In the US Amazon has had great success with its web-enabled Kindle ebook reader but owing to a number of technical hurdles, including a lack of hardware support for GSM phone networks, the device has yet to be seen outside the States.
The smart money has long been on Amazon pushing for a late 2009/early 2010 release in the UK and possibly beyond, with some reports suggesting an October UK launch.
On the surface, the Kindle’s ability to download books straight to the device places it light years ahead of the competition but, as US consumers have recently discovered, that ability to manipulate content isn’t a one-way deal.
However much Amazon’s bosses try to limit the damage, the decision to remove books from readers has upset a lot of users and generated tons of unneeded bad publicity which is likely to be regurgitated in any coverage of a UK release.
And that’s before any potential fallout of Amazon’s claimed plans to inject ads into books being read on the Kindle.
While the UK ebook market can hardly be described as mature, it’s increasingly clear that when the Kindle does finally arrive, it’ll be playing in a market very different from the one it’s used to.
As the outcry over O2’s tethering and upgrade policies for the iPhone shows, UK consumers are starting to grow wary of devices which are tied to a single provider yet the Kindle currently supports only a handful of formats including Amazon’s own.
In contrast, ebook readers already available in the UK are capable of reading books bought from any provider. Worse still for Amazon and Kindle, these readers are being actively promoted by some of the biggest names in book retailing and are already in stores, ready to appeal to holiday readers as they head off for their summer break.
As things stand it’s difficult to see how Amazon will convince UK consumers to replace devices they bought just a few weeks previously.