Amazon.com on Wednesday introduced an international version of its Kindle e-book reader that will be available in more than 100 countries and territories, including the UK.
The reader, priced at $279 (£175), is available to British customers for pre-order immediately on Amazon's US-based website, with shipments to begin on 19 October, Amazon said. The UK version is comparable to the entry-level Kindle device sold in the US, with a six-inch screen and 2GB of memory — enough to hold about 1,500 books, according to Amazon.
Kindle owners normally download books directly over the air via a 3G network, and the new device extends wireless access outside the US via networks operated by AT&T and its partners. However, the company did not specify which British carrier will provide Kindle service. Users can also transfer books to the devices via USB.
More than 200,000 books and 85 newspapers and magazines will be available to international users. British newspapers, including the Times, Telegraph and Daily Mail, offer electronic subscriptions via Kindle.
Top-selling books for the international-edition Kindle will sell for prices starting at $11.99, compared with $9.99 in the US, Amazon said. Other titles will be priced starting at $5.99 for international customers.
Currently, customers can only place orders via Amazon's US website, meaning UK customers will have to pay import duties. However, the retailer said it is planning to eventually sell Kindle directly from its UK outlet.
In a related announcement on Wednesday, Amazon said it is lowering the price on its entry-level US Kindle from $299 to $259 and said that it is planning to release an international verson of its large-screen e-book reader, the $489 Kindle DX, next year. The company also sells Kindle software for Apple's iPhone and iPod Touch.
Amazon introduced the Kindle in 2007, and it has been a strong seller, according to industry experts. Forrester said on Wednesday that it expects Amazon to take 60 percent of e-reader sales in the US in 2009, out of an estimated total of three million, with Sony following with 30 percent of the market. Earlier in the year, the research firm said that it expects the market for e-readers to grow quickly, driven by the textbook market in the near term, meaning Kindle is likely to face stiff competition.
"Lower prices, more content, better distribution, and lots of media hype are contributing to faster-than-expected adoption of e-reader devices in 2009," said Forrester analyst Sarah Rotman Epps said in a statement on Wednesday. "We expect sales to double in 2010, bringing cumulative sales of e-readers to 10 million by year-end 2010."