Though Amazon keeps its sales figures for the Amazon Kindle e-reader a close-guarded secret, it's widely regarded as the most successful e-reader. If that's true, it's about to broaden its reach exponentially: Rumors suggest it's going to launch in the U.K. in the next few weeks.
Over at TheBookseller.com they've heard from "authoritative sources" that Amazon is finally going to be taking the Kindle range of e-books overseas—to the home of William Caxton, the guy known for bringing the printing press to England in the 15th century and for being the first book retailer.
According to one source, Amazon has tied up all the loose ends required to get the Kindle a British home, and an official announcement could be due as early as next week—that would ensure the announcement isn't overshadowed by the "general kerfuffle" of the Frankfurt Book Fair. A launch is then expected imminently. This makes sense—the Frankfurt event is the world's largest trade event for books, and a well-timed announcement could guarantee Amazon some serious media attention. And there would be little chance, says the source, of additional leaked info on the run-up to the announcement from publishers who have signed NDAs with Amazon.
This is big news for Amazon, and comes after years of speculation and promises—if it's true it destroys some of the remaining arguments against the Kindle's market dominance, and will give the online bookseller a vantage point from which to challenge some of the nascent e-book services that have popped up in Europe in Amazon's absence. Challenge and probably defeat—Amazon's got so much pull that the Kindle could sell well in any new market.
As long as the Kindle and its associated services are priced very carefully, that is. U.K. consumers are already wary of the so-called "rip-off Britain" pattern whereby internationally available goods end up being more expensive in the UK. If the Kindle ends up being more than £187 (the Sterling equivalent of its $299 U.S. price), with new titles more than £6.25 ($9.99), or if the U.K. equivalent of the free U.S. wireless book-downloading Whispernet service ends up costing consumers hard cash, then I suspect even Amazon will find it hard to penetrate the U.K.'s publishing market. It's the home of publishing behemoth J.K. Rowling and Terry Pratchett, two of the world's top-selling authors, and the original Times newspaper, after all. The Brits do love their books and morning papers.