Stupid question about Kindles

As a usually very happy scandinavian social democrat, I’ve never minded paying through the nose for everything. My principles break down, however, when it comes to consumer electronics. I wants them cheap, and I wants them now.

Since I’ll be hopping over to the states for an entirely undeserved holiday, my husband and I are considering picking up a pair of dirt cheap Kindles while we’re there. Being ignorant in the ways of the Kindle, I have the following concerns:

  1. Are the differences between Kindles for different markets? Are they “zoned”, like DVD’s? I.e, will our Kindles be fancy beer coasters when we get home, or are they all the same?

  2. Are there other weird issues with buying american? Will I only be able to shop with american Amazon for them? Will they pick up interference from russian space probes?

  3. Is there something else I’m not thinking of?

Thanks in advance.

I suggest calling Amazon support for more definite answers, but it’s not required to use the Whispernet feature to download books. Kindle books can download to your computer from Amazon and then be transferred to your Kindle, AFAIK. There is the charging issue, of course, but a transformer will take care of that.

The only issue with the device itself is that if you buy one that has the 3g whispernet connection, some of the older ones were CDMA so they wouldn’t work outside North America. I believe all the new ones are GSM though and should work in most countries. (Obligatory XKCD link)

With the “Kindle stores” everyone can buy from the US-based one, but where your billing address is determines if you can buy from the international stores like or It doesn’t look like there’s any Scandinavian Kindle stores as of yet, so you’d only be able to buy from the US store.

One issue with Kindles is that they use a proprietary format and do not support the EPUB format which is sort of the universal free ebook format. Some libraries do support the kindle format, and there is 3rd party software that can convert, but if you’re not going to do the majority of your book buying from Amazon you might be better off with a different brand reader that does epubs. Although that does lock you out of the Kindle store.

Oh, although just to add, I did make the assumption you’re looking at e-ink readers. If you’re looking at a tablet like the Kindle Fire, I believe you can get an app that lets you read EPUBs, and you can read Kindle books via the Kindle app on other Android based readers/tablets.

It’s incorrect that e-ink Kindles only read the proprietary format (mobi). E-ink kindles can also read PDFs, either natively, or you can automatically convert them to mobi by emailing them to your kindle with “convert” as the only text in the subject.

I have Amazon accounts in the US and Japan. I have a Kindle paperwhite which I purchased in the US, and I was able to de-register it from the US account and register it to my Japanese account. So it seems Kindles are not locked to specific regions.

Although if you are juggling multiple Amazon accounts, it may be easier for you to get an android tablet. Make sure it has android 4.2 or later which supports multiple user accounts. That way you can set up multiple accounts on the tablet (you’ll need to set up a separate Google account for each) and have a Kindle app under each account, and register them to your different Amazon accounts.

I think all recent and current models have Wi-Fi too.

No need for a transformer. All Kindles have MicroUSB ports for power, same as any smartphone.

That’s true, but there aren’t many stores that sell ebooks in PDF form. Basically, with the Kindle, if you’re getting your books from anywhere but Amazon you should expect to have to do a certain amount of mucking around on your PC to get them to work. If the OP was only going to be buying books from some local ebook retailer in his or her country, they likely use epub and so they might be better off with an epub reader. Ditto with library ebook checkout schemes, although at least in the US those usually do support mobis.

But, again, that’s only if you’re sure you’re not going to buy books from Amazon. It’s pretty easy to go from locked epub to mobi, but close to impossible to go from locked mobi to epub*. The Kindle would leave you with the most options.

*The conversion process, utilizing piece of software of arguable legality, requires you to have a kindle registered to your account.

I haven’t encountered a situation when EPUB is the only format available. In my experience, if EPUB is offered, PDF is also offered. But, it’s true I have little experience shopping for e-books at European stores or searching for free material in non-English languages.

PDF isn’t well suited to ereaders. It may be readable, but its strength is making a page look exactly the same on all platforms, while ereader-formats like EPUB will adapt itself to the screen size and your preferred font size.

