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It's official - Amazon is finally going to bring the Kindle e-book reader to countries other than the US, including my own UK. Thing is, there are going to be issues.

The first is a practical one. In the absence of any specific announcement to the contrary, we're all going to be ordering the American version and importing it for the moment. American readers might shrug and ask what the problem is as long as we can get the voltage right and recharge the thing. Well, yes, up to a point, kind of, and other half-hearted agreement; but if this thing carries an American sim card then guess what, we're going to be hit with international data roaming charges every time we download a book. Amazon is going to have to clarify this if it isn't the case, or amend it with deals with local carriers if it is.

If there is an issue then you have to ask why release internationally before those carrier deals are in place, and I may have an answer. Rumour has been rife for many months that Apple is ready to release some sort of tablet computer, which will act as a media/entertainment machine. Apple, you'll recall if you're outside the US, has done a brilliant job of blocking Microsoft every time there appeared to be a gap in the international market for the Zune media player. There'd be a new iPod, a new iPhone, something to block the gadget market completely just when you'd swear the time was right for a European Zune. If analysts are right and Apple is going to use the next MacWorld Expo to launch something that will do so much more than act as a reader, then it's going to block the New Year market and pull off the same trick again. Amazon had better make the best of the Christmas market before it emerges because the standalone reader could be a dead duck within months.

That logic holds good only if you regard Apple as the ultimate marketing big-bad, and there have certainly been signs of a tide turning against the company. But past history suggests you don't underestimate Steve Jobs and co's ability to create whole new product categories and leave the mass market with the impression that they're the first. The Amazon launch, in which non-Americans have to order kit from the US and are promised there'll be a more localised experience sometime, looks rushed and maybe forced; I can only think of the one reason why this should be so.

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