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.