Amazon said it would begin selling an international version of its popular e-reader that will work in more than 100 countries on October 19.
The world’s largest online retailer also said it was lowering the price of the Kindle 2 in the US from $299 to $259, a move likely to spur sales ahead of the holiday season. The announcements come as the e-reader market is becoming more competitive. Sony has already introduced a line of e-book readers, and various other start-ups are offering similar products. Apple is working on a tablet computer that is expected to launch in the coming months and which includes all the functionality of an e-reader. The international version of the Kindle will cost $279 and uses AT&T’s global data network to deliver digital books, magazines and newspapers. Current versions of the Kindle use Sprint’s network, which does not work well outside the US. Amazon already reduced the price of the Kindle 2 in July from $359 to $299 and the latest price cut is a sign of its eagerness to broaden the market for e-readers.
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The company also offers a larger-format Kindle DX for $489. With the Kindle and its sizeable e-book store, Amazon has established itself as the early market leader in the digital reader industry. Yet, it keeps the Kindle system “closed” — it only works with e-books bought from Amazon, and those e-books cannot be read on other e-readers. This has prompted a diverse alliance to try and promote other standards. Barnes & Noble is selling books in the open Epub standard, which can be used on a wide range of e-readers. Google, too, is making the books it is scanning for its digital library project available in Epub. Sales figures for the Kindle are not known, but analysts believe as many as 3m e-readers will be sold in the US this year.