If you’re even slightly gadget-curious you would have heard or read about the Kindle, from the online retailing behemoth that is Amazon. In short, the Kindle is to books – mainly, but also magazine and newspapers – what the iPod is to music; and in the Kindle Store is the ease of use and breadth of content that we’ve become used to in iTunes.

Until now it has only been available within the USA, but as of now you can pre-order a Kindle, with shipping to commence on October 19. The cost will be US$279, and ordering is via www.amazon.com/kindle

And just to be clear, it’s the base model Kindle that will be available internationally, not the newer Kindle DX, which has a 9.7 inch screen and holds 3,500 books, and sells for US$489..

Haven’t heard much about the Kindle? It’s an electronic book, just under 1 cm thick and weighing 280 grams, so lighter than a paperback book. It has a 6 inch electronic ink display and no backlight, so it’s (apparently) easy on the eyes. It has 2GB of memory, holding up to 1,500 books or so. And it has inbuilt 3G wireless, so you can download content when you’re out and about. Here’s a little more information about the built-in wireless connectivity, from the Amazon website:

“Amazon provides wireless connectivity free of charge to you for certain content shopping and downloading services on your Device. You may be charged a fee for wireless connectivity for your use of other wireless services on your Device, such as Web browsing and downloading of personal files, should you elect to use those services. We will maintain a list of current fees for such services in the Kindle Store. Amazon reserves the right to discontinue wireless connectivity at any time or to otherwise change the terms for wireless connectivity at any time, including, but not limited to (a) limiting the number and size of data files that may be transferred using wireless connectivity and (b) changing the amount and terms applicable for wireless connectivity charges.”

The Kindle Store will have 280,000 books available for Australian customers at launch, plus over 85 US and international newspapers, which you can purchase by single copy, or by subscription. Available newspapers include La Stampa (Italy), El País (Spain), El Universal (Mexico), O Globo (Brazil), The Daily Telegraph (UK), joining top papers such as The New York Times, The International Herald Tribune, Le Monde (France), Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (Germany) and The Washington Post.

Built into the Kindle is a dictionary look-up feature, with over 250,000 definitions at hand from the New Oxford American Dictionary – handy, but let’s hope for a localised dictionary sometime soon!

Other features

  • Book prices: New York Times Best Sellers and New Releases are $11.99, unless marked otherwise. Over 100,000 titles are priced under $5.99
  • Books purchased from the Kindle Store are backed up online in your Kindle book library at Amazon.com. You can wirelessly re-download books available in your library.
  • Read-To-Me: With the experimental Text-To-Speech feature, Kindle can read most newspapers, magazines and books out loud.
  • Automatically Syncs With Kindle and Kindle Compatible Devices: Amazon’s “Whispersync” technology automatically syncs customers’ last page read, bookmarks, notes, and highlights across Kindle, Kindle DX, and Kindle compatible devices like Kindle for iPhone.
  • Wirelessly send, receive, and read personal documents in a variety of formats such as Microsoft Word and PDF. Service fees for transferring personal documents via Whispernet are currently $.99 per megabyte.
  • Choose text size: Kindle lets readers customise their reading preference by providing six different text sizes.
  • Bookmarks, notes, and highlights: By using the QWERTY keyboard you can add annotations to text, as well as highlight and clip key passages and bookmark pages for future use.