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Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos holds the Kindle DX. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos holds the Kindle DX. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Telecom competition behind Kindle delay Add to ...

Competition is keeping the Kindle out of Canada.

The much-anticipated electronic book reader is late coming to this country because Amazon is shopping around among Canadian telecoms, looking for the best deal on the cost of running its wireless capability, sources say.

Canadian phone companies are trying to get their hands on the Kindle, which Amazon says is its best-selling product of the millions it offers. Amazon will likely work out some kind of deal with a carrier to pay for the wireless access.

The continuing discussions suggest the Kindle will almost certainly hit Canadian stores sooner rather than later, because it isn't in Amazon's interests to miss out on the holiday shopping season.

But the online retailer hasn't yet signed off on a deal. "[The delay]is not about the telecom companies or the retailers," said one source familiar with the matter.

Until recently, the Kindle was available only to customers in the U.S. Earlier this week, Amazon announced it will begin shipping the device to more than 100 countries, but not to Canada. However, Canada appeared to be a unique case among the list of countries not getting the Kindle. Unlike the standard message delivered to consumers in Somalia or Afghanistan that they could not order the device, Canadians received an additional message saying Amazon is working on selling the e-reader here as soon as possible.

In many of the 100 countries where Amazon is shipping the Kindle, the device doesn't come with wireless connectivity, meaning users in those countries have to use a USB connection to download digital books. If there was an issue with Canadian carriers refusing to power the Kindle's wireless capabilities, Amazon may have simply offered Canadians the same non-wireless option it offered in several other countries. However Amazon insists the Kindle has wireless connectivity in Canada, but will say no more about what is holding up the device's launch here.

Amazon is launching the Kindle in partnership with AT&T, which means the device will operate on a particular type of high-speed network - in some countries, using networks operated by AT&T partners.

Until recently, Rogers - an AT&T roaming partner - was thought to have the only such network for Canada, effectively leaving Amazon with little choice in terms of wireless partners. Bell and Telus are working on a next-generation network of their own, which initially wasn't expected to go live until year end; that meant Amazon would miss the lucrative holiday shopping season in Canada if it joined forces with either carrier. But Bell and Telus recently said the network will begin operating in November.

A Bell spokeswoman reiterated yesterday that Amazon has not approached the company about a deal, though the carrier would be open to discussing such a possibility. A Telus spokesman declined to comment Thursday, and an Amazon spokesman could not be reached.

At the same time, however, Canadian carriers will be looking at rival technologies as a consolation, including new e-readers from Sony Corp. and iRex, a division of Royal Philips Electronics. "There are a number of comparable products out there," said the source.

Even though the e-book industry is still relatively small, it has grown more quickly than expected, and many publishers and booksellers are trying to cash in. Barnes & Noble Inc. will unveil its own e-reader as early as next month, the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday.

It is possible for Canadians to buy and use the Kindle here, although the process is convoluted. Canadian customers must use a U.S. credit card and shipping address when buying the e-reader from Amazon's site.

One customer who uses the Kindle in both the U.S. and Canada e-mailed The Globe and Mail Thursday to say that until recently, he could only download books using a USB connection when using the Kindle in Canada. However in the last month or so, he added, he has been able to download wirelessly north of the border.

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