Amazon's international Kindle e-book reader works wonderfully, even in Canada

When Amazon released its Kindle with U.S. & International Wireless, a worldwide version of its previously U.S.-only e-book reader, there was a great deal of disappointment that it was not bound for Canada, at least in my house. Yes, if I moved to French Guiana, I could order a Kindle, but not in Canada.

So, I moved to French Guiana.

Well, not really. However, after having bought my second bookshelf from Ikea in as many months, my determination to acquire a Kindle and move to digital books was at an all-time high. The iPod and iTunes had saved me from being killed by an avalanche of CD jewel boxes when I was able to move my music library from plastic to binary, and I hoped that having a decent e-book reader could do the same.

Finally, after an aborted attempt with a Sony Reader, which stopped working after three days and had a paltry library in the Sony e-book store, I got myself a Kindle. It required an American address, since Amazon will not ship Kindles to Canada, and the purchase of Amazon gift certificates in order to buy Kindle books. I can’t use my Canadian credit card to buy books for the Kindle, but I can buy Amazon gift certificates and then use those to buy the books.

The first distinction between the digital revolutions in books and music is that there is no way to transfer books into digital format that you already own. When I wanted to put my copy of U2’s Achtung Baby onto my first iPod I just stuck it into my PowerBook and copied the disc to iTunes. I’d like a copy of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy on my Kindle but apart from buying it again in digital format I’m out of luck.

How about the device itself?

It’s pretty damn cool. Using an e-ink display, the screen is easy to read in most light levels and since it’s not backlit it does not tire the eyes in the same way that reading on a computer screen or an iPhone screen does. Not being backlit, however, also means that when I’m reading in bed I need to use a reading light just like with a regular book. The Sony Reader screen is actually fairly comparable, though the Kindle’s has more shades of grey and thus can handle illustrations better.

Two things separate the Kindle from other e-book readers. The first is that with the backing of Amazon the Kindle has access to the largest e-book store. Sony e-books can’t be read on the Kindle, and visa versa, so picking an e-book reader with a selection of books you want to read is important. Since it’s not currently offered in Canada I’m buying Kindle books from Amazon.com in the States and thus it’s America-centric. However, apart from lacking much on hockey and having next to nothing on Canadian politics or current affairs, that’s not really a hardship.

The second advantage that the Kindle has is its built-in wireless. Kindle users are able to browse Amazon’s selection of Kindle books right from their device, buy a book, and have it wirelessly delivered to the device within seconds, all without a computer. Amazon offers subscriptions to a variety of newspapers, with the paper being wirelessly loaded on to the Kindle in the middle of the night for reading in the morning. The one issue is that when used outside of the U.S. there’s an extra $1.99 delivery charge for wireless downloads. Which is not a big deal for me since books can also be loaded onto the Kindle via a USB connection with a computer; however it does eliminate one of the cooler features, at least until the Kindle does make it to Canada.

The fact that Kindle books tend to be a bit cheaper than dead tree books kind of compensates for that, and so if I were out of reading material and say about to board a six-hour flight I’d happily pay the extra charge to download a new book.

The Kindle works as wonderfully as I thought it would, and while I’ve been trapped at home with the swine flu I’ve read through Was Superman a Spy?: And Other Comic Book Legends Revealed by Brian Cronin and afterwards I did not even have to make space on my Expedit.

Comments (29) Add New Comment
Rhonda's Gary
Sounds like a major hassle to me! Also, with Kindle you have to buy ALL of the content from Amazon. With the open access of the Sony Reader (widely available in Canada) you can access over 120,000 titles from ebookstore.sony.com, over 500,000 FREE titles from Google Books, read .pdf & Word documents, and even borrow ebooks from you local library (if they support). You can't do any of that with Kindle.
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Seven
On the other side of the coin . . .

1. Amazon has 360,000 ebooks, and most are priced the same or less than Sony's store.

2. You can easily read Google Books, PDF's and Word Documents on a Kindle by converting them with a free software called Calibre.
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alphared
Does the wireless still work in Canada?
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Jeffery K Simpson
I found Amazon's collection of Kindle books to be far larger that Sony's, many of which weren't even availble for download in Canada. The fact that the Sony eReader that I bought died after two days may have been a one off, and the Sony Style store was nice to deal with when returning it, I think the most important thing about any reader is selection.

