Cover via AmazonWith Amazon's Kindle down to $139 for the 3G enabled version, you'd almost be mad not to. So I did - I put it on my Christmas list. Amazon still doesn't support the sale of Kindles to the UAE (or the greater Middle East as far as I'm aware), so I had to use (client plug warning) Shop&Ship, the service from Aramex that gives you convenience addresses in New York, London and Singapore so that you can buy your stuff locally there and ship it over by courier. Two days and Dhs99 later and it's just arrived.
Amazon's lack of support for Kindle in the Middle East is nothing short of scandalous, particularly here in the UAE where there is abundant IP protection - abundant enough for companies like Microsoft, Sony and Paramount to open up offices and other investments here. Between Amazon and Apple, which still doesn't support the UAE or, as far as I know, broader region with iTunes, the vast majority of 'e' content is denied to all but the few 'haves' - in fact the last Spot On/Effective Measure survey showed that something like 74% of online shoppers in the UAE are expatriates - those with access to overseas accounts and addresses can buy content and goods online more easily than those without.
With the emergence of tablets and readers as a very real market force in other markets (Amazon has been serving more Kindle books than hardcover books since June last year. Christmas day last year saw Kindle books outselling all other books) and the growing market for tablets as more devices are introduced by manufacturers keen to ride the tablet/reader wave, we're going to see enormous demand for content. If it's not met, our market is once again going to get dragged behind to lag on the wrong side of the digital divide. Oh, and of course, denied access to legitimate content, the market will take to using illegal channels. As someone who has long been deeply involved in IP advocacy campaigns, even I couldn't blame 'em.
There's an argument that it's time this is taken seriously at a governmental level - there are now a number of actions that need to be taken with increasing levels of urgency in order that the current lag in the application and use of technology in the UAE and wider region do not start to truly hamper this society in standing alongside other advanced world societies in terms of the way that information is formatted, accessed and shared. We need to focus on content creation, on opening up Internet access (and lowering the ridiculous cost of broadband), on building e-learning initiatives, incentivising entrepeneurialism (and de-criminalising business failure) and opening market access to international players and platforms.
And we need Amazon and Apple to open up to this market - over 99% of mobile apps were served by Apple last year, a market worth over $3 billion. This year Gartner reckons the mobile app market will be worth $6.8 billion and that Apple will retain something like a 75% share. Amazon dominates the market for books, with over 700,000 titles available on Kindle.
And. They're. Not. Here.