The e-book store wars heated up Tuesday with Amazon.com announcing that its new Kindle mobile reading device is now available for shipment to Canada.
In addition to book downloads, Amazon said in a statement that more than 90 newspapers, including The Globe and Mail and The National Post, can be downloaded to a wireless hand-held Kindle device on a single-use or subscription basis.
The device is currently listed for $259 (U.S.)
The Amazon move rivals the Shortcovers e-book service, launched in March by Toronto-based Indigo Books & Music Inc., which offers readers an application to download books to their Apple iPhones, Apple iPods, BlackBerrys, Google Androids or Palm Pres.
Amazon.com said The Kindle Store offers Canadian customers access to more than 300,000 books. The device, which is sold online, retails for $259 (U.S), plus shipping costs. The book and newspaper downloads cost extra.
Indigo countered with a new ad campaign that says Shortcovers customers can read on a device they already own.
Amazon.com rolled out its Kindle product to 100 other countries last month, but delayed its introduction in Canada because the online retailer was said to be shopping around for the best deal on the cost of running its wireless capability.
In its announcement Tuesday, Seattle-based Amazon did not announce the name of the wireless carrier it will use in Canada.
What took so long?
E-readers make up just 2 per cent of U.S. book sales, but that's up from less than 1 per cent of the $24.3-billion (U.S.) of sales in 2008, the Association of American Publishers said in June.
In an , Indigo's chief executive officer, Heather Reisman, said e-readers are quickly catching on with customers. She suggested that there would be a 15 per-cent erosion in the sale of hard books to the digital world over the next five years.
There have been close to one million downloads on the Shortcovers service launched earlier this year, the company said.
Amazon already competes with Indigo through its online book store. The expansion of Kindle into Canada had been anticipated by Indigo, which feels it has an advantage because its customers can read their e-books on a range of mobile devices.
Reaction was mixed among shoppers at an Indigo book store in Toronto's Eaton Centre Tuesday.
"Never heard of it [the Kindle]" said Hans Dewilde as he left the shop after buying a bible. He said he'd be unlikely to read an electronic version of the holy book. "I kind of prefer the old fashioned way of getting a book and reading it."
"I think it's a great idea," said Peter Francey of Toronto, who has seen a number of travellers use the device on airplanes. "It's obviously very convenient and you don't have to go into stores to buy books," he said.
The market for mobile e-reading access is small, but growing, Indigo president Joel Silver said.
A small Toronto-based private school, Blyth Academy, said Tuesday that it plans to provide Sony Reader Digital Books - preloaded with textbooks, course outlines and assignments - to all its students under an arrangement with Sony and textbook publisher Pearson Canada.
"The students like it because they don't have to lug around all the textbooks. That's a big draw for them," Brandon Kerstens, director of development at Blyth Academy, said in an interview.
"We decided to go with the Sony e-reader rather than the Kindle for a specific reason: Sony e-readers have much more flexibility in what you can get, in terms of the files that it will read," Mr. Kerstens said.
"We really liked that, whereas, with the Kindle, you have to ask Kindle to transfer the files into the right format and they'll send you an e-mail, and that takes you to your newly converted form. We found that to be a little bit complicated. So, in the end, we decided to got with Sony," he said.
"You can actually have conversion files that you can download on to your computer, so you can download it yourself and, actually, they have a greater selection of books," Mr. Kerstens said.
W ith a report from Brodie Fenlon