Monthly Archives: July 2012

Using a Kindle e-Reader in Thailand

One of the hardest things about being an expat in a foreign land is losing contact with your family back home. You also lose easy access to media in your native language such as books, movies and television. But with the coming of the Internet and the digital era, all of that has changed. I’ve certainly seen a difference while I’ve been here in Thailand. Back then we had to nominate certain post offices two months in advance to act as our poste restante. Books were bought secondhand or bartered from other travellers. Music was limited to the number of cassette tapes you were willing to carry. Television and movies in English were also rare. Now we can use Skype to video conference. We have iPods that can hold 1,000’s of songs and e-readers that can download the latest book. With the Internet, we can also stream  movies and television.

I have been a bit slow with e-readers. I’ve been thinking about it for a long time but was waiting for them to officially come to Thailand. To be honest, I haven’t read many books in the last 3-4 years. I guess you can blame easy access to the Internet and then more recently smartphones and tablets. The price of print books is also off-putting. Even second-hand books are expensive. Back home in England you often see book sales and even “buy one get one free” offers. But, not so much here in Thailand. In the end, I gave up waiting and bought a Kindle from In the short time that I have been playing with it, I haven’t regretted the decision. In fact, I wish I had done it much earlier. I’ve already read a couple of books and I’ve also been inspired to try my hand at writing e-books.

The best thing about Kindles compared to reading books on say the iPad is that it uses the e-ink technology. This means that it looks exactly like a printed page. There is no eye strain and you can read it outdoors in the sunshine. It’s also small and lightweight and so is not a burden to hold as you read. In fact, it is much lighter than many of the thick books that you can buy these days. The best thing, of course, is that it has a hard disk that can hold hundreds, if not thousands of books. So, the next time I go on a trip, I will have access to almost unlimited amounts of books. Not only on the Kindle itself, but also from the store using a WiFi. Now we can download and read the latest Stephen King novel on the very first day it is released.

The costs of a Kindle vary depending on which model you buy. They are also cheaper in the American store compared to say in the UK where VAT is so high. You can also buy cheaper models that have advertising messages on the screensavers. But these are only available in the US. If you don’t have any relations in the US or Europe, you can buy direct from and they will ship to Thailand. I’m not sure how much the tax man in Thailand would want for that. A more cost effective way, is to have it sent to a relation or friend and to ask them to repackage it for the journey to Thailand. There is actually a website here in Thailand (just google “kindle thailand” to find it). But it is not official and they import it themselves from the US. Someone said you could also buy at B2S in Bangkok, but I think it is the same website and is not official.

Once you have a Kindle, there is then the issue of buying the books. I’m already a member of with a shipping address to Thailand. I use my Thai debit card to buy books. I also have an account for I bought my Kindle from the latter and it was automatically connected to my account in the UK. There is no problem to de-register this and change to your US account. The books on the Kindle stay there. The advantage is that sometimes books are not available in both countries. Sometimes the price is different too. For example, I just bought the latest Stephen King novel at half price compared to the US store. Another thing, yesterday I clicked on a link to a book that was free for a limited time. But on it said it was $4.99. I then realised that as my residence was listed as Thailand prices were different. To solve that, I just changed my residence to America and got the book for free.

If you look through the store for kindle books, you will see that prices are not always much cheaper than a normal printed book. This seems strange as the publishers are saving a lot on printing and distributing costs. But, in the UK at least, e-books, unlike printed books, are subject to VAT which adds 20% to the price. However, you still can find bargains if you look around. You will also find that some publishers will make their books either free or ridiculously cheap for a day or two. There are websites and apps to help you find these. There are also websites that have thousands of free books that are now out of copyright. You can download any of these to your computer and then copy it across to your kindle. You just need to make sure they are in the Mobi format though there is software to help convert it.

An advantage about buying a Kindle over other e-readers, is that the kindle has free software that you can use on your PC, Smartphone such as iPhone and tablets such as iPad. It even syncs across the devices. So, I can start reading on the Kindle and then open up on my iPad to find it on the same page as I had last read. Personally I wouldn’t buy a Kindle Fire as I already have an iPad. It was a much better choice for me to go for a Kindle Touch. Your other decision is between WiFi and 3G. The latter is usable in most countries around the world for free. Personally, I think I would never need that as I would download all the books I wanted before I leave home or I would just use any free WiFi that I found along the way. Of course, there are disadvantages to an e-reader. Nothing really beats the feel and smell of a book. But, at the end of the day, the advantages of an e-reader far outweigh those of a printed book. It is doubtful that I will ever buy a printed book again.

If you have any questions then please let me know in the comments and I will do my best to answer.

Foreign Inmate Secretly Uploads Thai Prison Videos to Youtube

It’s not every day that we get a sneak peek of what it is like inside a Thai prison. That is exactly what we are getting now from a 58 second video that was originally uploaded to Youtube in October 2011. It shows a conversation between two foreign inmate, one called Jeffrey and an unidentified Nigerian. It was shot in Bang Kwang maximum security prison, just to the north of Bangkok. You are only sent here if you are serving a long sentence. In the case of these two guys, they are more than likely serving time for a drug offence. The area here is along one of the inner walls where the prisoners go to relax, wash clothes and use the toilets. It is most likely shot at the weekend as there are plenty of Thai prisoners around. During the week they spend most of their time in the workshops. At the weekend, there are less guards on duty and prisoners are left to their own devices in the prison grounds.

The first video talks about the prisoners doing illegal activities such as doing drugs. The Nigerian has lit a fire and he says he is burning old letters. In the second video, Jeffrey talks about his house which can be seen. As the foreigners do not work, they have huts which they can hang out in during the day. Some of them are well equipped with easy chairs and cooking equipment. Some foreign prisoners even hire Thais to be their cooks. Although this is all old news (I wrote about it on last year), it has only just come to the attention of Thai authorities. Just this week it was posted on the British based website where it got many comments both on there and on Reddit. The Bangkok Post have now picked up on the story and prison authorities have called in to question the foreigners seen on the video.

According to the Bangkok Post, Jeffrey told prison authorities that he recorded the clip in “October 2010” and that he sent it onto an American friend. He said he did not know how it got on the LiveLeak website. I think the date was probably wrong as a user called  uploaded it to Youtube in October 2011. It is possible that Jeffrey is this person who did the uploading as only two videos have been uploaded to this account so far. It is not uncommon for prisoners to have illegal cellphones. Many of them are smartphones with internet connections. In one month alone, nearly 500 cellphones were confiscated at Nakhon Si Thammarat Prison. It is not far fetched to believe that prisoners have uploaded to Youtube. They have even been known to have Facebook pages where they post photos. Some of the confiscated cellphones showed prisoners taking drugs.

As a result of this video, the prison authorities at Bang Kwang have downgraded the two inmates to the worst grade. This will mean that they will miss out on things like the annual contact visit. They also won’t be eligible for a collective king’s pardon. Personally I think a part of the blame should be directed at prison officials for allowing this to happen. Although some cellphones are smuggled in by the prisoners or thrown over the walls, prison wardens have also been known to have sold phones to the inmates. According to the Bangkok Post, 28 prison officials were dismissed after it was found they were involved in illegal activities. As to how many cellphones are being used by prisoners, let’s just say that within just 6 months, prison authorities have confiscated 9,513 cellphones! And if you think there are none left then think again. Inmates are still calling their girlfriends even today.

Watch both of these videos over at >>>