Amazon Wireless Arrives in Thailand
On the Europe based server of my webmail I discovered a New Year's offer from Amazon. They announce, beginning on January 19, the sale of the "Kindle DX wireless Reading Device Display, Global Wireless, Latest Edition, price 489 US$." A subnote said: "Living outside the US? Good news. Kindle DX can now be shipped to countries outside the US."
While I do not have the eagle's eyes and the snake's patience to read text on a miniature display like the "Kindle", I am always curious of the latest developments in electronic book distribution. So I combed through the fine print of the ad, and there at the bottom of the page I made a discovery. There a box announced: "Read more than 360,000 Kindle books on your computer with our free application for your Windows PC. No Kindle required. Download now for Windows 7, Vista and XP."
Wow! Did this mean I could access all electronically filed books by Amazon on my 15-inch laptop, without spending $489 for the Kindle appliance? And in much higher resolution, without holding the device in my hands, making my arms lame? I clicked on Download and expected the message "Not available in Thailand." But no. The download worked and created in my download register a file "KindleForPC-installer-exe." I opened it, and then mysteriously there appeared a new page on my laptop with the header "Felix's Kindle for PC" followed by the suggestion to download one of their current bestsellers, displayed below. I was so fascinated that I selected the next best title, a mystery by the late Swedish author Stieg Larsson, "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" and clicked on it. The program asked for my e-mail address and my password. As I am a registered Amazon buyer this was all they needed, and I was asked to agree that the price of $8 would be debited to my credit card, the data of which they already possessed. I agreed, and a minute later I received an icon leading to the full text of the book, already downloaded. I began reading instantly, and the story was so suspenseful that I continued reading for hours. Finally I made a break to reconsider what I had achieved. I looked at my hard disk, and there the program had created a new folder named "My Kindle Content", where the book was registered under a code with the suffix EBOK.prc and a size of 799 KB. That meant that the book was really saved on my hard disk and not in some cloudy cyberspace. As I have renamed the file, Amazon will hardly be able to erase the book from my computer, as they did with Orwell's "1984" from their Kindle customers.
Reading books on the laptop is nothing new for me. I began this habit many years ago, when Stick informed us, that Stephen Leather offered his novel "Private Dancer" for free download from his homepage in its complete length. Reading it was a great experience, and I learned that it was more comfortable to read in the evening hours a book on a computer screen than opening a printed edition in the light of an electric bulb, which delivers 90 percent of its energy as warmth and only 10 percent as light. Who needs additional heat in Thailand? The only question was where to get readable books from. Now this question is solved. $8 for the immediate availability of an international bestseller which keeps you awake all night is hardly excessive. I have tested a number of different electronic book reading programs on my computer, including Mobipocket, epub (from Adobe Digital Reader) and Barnes & Noble eReader. Of all of them – they all can be downloaded free of charge – Kindle for PC has on my laptop screen the most superior design. It allows you to use the whole screen for display or shorten the text lines to your preferred length. The size of the fonts can be altered gradually from flyspots to writing on the wall. In my experience somewhat bigger fonts are suited better to long time reading.
Having established this, I returned to Amazon to learn more about my unexpected discovery. The most important information is that they use the 3-G-network for their global coverage. Amazon carries all transaction costs. "No monthly fees, no annual contracts for the buyer and no hunting for wi-fi hotspots." Until the end of last year Amazon delivered wireless content only to customers in the USA. Now they claim to service readers in one hundred countries. That this works in Thailand I can verify. Other countries they have in their distribution list are Cambodia, Vietnam, Myanmar. So if you pass through theses countries you can there also download reading material on the fly. Only I am afraid to take a laptop into Myanmar.
Living in Thailand I am of course interested in books – especially novels, reflecting LOS. On their sales page they have a box where you type in the names of the authors you want to read. I selected Stephen Leather, Christopher G. Moore, Andrew Hicks, Dean Barrett and Jake Needham. The first two names were a hit. From Stephen Leather can be wirelessly downloaded "Private Dancer" for the price of $3.60. If you have a computer and do not already own the book – at this price it is a steal. Thank you, Stephen, for this generous offer. Another author very active in self promotion is Christopher G. Moore. We find him on the download list with the trilogy "A Haunting smile", "A Bewitching Smile" and "A Killing Smile" plus the Collection "Chairs". For $11.95 each. I hope the Calvino series, which I regard highest, will follow soon. Congratulations, Christopher. From my favorite author Andrew Hicks only the beautiful cover of "Thai Girl" can be seen for mail order. The last time Amazon delivered a paperback to my beach hut here they demanded a 750 baht postage fee. I will wait for the digital edition of the convincingly written book. The same goes for Dean Barrett and Jack Needham. Three titles each for mail delivery. All in all rather promising for a service just two weeks old. I think Amazon's "global wireless downloads" mark an important progress in the international distribution of books. Salute.
PS. How do you access this program? Just type "Kindle for PC" in the Google search field of your browser, and you will be automatically led to the download offer. Of course you still have the option to buy the original Kindle Reader Application later this month for $ 489. But you will need a reading light to use it in the evening hours.
I still much prefer the feeling of a real book, real paper, in my hands. Reading a book on a computer just doesn't work for me.