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

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      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 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.



      Rhonda's Gary

      Nov 5, 2009 at 5:29am

      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, 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.


      Nov 6, 2009 at 8:39am

      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.


      Nov 6, 2009 at 3:02pm

      Does the wireless still work in Canada?

      Jeffery K Simpson

      Nov 6, 2009 at 4:04pm

      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.

      Clara Hone

      Nov 7, 2009 at 8:13pm

      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.

      Jeffery K Simpson

      Nov 11, 2009 at 3:37pm


      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.

      kram n

      Nov 18, 2009 at 7:58am

      Do you have to pay extra for kindle downloads while in canada? Can you get access to newspapers in canada?

      Jeffery K. Simpson

      Nov 18, 2009 at 10:42am

      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.


      Nov 18, 2009 at 1:54pm

      I live in Torornto and have an american kindle, which up to now, I only downloaded in america. Will it now download in canada?

      Jeffery K. Simpson

      Nov 18, 2009 at 4:56pm

      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 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.