Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Amazon Kindle 2 In Singapore

Updated 4 August 2010. The Kindle 3 is now on sale. I've a new blog entry up to focus on this latest model.

Updated 10 July 2010. I'm now using AlwaysVPN. If  you're local Kindle user, I don't mind 'sharing' my account with you so that you can use it for free. To use the VPN, switch it on before you open a web browser to go to www.amazon.com to buy books. After buying books, log out of Amazon by clicking on the 'not Your Name', exit your web browser, then exit your VPN.

Updated 24 Feb 2010: Click here for my other Kindle post 'Unitasking and the Kindle' with additional reports from the local media.

Updated 12 Jan 2010. If you have an international Kindle, please do not use Whispernet in Singapore. Continue using your VPN and buy books using the USB method. This is to prevent the raising of any red flags.

Updated 18 Nov 2009. It seems that vPOST is having some problems with shipping the Kindle, and I won't recommend using vPOST for Kindle purchases. More info at the comments section. Borderlinx seems to be a viable alternative. Please continue to use a VPN whenever you access Amazon.com to buy books.

Updated 7 Oct 2009: Updated book buying procedure with the launch of international Kindles. Singapore is not among the countries eligible for wireless Whispernet. Here is a newspaper article where I am mentioned talking about the Kindle and 'unitasking'.


I used to read on my Palm PDA when I had time to kill. Reading short news articles on the Palm was not much of an issue, but if it's an ebook, then it's a bit more difficult because of the small screen. Still, I managed to read Animal Farm for the first time on the Palm.

More than a year ago, Amazon.com released its first ebook reader utilising a screen from the company called E Ink. A few months ago, they released a second version of the Kindle. I ordered one on 11 May and received it via vPOST on 26 May. vPost is really getting better, the turnaround time is now quite good. The Kindle 2 is not really cheap; it cost me around SGD630 in total (including the very nice 'leather' cover.) Then again, it's not easy to put a price on accessibility, which is what the Kindle has the potential to provide: thousands of books in the palm of your hand.

The screen is breathtaking! It's unlike any screen I've seen before. It really does look like paper, and almost seems to use some sort of alien technology.

The other selling point of the Kindle is the huge numbers of books it can store. Most books don't take up a lot of space, technically speaking. The Bible is around 2 Megabytes. Shakespeare's entire works also take up less than 3 Megabytes, according to Gutenberg.org. The Kindle has a storage space of around 1400 MB, which is more than what we would ever need.

Currently, the Kindle is not intended for non-US residents. I didn't know that this 'problem' could be circumvented until I read an article in the Strait Times by ST Online Editor Joanne Lee who revealed she was having a ball with her Kindle! How was this possible?! She was nice enough to elaborate when I emailed her to ask for more details. The workaround can be summarised here. While we cannot use the wireless Whispernet in Singapore, it is quite easy to buy Kindle books from Amazon.com, download the file into the PC, and transfer it to the Kindle using the included USB cable.

Here are the steps I use. Do note that Amazon doesn't support Kindles in Singapore. There are instances where buyers were found to be not from 'authorised countries' and their accounts were disabled. Your mileage may vary. Caveat Emptor. 
  • Install a VPN* to make yourself situated in the US. You may turn it off later when you're done purchasing. 
  • Go to Manage your Kindle at the Kindle product page.
  • Go to 'your country' and edit your country if it's not the US. Use any US address.
  • Go to your account, 'manage payment options', and erase your credit card info if you have any credit cards associated with Amazon.com .
  • Turn off 1-Click ordering.
  • Buy a gift card, say USD300 which is sufficient to buy the Kindle 2 and the leather cover. Send the gift card to your email address. When you receive it in the mail, apply the gift amount to your account
  • Go to your account, 'manage payment options', and erase your credit card info. Do this step everytime you use your credit card.
  • Buy the  Kindle 2 and the leather cover. You don't need to use a credit card as you have money in your account from the redeemed gift cards. You then need to use a forwarding company to ship the package to Singapore. I used vPOST, but there are some problems with them now, so please don't use them to buy Kindles. You may wish to try Borderlinx instead.
  • To buy e-books, ensure that you have sufficient funds in your account. If not, buy more gift cards and pay yourself.
  • Switch on your VPN* (see updates at the top), then open your browser to buy books.  (Very important! Amazon is now disabling accounts temporarily if you're from an 'unauthorised location.)
  • At the page of the book you want, click 'buy now with 1-click', 'deliver to your Kindle'.
  • Go to Manage your Kindle and download your book onto your PC, then transfer it using the USB cable provided.
  • *A VPN is something that tells Amazon that you're from the States when in fact you're not. (You're not but your digital presence is, technically.) You need to use this to avoid 'trouble'.
I have not too many complaints about the device. It is a glorious product. Hopefully the price will get cheaper. If Bill Gates' vision is to have a 'computer in every desk and in every home', someone should be aiming for a Kindle (or similar e reader) on every desk in every classroom. Or some variation of it. Maybe that will happen in 5 years time when the Kindle is as common as an iPod. For now, it's the slickest ebook reader around. It won't be too long before competitors start appearing in greater numbers.

The Kindle's design team is Lab126. It's President was/is Gregg Zehr who was originally a VP of Hardware Engineering from Palm. So it seems that after all these years, I'm still reading on a Palm, albeit a bigger one now!

    Here are some screenshots of LOTR that I've bought.