The Kindle arrives in South Africa

<p>As of October, Amazon's e-book reader Kindle was made available to South Africans, and even the company's director of Kindle Books, Laura Porco, arrived in Johannesburg to announce the reader's availability.<br />
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Needless to say, this has generated some excitement. The Kindle, which is as slim as a magazine and weighs less than a paperback, can store about 1,500 books. Excluding shipping costs, the retail price is $279. Its electronic-ink screen looks and reads like real paper and there is no glare from the sunlight. E-books can be downloaded wirelessly over 3G networks and there are no data charges for downloading.<br />
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However, in the midst of the celebrations, we should not forget a few basic things: South Africa, despite having about 46-million people, has high unemployment and illiteracy. It is estimated that only 10% of the working population earns more than R10,000 a month and our currency is weak to the dollar. Internet penetration in the country is about 7%. <br />
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Ben Williams, editor of Book SA, points out that purchasing Kindle will cost South African users about $20 more than for users in the US, due to shipping, tax and import duties, pumping the price up at the current exchange rate to about R2 500. And it is not just the reader that will cost more: as elsewhere, South African users will have to pay $13.99 (about R105) per book instead of the US price of $9.99.<br />
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Also, South African users will have access to only 230,000 titles &ndash; 62% of the total of the roughly 370 000 e-books that US customers can access. However, more than 85 top US newspapers and magazines will be available for download for single purchase or subscription.<br />
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&quot;The Kindle's arrival in South Africa does not herald a paradigm shift for book publishing and distribution,&quot; says Williams. &quot;I don't see any large-scale adoption of e-books by South Africans in the near term but more of a gradual integration into the range of choices that they have to consider when choosing what to buy. In other words, the device is not going to revolutionise how we bring books into our lives &ndash; the way that MP3 players did for music, but to augment it.&quot;<br />
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Arthur Attwell, of Cape Town-based Electronic Book Works, is more direct: &quot;I think it's very unlikely the Kindle will make a significant impact in South Africa. It's very expensive for most people (especially when including the shipping costs) and is likely to be purchased by only a few wealthy early-adopters. More importantly, no one is likely to spend resources on marketing the Kindle in South Africa.&quot;<br />
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However, from a publishers' perspective, Williams points out that &quot;the Kindle can instantly bypass current trade arrangements for hundreds of thousands of titles and, crucially, it opens two-way traffic for local books. South African titles can now go anywhere a Kindle can go, which certainly alters, and even potentially obviates, the complicated rights buying and selling process that goes on between South African publishers and their international counterparts.&quot;<br />
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And Attwell feels that Kindle's availability does add to the already mounting pressure on South African publishers to fully integrate e-book production and distribution into their existing processes. &quot;This pressure&quot;, he says, &quot;will be greater if Amazon extends the availability of its Kindle iPhone application to South Africa, and its new Kindle for PC software, which is in development.&quot;&nbsp; </p>