Calibre is a good program for organizing your library, and it converts easily between different formats of books without DRM. It’s also very easy to remove the DRM (you’ll need to search to find the plugin, I’d better not post the link here) so you can convert all books between all kinds of formats. (From what I can tell, it’s unclear whether it’s legal to remove DRM in Norway, even if you only do it to read books you’ve bought legally. Removing DRM for pirating is, of course, both illegal and unethical.)

At least one Norwegian publisher offers a “send to Kindle” function. They don’t mention any kind of restrictions on which Kindles you can send to, but you might want to check with them.

On the eInk models, PDFs that aren’t sized exactly to the screen – which is 99% of PDFs – look like utter crap. And they take forever to load. Not really a usable experience, especially compared to the ease with which real Kindle books function.

Like I mentioned above, it’s pretty hard to go from a locked mobi to epub. The way the Calibre plug-in that does it works is by emulating the kindle that’s associated with your account, so that means you actually need to own a kindle to unlock them. You might be able to associate a dead kindle’s SN# with your account, then download books from the store for the kindle PC app and then unlock them with the Calibre plug-in, but I’m not sure.

I believe, in contrast, all of the the most common epub DRM schemes have been cracked and so those are easy to unlock.

The charger for my Kindle and the charger for my cellphone, both bought in the US, will operate with up to 240 volts. Look at what is printed on your charger. I used mine in the Philippines recently where the standard electricity is 220 volts, with no problem.

I think it was already touched on, but for clarity, you should be able to download the Kindle reader to your PC. Do that, and browse the Kindle Store and/or start downloading stuff that interests you. Lots of free or cheap stuff to test out. If you’re happy with that selection and have no trouble getting what you want, you can transfer all of it to a Kindle once you get it home and have it registered to your account. Where you got the Kindle won’t matter. I put books on my PC, an old Kindle that was handed down to me, and use books mostly on my Android phone. Just mentioning all that if you’re like me and prefer to stay in a single ecosystem without all the mucking about and converting files and such.

Documents that only contain text are often just fine on my Kindle Touch. However, that’s why the kindle can automatically convert it, by emailing the PDF to your kindle with “convert” as the only text in the subject line. As I said in my previous post. Its almost as easy as a document that’s in mobi format.

You’re lucky to be running into simple, text-only PDFs. The ones I come across have images, margins, page numbers, headings, formatting quirks, etc. that all wreak havoc with the conversion process. shrug If it works for ya, great.

Oddly, most of the PDFs I download are PDFs OF BOOKS and thus contain mostly text. eInk readers simply aren’t a good match for documents that rely intensively on images and nonstandard formatting. Not every type of document is suited to the limits of the device. Just like you wouldn’t take a physics textbook and try to offer it as a mass-market paperback; the format is too limiting.

The problem is that you’re trying to use the Kindle for something it’s not intended for, not that it can’t read enough different kinds of files. The eInk style of Kindle is a great choice if you intend to use it primarily for reading text. That’s what it does, and it does it well. If you want to frequently view complex images, select the Fire, Ipad mini, or other device intended to display images.

If you want to be able to charge the kindle from a wall plug, you will need an adapter. The microUSB goes into the adapter, the adapter into the wall. An American kindle will come with a US adapter, you will need the European version but you may already have one that’s valid for the microUSB plug from another device (none of my phones is that modern, but yours may be). Note that those adapters are about 15€ from European Amazon stores; a US-jill/EU-jack adapter is about 1€ but means having a bit of a pile-up (cable into plug-adapter into US-to-Europe-adapter into plug).

Earlier models of the Kindle came with AC adapters, but if I remember correctly, current models don’t. All you get is a USB cable that you’re expected to connect to a PC, or their optional (i.e. sold separately) AC adapter. Of course you can also use it with a third-party AC adapter.

If your Amazon shipping address is outside the US, there may be higher prices on e-books, and some could be unavailable. But that’s irrespective of where you buy your Kindle, as far as I know.

Certainly this is the case in Australia, I don’t know which other countries are affected.