Features aside, and the Kindle wins on features, Amazon has the better selection. I may never really use the built in web browser since it's not as good as my iPhone, but I certainly want a strong selection of books. First and foremost Amazon is a book retailer so that's what they're good at.
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Clara Hone
The way you say "dead tree books" in your article suggests that you know something about how amazingly eco-friendly the production process is, and about what happens to your Kindle once it breaks or gets replaced by something better (i.e., that the materials are easily and cheaply recyclable, or that they degrade into something inert, or...)
Let's face it, killing trees sucks (as does their processing), but the pollution caused by the generation of e-materials and then later by e-waste makes celebration a little premature at this point.
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Jeffery K Simpson
Clara:

Books are made from dead trees, the statement is meant to be a descriptive term for the old fashioned paper books and not a grand political or ecological statement.

alphared: The wireless does work well in Canada and it allows for free browsing of the Kindle store and free web browsing. There is an additional $1.99 charge for any wireless downloads to the Kindle in Canada which kind of sucks but I can download all of the books via computer and USB so the only thing it really impacts is the newspaper or magazine subscriptions.
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kram n
Do you have to pay extra for kindle downloads while in canada? Can you get access to newspapers in canada?
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Jeffery K. Simpson
Previous to the release of the Kindle in Canada this week the answer to that was yes, unless you use USB through a computer. Now you don't pay anything extra in Canada for the wireless download, and that's true even on my Kindle bought prior to it's Canadian release and shipped to an address in the US.
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alan
I live in Torornto and have an american kindle, which up to now, I only downloaded in america. Will it now download in canada?
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Jeffery K. Simpson
I think it depends. If you have the International version which was released a month or two ago it should with no problems, just change your Amazon.com Kindle account to being set to Canada. If you have a previous Kindle or the Kindle DX, both of which run on a CDMA cellular network, then I'm not sure. The International Kindle was made both for Americans traveling abroad to use, and for us foreign types to buy. The first Kindle was not.
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Tamlyn
Do you see anything more complete coming to the market -i.e. will there be something like a kindle that actually completely embraces a wide array of formats. This reminds me of vhs, beta and blue ray vs?
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angry guy
Amazon takes Canadians for fools
Who wants a Kindle when there is the Kindle DX with a large screen.
Amazon wants to sell its Kindle at the stupid Canadian and keep the Kindle DX only in the U.S., no thank you, Amazon, keep your shit. I'll wait for the Kindle DX or go to a competitor.
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Harry
Yeah, I don't understand the Kindle DX release and not allowing Canadians to order one. It's like the neutered amazon.ca site having half the stock of the amazon.com site... I think I'll wait until Amazon and the CRTC get their heads out of their asses and order the DX2 when they get around to releasing it here.
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Jonathon
Does anyone know what the import duties/customs fees are to ship a Kindle to Canada?
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Gill
The fees are $16.99
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Gill
The Global Kindle became available in Canada on November 25 and mine was delivered to me on November 26. I am thrilled with the speed of delivery and how the darn thing works. As I read some of these posts, I have to smile. It seems that no matter what Amazon does, people can't be made happy. First we complained because it wasn't available in Canada. Now it's available in Canada, we aren't happy because a different version is available in the US and there's an inferance of some kind of conspiracy. This is just my opinion, but it strikes me that Amazon is in the business of making money. And, as far as I can tell, there is no business advantage to withholding access their products from Canadians - so I'm going to air on the side of 'there's probably a reason. Technology being what it is, there may well be an advantage to having to wait just a little while. Heck, the new version of the Kindle is much nicer than the original anyway so I'm glad I had to wait a while.

Happy Reading
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Mike Peng
Great article Jeffery. Clever trick to get around the system.

I have a question for you. Should I get a US Kindle 2 or a Canadian Kindle 2 if I have the option?
It sounds like the Canadian Kindle does not allow web-browsing, while you can browse the web with your US kindle even in Canada. Is this correct? Also now that there is no extra delivery charge, it seems there is no advantage to getting a Canadian Kindle. Do you still have to use the gift cards to buy ebooks?
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Jeffery K. Simpson
Not having used the Canadian Kindle I can't confirm or deny that there's any difference. What I've heard is that those shipped to Canada do not have the web browser, but again I haven't seen one so I don't know for sure. If you're not opposed to paying $4 US to a service like Ship Happens and driving across the border I'd go with an American one.

And no I don't need to use the gift cards anymore, though I do find that there's more books to buy if I set my location to the United States and less if I set it to Canada. So I tend to set it to the US to shop for a book, and then once I've paid for it set it to Canada to download it.
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RandyTO
Hi Jeffery, Can you explain a little more about "set the Kindle to US to shop and set it back to Canada to download"?

I have many US friends who would be more than happy to let me have my Kindle shipped to them and forward it on to me. I've noticed a lot of the books I want are in the US store, but not the Canadian. If I could flip back & forth, I'd buy one tomorrow, but I'm not entirely clear on what you meant.

Do you actually have it linked to your Canadian account or a friend's or fake US account?

Thanks!
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shuggi
I NEED Kindle for my Mum who's lived and breathed books for 91 yrs. Or maybe only 84 yrs. Her eyesight is fading. She can't hold heavy books (i.e. forget Lrg Print). Etc I figured if I could find 15 Kindle titles she'd like it was worth the currently inflated price. I found the titles. NOW I DON"T KNOW HOW IT WORKS. As in - HOW does one get the wireless connection? Anyone had any success in Canada using it? Does Kindle cost only: what it costs+cost of book download? HELP!
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