not a global society as some like to boast and people in the Third World should always know their lesser place. You can also get Kindle books on your iPad, iPhone, PC or laptop but the Kindle is pencil thin and easier and cheaper than an iPad to fall asleep with. Kindle for Google Android phones are supported in many countries but not as yet in Trinidad and Tobago. Kindle for Blackberry is not supported for customers outside the US, including illegal US immigrants who don’t have a US credit card account.
I doubt I will be getting a Kindle soon since the Kindle doesn’t solve any problems I have or satisfy any cravings except the need to show off. The Kindle is however a good device to travel with since airlines are now charging extra for every ounce of overweight luggage and bookshelves.
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