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October 28, 2010

Kindle – Does It Provide Free International Internet Access?

My US-bought Kindle 2 is providing me with free Internet access including browsing and gmail in Italy over local cellular networks. If this also works in the rest of the countries in the world – or even a lot of them – and if it also works on the Kindle 3, it's a big deal (it definitely won't work on the original Kindle). Roaming Internet access is expensive. Even WiFi can be expensive by the day in many places. It's also a possible secret weapon for Amazon in its war with iPad, Nook,and other competitors.

Trouble is it doesn't look like this will work for Kindles purchased outside the US. It's not clear what happens if you order a US Kindle with a US adapter and have it shipped to a foreign address

BTW, the browser on the Kindle is an "experimental" service; it can be discontinued at any time.

When I started using my Kindle outside the US, I received a document on my Kindle called "Important Reminder About International Delivery Fees". It makes clear that books are downloaded free and that there is a $4.99 weekly for international delivery of subscriptions and that there is a surcharge for documents downloaded to the Kindle unless they are downloaded via WiFi or over a USB from your computer. It then says:

"There is no charge to use Whispernet 3G wireless outside the U.S. to receive books, to receive single periodical issues, access archived items, browse the Kindle store, or use the experimental web browser [emphasis mine]"

That seems clear enough. The Amazon page for the Kindle 3 also implies unrestricted use of the browser (within the technical limitations of the browser) is free:

"Kindle's new web browser is based on WebKit to provide a better web browsing experience. Now it's easier than ever to find the information you're looking for right from your Kindle. Experimental web browsing is free to use over 3G or Wi-Fi. The experimental web browser is currently not available for some customers outside the U.S. Check your country."

However, if you click on "Check Your Country", most of them say: "Access Wikipedia via Whispernet on the experimental web browser. Access other websites like Google via a Wi-Fi connection. Blogs can also be downloaded via a Wi-Fi connection." This isn't free Internet access at all. You can't choose "US" as your country here. It is clear that the this restriction is based on the purchaser's country, not the country of actual use. Italy is a restricted country; but my US Kindle can access Google and other sites. It is not clear how Amazon determines a purchaser's country since it encourages ordering from Amazon US to get US adapter.

There's plenty of discussion but nothing definitive in the UK Kindle web forum. No clear answers on US forum either.

If you are using your Kindle for Internet access over Whispernet (not WiFi) outside your home country, it would be helpful if you leave a comment here saying what does and doesn't work. Please specify Kindle model, whether you can access sites other than wikipedia with the browser, what country your Kindle is registered in, and what country you are accessing from. Maybe we can figure this out.

Thanks.

 

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