Amazon Kindle Fire and Kindle 3g for Living in Japan

September 27, 2011

A new version of the Amazon Kindle, which is actually a tablet similar to the iPad or more recent Android tablets is coming. Amazon is set to announce its “Kindle Fire” new tablet which will be ready to function with Amazon’s Kindle books, MP3 download service and other cloud services. There may also be a packaging of it to go along with Amazon Prime.

I write about the Kindle for Japan on this blog primarily because after over a decade in Japan I had inevitably amassed a ton or two of books. During the 90s, I had no choice, but living in Japan now without an eReader (if one is an avid reader) seems a bit crazy to me. Books are wonderful things, but a bit heavy for people moving across oceans. I’ve had bad experiences with shipping things by sea so, though slightly cheaper than other means of sending things abroad, is still relatively expensive and not a very viable option.

UPDATE: I wrote this article before the official press conference by Amazon at which they announced some new Kindle pricing and plans:

The only Kindle I am sure will ship directly to Japan is the Kindle DX which is the expensive ($379) one with the large screen. It has 3G capabilities that can also be used in Japan.

The other new ones are available, and all of them come with “special offers and sponsored screensavers” versions as well as those without ads. My personal opinion is that the ads are so unobtrusive, and even useful at times that they are actually preferable to the boring screensavers on the non-ad version. Other than the screensaver, the other ad is a very small banner at the bottom of the home screen. Out of the way. Below I only list the special offers versions but please be aware that if you really hate ads, another version exists.

Available immediately are the

  • $79  Kindle, Wi-Fi, 6″ E Ink Display – includes Special Offers & Sponsored Screensavers  – It’s available now but needs to be shipped within the US. If you have someone who can forward it to you, you’re in business. (I actually prefer this to the one with a keyboard because I don’t really do a lot of notetaking on my Kindle.) One other underpublicized piece about this Kindle is that it is only 2GB and holds less books on it… this is not a big problem if you don’t think you’re going to read a thousand or so books between finding WiFi connections. (Amazon keeps all of your book purchases in the cloud for you even if they are out of the device.) Also important to note is that this is the only one with NO AUDIO SUPPORT. If you listen to music or audiobooks on your Kindle this is not the one for you… (of course if you have a good phone with audio, that’s not such a big deal.)
  • $99 Kindle Touch, Wi-Fi, 6″ E Ink Display – includes Special Offers & Sponsored Screensavers. This one won’t be available until November 21, 2011. It is one of the big announcements from Amazon and is used by touch screen. It looks nice and light, if you happen to like the touch screen.
  • $149 Kindle Touch 3G, Free 3G + Wi-Fi, 6″ E Ink Display – includes Special Offers & Sponsored Screensavers This one is good if you need the 3G. Personally I can’t imagine not having enough access to WiFi to satisfy my need for eBooks in Japan or the US.
  • $99  Kindle Keyboard, Wi-Fi, 6″ E Ink Display – includes Special Offers & Sponsored Screensavers. This one only differs from the $79 one in that it has audio, 4GB of storage, and a keyboard. If you often take notes or write things with your Kindle, this could be a good option.
  • $139 Kindle Keyboard 3G, Free 3G + Wi-Fi, 6″ E Ink Display – includes Special Offers & Sponsored Screensavers – same as above if you want the 3G capabilities.
  • $199 Kindle Fire, Full Color 7″ Multi-touch Display, Wi-Fi– Lastly but not leastly is the Kindle Fire. The battery is about 8 hours, it has an Android OS built just for it and features the new Amazon Silk browser which is getting pretty good reviews as a tablet browser. You can do your email, read your books, easily purchase MP3s from Amazon, and syncs with Amazon’s cloud. No 3G version is available yet. It will be realeased on November 15, 2011 but Amazon is already taking preorders for delivery within the US. (On a personal note, I am not an early adopter so I’m going to wait for Fire 2 when Amazon has all the kinks worked out and maybe some more media content deals in place.) Still, for the price tag, this is looking like a great option for people who want a tablet, though I don’t really consider it in the same category as the other kindles because, as I mentioned above, I prefer e-ink to a backlit device for reading. (One more note about the Kindle vs iPad is whether you need a camera and plan on video skyping with this… then again, you can always use your computer, cell phone, and/or camera for all that. Also it doesn’t come with Bluetooth if that’s something you happen to need… )


The Kindle Fire could be a good medium for people who want a tablet like the iPad but also want to be able to do a lot of reading. All devices running Kindle apps or Kindles themselves sync with each other so one could be reading on the phone on the train, get home and take out the Kindle Fire, then switch to a regular Kindle eReader before bed.

There is a cheaper version of the Amazon Kindle called the Kindle with Special Offers but it is only available for sale within the US. (If you have someone willing to forward it to you, that’s no problem.) It’s $25 cheaper than the regular Kindle, only has WiFi, and has sponsored screen savers and a small ad on the home screen. There are no ads while reading a book.

It’s important to note that even without a Kindle, a person can use the Kindle books through the iPhone, iPad, Android, and computer apps. The catch is that you have to be OK reading eBooks on a backlit device. For me, reading on a backlit screen at night isn’t very relaxing.

If you don’t want to spend the money on a Kindle for some reason, the apps are fine (as I mentioned above, the only problem is the backlighting). There are rumors that Amazon is working on a way to have the e-ink type screen and a backlit iPad type tablet all in the same device which would make it the hands down winner for me.


If you are fine keeping your current devices, the Free Kindle Apps are more than good enough for building up your library without having a lot of heavy books to ship to your next international residence. Though at $79, the newest Kindle is a great option for people like me who prefer the e-ink screens to backlit ones.


1 orlando November 20, 2011 at 12:22 pm

Thanks for the informative article. I was wondering if I get a kindle touch from the US if I read Japanese books (in Japanese,) if it has a dictionary function like the iphone 4 where I can just touch a kanji compound and get the English translation and Japanese reading. This is a great feature of the iphone, but as you mentioned earlier, reading on one’s iphone is anything but relaxing…

2 jay@newzjapan November 21, 2011 at 5:40 am

Hey Orlando,

Right now the only books you could get on the Kindle for Japan are ones that happen to be in PDF form. From what I understand the publishers are being sticklers about copyrights and slowing things up. However, there are reports that there will be a Japanese Kindle by year’s end with at least limited access to Japanese content.

Right now there are online bookstores with electronic content in Japan, but I haven’t yet been successful in getting any onto my Kindle… I’m still tinkering and trying things, but I think Kinokuniya Online or Amazon Japan might make them available before one of my half-educated hacks works.

There is an English dictionary in the Kindle so putting an English-Japanese dictionary into the Kindle for Japan seems like a no-brainer. Let’s hope it works out that way.

Anyway, sorry I don’t have more, but as I said, I’ve heard rumors that Amazon Japan is working on this. If not, maybe I’ll figure out a way to get some of the already available Japanese content on my Kindle.