Amazon is once again in the news with its recent acquisition of Diaper.com for a cool $540 million. But the real story, somewhat overlooked in the States is the emergence of a black market (aka China's gray market) that's smuggling Kindle 3G's into the country for a specific purpose. Apparently, it's been discovered that Kindle is the only handheld device to date that can leap the "Great Firewall" of state Web censorship.
According to several international news reports including the South China Morning Post, social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter which have been blocked by the Beijing authorities can be accessed without interference by Kindle's Internet browsing function.
While Amazon has announced that it does not ship the Kindle to mainland China, nor offer content in that country (with over 420 million Web users), an unidentified smuggler in Beijing told the Post that he has been able to get the e-Readers into the country, a few at a time - and that this past month alone - he was able to sell 300.
There are ways for Chinese citizens to dodge the censors although none are automatic in the way the Kindle is. Taobao, China's answer to eBay is another source for purchasing Kindles in Southeast Asia. With prices ranging from a special offer of 700 yuan ($US136) to 5.000 yuan, or $US973, it appears many of Chinese netizens are willing to pay for a device that can "scale the wall automatically."
The 3G Kindle uses global system mobile (GSM) communication technology, which gives WiFi access in over 100 countries, including China. Professor Lawrence Yeung Kwan of the University of Hong Kong's engineering department told the Post that perhaps the reason the Kindle is able to break through the 'firewall' is due to the mainland Internet patrols overlooking blocking the device because it was more associated with e-Book reading than Internet access.
The Kindle has its own network called Amazon Whispernet which provides wireless coverage vita AT&T's 3G data network in the US and partnering networks throughout the rest of the world. While this technology allows for auto-synching of books to the device, it also allows it to browse the Web.
I am sure techies and developers will be spending a lot of tinkering with Kindle's browsing system to find out what distinguishes the e-Book Reader from say… an iPhone or Blackberry browser. Howeve, now that the device's cover has been blown, I am sure the Chinese authorities are also doing their own investigation and the "Great Firewall" will start blocking Kindles in the very foreseeable future.
This censor-leaping capability is definitely an unexpected boon for Amazon competing not only in the e-Reader markets but also against competitors like iPad and other smartphone devices. While Amazon did not offer to comment on this story, I'm sure CEO Jeff Bezos has had a sly grin on his face ever since he heard the news. The intrigue alone sure beats the idea of selling diapers for a living!
For other posts on Kindle and the e-Book reader market, check out the following:
- The $49 Kindle Was The Only Question Not Asked By Charlie Rose
- Reports Of The Death Of The Kindle Are Slightly Over Exaggerated
- Kindle vs Nook & Sony Reader
- Kindle, Sony, Nook vs Apple, Google, Microsoft - One Trick Ponies vs Multimedia Devices
- Kindle, Nook and Sony - E-book Reader Comparison Reports
- Tablet Wars: iPad vs HP Slate vs JooJoo vs Dell Mini 5 vs Archos7 vs Notion Ink Adam
- Kindle vs Nook, Target vs Best Buy - eBook Readers Go Retail!
- Kindle's New Features OutPad The iPads & OutRead The Sony Readers?
- Kindle Stars On Android After Successful Guest Appearances On iPhone, iPad & Blackberry
- Kindles Might Be Getting Thinner, But No Color, Nor Touch-Screen?
- E-Reader Price Wars Pit Kindle vs Nook, While iPad Holds Ground
- Kindle DX vs The Lord Voldemort of Tablet Devices