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 amazon.co.uk. 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 amazon.com 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 amazon.com 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 amazon.com with a shipping address to Thailand. I use my Thai debit card to buy books. I also have an account for amazon.co.uk. 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 amazon.com 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 amazon.com 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.

18 responses to “Using a Kindle e-Reader in Thailand

  1. You mention surprise that e-books cost about the same as printed books, but it’s not strange.
    Printing is not as big a part of the publisher’s costs as people might suppose. And instead of printing costs there are new costs of in-house technology and staff to do the digitizing.
    Then the e-retailers take as big a chunk as real bookshops, while doing far less, with fewer costs.
    The costs of marketing don’t change and possibly rise as there is less serendipity in finding a book you like in a real store compared to the fragmented digital world of search and limited screen view compared to browsing shelves.
    And then there are the incomes justly due to the creators and publishers who take the risk and invest their hard-earned skills.
    But somehow most people online think they should get things cheap, just because it’s digital.

  2. Thanks for your insight. I just want to add that I know one author who has set up her own publishing company. She said she is looking forward to the digital age as it will cut production costs for her. Not only in printing but with the storage warehouse and then distribution. She also mentioned that she was looking forward to not giving booksellers 50%. I believe amazon.com take less than that and if she sells herself it is closer to 100% she keeps. She anticipates she will close down her printers in about a year or two and only release ebooks.

  3. I own a kindle, but I have to say that I don’t care for the “feel” of reading a book electronically.

  4. Husband reads a LOT of books a year. The Kindle is the best thing for we don’t have to keep finding room for books. I, on the other hand, despite being a geek, love my books. I like the weight of books in my hand, the feel of paper when I flip the pages. I can’t break away!

  5. I have a Kindle in Thailand as well. Right now I am searching for a case or cover but I’m afraid they will be hard to find here. Have you found anybody that sells them?

  6. I would be interested to get your thought on if using a kindle or ipad increases your chances of being a target for theft. I like the idea of going to one of these devices but am concerned with getting it stolen. I do a lot of reading on long bus or train rides but don’t want to have to worry about my things if I fall asleep.

  7. Can you find at MBK? I will have a look the next time I’m there. I bought mine on amazon – not the expensive one.

  8. Night buses are notorious for thieves. But I would say that a Kindle would be less attractive to them if they saw it plus it is easier to slip in your pocket.

  9. Hotel Travelia

    Good one !

  10. I do not yet personally own a Kindle, but use the Kindle app on my phones, tablet and laptops. I am looking forward to purchasing my Kindle in the next few days. Also I am very eager to see the ebooks you decide to start publishing, if you should decide to do so.

    I disagree with Phillip on the costs. Even the marketing is done differently for ebook publishers. However top authors still will be led down the old school path of marketing so those costs will not change. There are literally thousands of self published authors who do not rape people on book prices and are making a very good living at writing content that publishing houses otherwise would have said no to and laughed them into a depressive state. People are learning slowly that things can be done themselves if people are interested in what they have to say.

  11. Richard, I got a Kindle Fire for Christmas. I’ve read over three dozen books on it since then and thanks to the many free books that Amazon offers each week, I’ve got another dozen or so waiting to be read. I’m registered with the USA store.

    On the Fire, you must have a validated USA address (i.e. a successful physical delivery in the USA from Amazon.com) to order apps, music, and video products for the Fire. This required me to buy something and have it shipped to my daughter before I could do the downloads, but once that was done, I now have unrestricted access to anything on the Android or Amazon store on Amazon.com.

    Thanks for the update! Love your writings and appreciate the effort you put into keeping us updated on all things Thailand.

  12. Just an update: I’m really loving the Kindle. Already on my fourth book. I have re-discovered the love of reading. Don’t miss physical books at all.The screen doesn’t hurt your eyes and is easier to hold than a real book. Even better when you are in say Starbucks and are drinking a cup of coffee. I am also using the free software Calibre to help organize and convert ebooks for the kindle. There’s a lot of free stuff out there. Best digital buy this year for sure.

  13. Great article about a subject dear to mu heart.

    Just some additional info that may be of interest:

    – The Kindle has a “flash memory”, not a hard disk.
    – Some titles available for purchase to buyers in the US can not be bought from Thailand (something to do with “e-rights issue”).
    – I Don’t know for certain but think the Kindles on sale now at B2S is official, they are using “Kindle Thailand” web site for marketing purposes: http://kindle-thailand.in.th/en.

  14. Thanks for your comments. You can buy “US” items at amazon.com even if you live in Thailand and you use a Thai credit card. You just need to set your country of residence as US which is what I did (I have never lived there). As someone else pointed out, you first need to have a book successfully sent to an American address. I had done this years ago as a present for someone so I had no problem.

    I will need to double check B2S for myself, but someone said they are imports from the “grey market”. I will get back to you on that one.

  15. One thing that complement the Kindle (and reading in general) very nicely is Goodreads.com where you can discuss and reviews books, make & take reading recommendations from like-minded readers (or from computer generated recommendations based on your books).

    I linked to my “Top 20 bookshelf” as my website above :)

  16. Teacher Ranz

    I’m just wondering if the Kindle can read pdf files because I’ve got a lot of reading materials in PDF format.

  17. Use the free software Claibre to convert to Mobi.

  18. It’s “Calibre” – available for free download at http://calibre-ebook.com/