The Kindle’s introduction to Canada, announced Tuesday, was greeted by a sigh of relief from consumers and publishing industry members that the popular e-reader had finally made it north, and Canadian houses were stepping up efforts to make titles available for the device. Amazon wouldn’t and still won’t say what the hold-up was. “I’m not going to go into the details,” said Jay Marine, director of product management for Kindle. “I can tell you we’ve had lots of requests from our Canadian customers for Kindle, they’re really excited about it, and we worked hard to make it available as soon as we could.”
The most popular theory was that negotiations with Canadian telecommunications companies for wireless service were the obstacle, but even now that the Kindle is in the country, Amazon referred only to its American telecom partner. “Our international Kindle uses AT&T’s 3G global network,” said Marine. “And just like in the U.S., there’s no service fees, there’s no contracts, there’s no monthly fees, you simply buy your Kindle and then choose which books you want to buy and they download wirelessly in 60 seconds, so it is part of that simplicity and magic that has made Kindle successful in the U.S. and we think that same model will work well in Canada.” Canadians can buy the Kindle from the Amazon site for $259 US ($274 Can) and will pay a $31 import fee. Marine says delivery takes one to three days.
One key difference for Canadian customers, however, is that they won’t be able to use their Kindles to browse the Web yet, although they will be able to access Wikipedia. But Amazon says it does intend to enable its experimental browser in every country. In the meanwhile, Canadians will be able to download more than 90 newspapers and magazines with single purchases or with a subscription.
The Kindle’s wireless capabilities will give it a competitive advantage over the Sony e-reader, which is already established in Canada. Sony has wireless version of its e-reader but it is not on sale in Canada yet. Asked if Amazon was able to provide wireless service all across the country, Marine referred to a coverage map on Amazon’s site. “I think Canadians customers will be very happy with our 3G coverage,” he said. There are large parts of the country that are not included in the coverage areas, but most of the southern part of the country where the majority of the population lives is. People in other parts of the country won’t have a wireless connection but could still download books to their computers and then transfer it to the Kindle.
Marine said Canadians would have access to 300,000 titles. “Customers should expect that to grow significantly over time just like we’ve worked on growing selection in the U.S.,” he said.
Most Canadian publishers have been working on converting their books into digital formats in preparation for the Canadian e-book market to catch up with the momentum it has in the U.S. Many have already started selling e-books on Indigo Books & Music’s e-bookstore, Shortcovers. Now that the Kindle has crossed the border, there is a lot of interest in making books available through that channel too.
HarperCollins Canada’s director of digital business development Steve Osgoode, said the company is just finalizing an agreement that will make its books available to Kindle users very soon. “We’re very very close. We are essentially following through on our established relationships that have been put in place in the U.S. and the U.K.,” he said. “Everything came together very quickly.”
Random House of Canada books are not yet available through Kindle, but Tracey Turriff, senior vice president and director of marketing, said, “We are in ongoing discussions with Amazon, and we are confident that we will soon be making our titles available on the Kindle in Canada.”
Smaller indigenous publishing houses are moving in the same direction. The Association of Canadian Publishers has been helping its members access some government funding to help pay for digitizing. Diana Barry, director of digital services, says that several ACP publishers already have agreements with Amazon, and others are working through their U.S. distributors. “It is something that we are working with our members as well to try to get more of them included,” she said.
House of Anansi Press publisher Lynn Henry says that Anansi hasn’t worked out an agreement with Amazon yet, but it is part of the company’s plans “to be up and running in the e-book world” in a comprehensive way in time for the spring season. She added that although the industry is still working out “the nuts and bolts of how the business model is going to work,” e-books are an inevitable development. “I think we’re going forward very optimistically into the e-book and e-reader world.”