Amazon Goes Global With Kindle; Cuts U.S. Price

For all of you who have asked over the years when the Amazon (NSDQ: AMZN) Kindle would be available outside the U.S., the answer is finally “now.” The Amazon World Kindle, aimed at English-language readers, is now being sold for $279 with international 3G wireless from AT&T (NYSE: T) covering more than 100 countries and territories — and it can be shipped outside the U.S. Shipping starts Oct. 19. At the same time, Amazon dropped the price of its U.S. Kindle 2 by $40, bringing it to $259 just in time to undercut Sony’s upcoming wireless e-Reader. It’s the second price cut this year; it dropped to $299 in July after launching in February for $349.

The announcement comes via the now-familiar letter to customers from Amazon founder Jeff Bezos — playing up how U.S. buyers will be able to download wireless when traveling internationally along with the first international shipping of the device. Instead of downloading purchases to a PC and moving them to a Kindle when traveling, Kindle users will be able to mimic their U.S. wireless behavior overseas. It’s not completely the same, though — reading the fine print, international downloading of books or even already purchased material from your archives will run $1.99. The promo material includes the reminder that you can sample free chapters; not clear if there’s a fee for that or for downloading newspapers and magazines.

Just this weekend, I was on a panel about mobile journalism where I brought my K2 and the moderator from Holland, Roeland Stekelenburg of NOS, showed me his sleeker Sony (NYSE: SNE) model with a mention being able to buy it and fill it in Europe. The other advantage for him: Sony’s support of the EPUB file format. Amazon’s Stanza iPhone app supports the format but not the Kindle. That Sony, however, didn’t have wireless. The 3G Daily Edition Sony, due for the holidays, lists for $399 — and, so far, is wireless only in the U.S.

New content: The launch includes first-time access to many international publications, including La Stampa (Italy), El País (Spain), El Universal (Mexico), O Globo (Brazil), The Daily Telegraph (UK), bringing the total newspapers and magazines to nearly 90. The BBC’s Lonely Planet guides are now in the Kindle store, which Amazon says has added 75,000-plus books in the past five months. The U.S. store has more than 350,000 titles but global customers will have access to less than two-thirds of that. Even so, Bezos told USA Today, “It’s a substantial market.”

Bezos told AP: “I think that ultimately we will sell more books in Kindle editions than we do in physical editions.” But much of that will rely on increasing sales of e-Readers — and that lower price of $259 is still too high for most buyers. Ditto for the $489 large-format Kindle DX, which reads native PDF files and can pivot to landscape, slated for international sales next year.