The Amazon Kindle might not be available here yet, but consumers who own the e-reader can now surf the internet here and make electronic purchases. Electronic readers are one of the fastest growing product lines of the consumer technology market, with Amazon, Sony, LG and Google among the firms involved in producing devices.
The Kindle has roughly 55 per cent of the e-reader market, with about 2.5 million units sold, figures from consultancy Forrester Research indicate. Although the reader was originally confined to the US after its launch in November 2007, a recent version is being sold in more than 100 countries, but a date for when it can be bought here has yet to be announced. The international version of the Kindle uses Amazon's Whispernet service accessible via the 3G GSM network operated by the US telecommunications firm AT&T and via AT&T partner networks outside the US. Kindle can access networks in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan, Amazon's website says.
"Etisalat covers 99 per cent of the UAE populated areas with its 3.5 G broadband network and has a 3G agreement with AT&T which allows Kindle users to use their devices with Etisalat advanced network," said an Etisalat spokesman. "As with any service related to roaming, be it voice, SMS or data, customers will be charged by their respective operators while they use any service while travelling abroad."
Typically, roaming accounts for about 10 per cent of a mobile operator's revenue and about 15 per cent of its earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization, a recent report from JPMorgan Chase said. Stacey Mason, an Abu Dhabi resident who works in the education sector, said her Kindle has worked throughout the country since she received it last month as a Christmas gift from her parents in Washington DC. Ms Mason said she is able to buy books, newspapers and magazines and has not had any problems with internet access while using the Kindle here.
"I'm literally out in the middle of nowhere and it's working," said Ms Mason, who was working in the Western Region yesterday. "I downloaded when I left Abu Dhabi this morning, and I'm able to access my content all morning." In November, Mohamed al Ghanim, the director general of the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA), said the organisation was involved in negotiations with Amazon to bring the device to the UAE. Sources in the TRA said the negotiations centre on the digital copyrights for books and newspapers to be sold here via Kindle.
Sony also sells a popular e-reader, the Reader Daily Edition, but the company has no plans to sell it in the region, said Neil D'Sylva, a spokesman for Sony's Gulf office. "We are closely monitoring the demand for e-reading and as of now, we have not yet arrived at a decisive conclusion on the time frame within which the product will be introduced within the Middle Eastern market," Mr D'Sylva said.
Ryan Gazder, a Dubai resident, imports Kindles using a US mail forwarding service and resells them on the auction website souq.com. He said he sold about six devices for about Dh1,500 (US$408.38) each during the holiday season. "I fooled quite a bit with it, but personally, I don't use it that much," Mr Gazder said. "I read a lot, but I'm still more of a paperback reader." @Email:firstname.lastname@example.org
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