Using The International Kindle Could Rack Up Fees

Not only does the new international Kindle cost more than its U.S. counterpart, owners who want to take advantage of the wireless connectivity will be paying more for it. In addition to the $2 per-book fee for non-U.S. downloads, paidContent has learned from Amazon (NSDQ: AMZN) that it will cost users $5 a week to access their newspaper, magazine and blog subscriptions via Whispernet. (Whispernet is the name of Amazon’s wireless network, no matter which carrier delivers the service.) Also, as I explain below, the cost of downloading a book though the AT&T-managed international Whispernet will run roughly 13 times higher than Amazon currently charges in the U.S. for the same size file delivered by Sprint-managed Whispernet through e-mail.

These aren’t the Kindle’s first fees for Whispernet access. Each Kindle comes with an e-mail address; receiving attachments to that address — called the Personal Document Service — initially was 10 cents per document but in April changed to 15 cents per megabyte (rounded up). You pay that fee whether or not the Amazon document conversion works. For instance, I sent myself the PDF of a High Holidays prayer book with Hebrew in it; the results were a mix of text and gibberish but I still paid 45 cents.

That’s cheap, though, compared to the per book fee: the global Kindle has 1.4GB of user space, which Amazon estimates is room for about 1,500 books. That makes the average book size about nine-tenths of a megabyte — or 15 cents if e-mailed. The $2 international Whispernet surcharge (technically, $1.99 but we’ve rounded up, too) is more than 13 times that cost.

I’ve been using Kindle from the beginning and would have appreciated access to my subscriptions during trips overseas. But $5 a week for the privilege of getting something I’ve already paid for sounds steep — especially when Amazon promised when I subscribed that the price “includes free wireless delivery via Amazon Whispernet” with no mention of geography. That language is still in place.

One non-cost detail: U.S. owners will have access to the U.S. store when traveling. We’re still looking into details about how the international store will work.