Amazon Kindle 2 gets cheaper, goes (sort of) international

For the second time in three months, Amazon has dropped the price of the Kindle 2 e-reader. The device which began shipping in February for $359.99 begins October at $259.99.

Since debuting, the Kindle has dominated e-reader mindshare in the United States, but has faced serious competition from senior e-reader maker Sony, which not only makes the lowest priced product, but also the most feature-packed product as well. Sony's Daily Edition Reader has 3G wireless from AT&T, a touchscreen interface, and the ability to borrow e-books from participating libraries.

But the Kindle may not be exactly the thing some potential buyers need. As someone who has spent a considerable amount of time in airports in the last 2 years will tell you, the Kindle is very popular among travelers. Unfortunately, the device's Sprint-friendly CDMA connectivity is all but useless overseas. Users who have taken their Kindle to another country and want to obtain new content have no wireless options. To address this, Amazon today has also unveiled the "US and International Wireless" Kindle for $279.99, which can be used on the 3G networks in more than 100 countries.

And travelers appear to be the main group targeted in this device launch, rather than actual international markets, since Amazon's Kindle Store still deals almost exclusively in English language literature. There are a handful of products in other languages, though, and Amazon pointed out today that a number of international periodicals are available for subscription, such as La Stampa (Italian), El Pais and El Universal (Spanish), O Globo (Portuguese), Le Monde (French), and Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (German). However, there are major limitations preventing the device from use in other languages.

Principal among these limitations is the fact that international fonts remain problematic. Though the Kindle store displays symbols such as (ç, ß, etc,) there is still no way for the user to enter these characters in search queries. Furthermore, other scripts are not supported, and installing other international fonts (Cyrillic, Japanese, Chinese) requires a Unicode font hack. We've sent an inquiry to Amazon today to see if the company has plans to address this.

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