Ordering the latest 6 inch Kindle 3 from Amazon to India

This just might be your “definitive” guide to ordering the new Kindle Wi-Fi, 6″ Display, Graphite – Latest Generation (also known as Kindle 3) from India. If you are planning to order one or simply curious to know how the process of ordering the Kindle in India from Amazon.com is like, this blogpost should cover most of your queries.

I woke up one day and decided that I wanted to buy a Kindle. No plans, no prior thoughts. I just wanted one. May it something that was brewing in my subconscious mind since a while. Every year I indulge myself in an expensive gift on my birthday. Not that I don’t buy gadgets all around the year, but buying it near my birthday just makes me feel less guilty!

One thing that was keeping me from ordering it there and then was whether to go for an iPad or the Kindle. I read a few blogs, consulted a few friends and finally decided that Apple was in a different game altogether and not directly competing with the Kindle. The iPad was a “multi purpose” entertainment and computing device, whereas the Kindle was a dedicated e-book reader which did only one thing – display eBooks. Having both a Macbook Pro and an iPhone, I was certain I didn’t need an iPad to carry with me all the time. Besides, the iPad was heavy, tad heavy. It was hard to hold it as elegantly as Steve Jobs did in his demo. That must have taken weeks of practice!

Like a true Indian, I began my quest for finding out where and how I can get the Kindle the cheapest. I was told that ordering it from Amazon.com would cost in excess of Rs. 10000. Since I was aiming for the $139 model (without 3G), paying a generous Rs. 3000 (Rs. 10000 – 139*50) towards shipping and customs was hard to digest.

Amazon charges a hefty import duty on electronic items being shipped from abroad. The same is not true for other countries. I had a friend who happened to be in Germany at that time and I planned to get the item shipped to his house to save on that duty. However, things didn’t work out for some reasons. I was also informed about websites like http://www.shopyourworld.com which supposedly do a good job of shipping the Kindle to India.

Nevertheless I decided to go ahead with the order. The ordering process was simple and Amazon showed me an estimate of how much the total order will cost (including shipping and customs) before I actually placed the order. The breakup was something like this-

Subtotal: $139.00
Shipping and Handling: $20.98
Customs: $56.34
Order total: $216.32

The order was placed on October 4 2010. The initial estimates for shipping and arrival were the following:

Estimated shipping: October 12 – October 15
Estimated delivery: October 18 – October 25

As it turned out, it was way off course. On 12 October, I got an email that my Kindle has been shipped and my credit card was charged. (Amazon.com does not charge your card till they are on the verge of shipping your item. You may even cancel your order before it gets shipped.). In rupees, I was charged Rs. 9966 by my bank.

The email contained the AWB (Airway Bill) number for DHL, which did an amazing job of tracking my shipment at each step through the DHL.com website. I could literally track my Kindle being shipped from country to country as it moved towards India. By the second day, it had reached New Delhi and cleared from customs. On the evening of the third day (15 October), the Kindle was delivered to my address.

The Kindle arrived perfectly wrapped in a neat box made of recycled cardboard paper and easy to tear “frustration free” packaging. See a few YouTube videos on Kindle unboxing to see what I mean.

Before writing this blog post, I put the Kindle to the ultimate test. I ordered one full e-book on Amazon.com and read it non-stop in 8 hours straight. The whole experience was absolutely mind boggling. The “electronic ink” display appears just like paper and to the brain and the eye, it’s exactly the same sensation as reading from a physical book. There was absolutely no strain on the eyes, since the display was not backlit. However, unlike other displays, it needed a source of light nearby to keep the Kindle’s display visible.

The page flip buttons were also an absolute pleasure. The buttons depressed with just the right amount of pressure, hard enough to not get pressed accidentally and soft enough to not hurt your fingers during repeated use. The keyboard keys were really hard though. It took a real push to punch in keystrokes while entering passwords or titles to search on the Amazon store.

Few positive surprises:

1. There are a few Indian newspapers and magazines you can subscribe to. They include Hindustan Times, Indian Express, Financial Express and Mint. The costs are hefty though. One month of HT will cost $9.99 and you can download a single issue for $0.50. That’s more than 5 times the price of the printed version. India Today is the only Indian magazine available on the Kindle.

2. The device can be password protected.

3. You can download a free sample of all books (which generally contains about 1 chapter of the book) before you go ahead and buy the full book. All newspapers and magazines also have a free 14 day trial.

4. The Kindle can store and play songs while you read.

5. Amazon has an amazing and very responsive customer support. You can ask them any questions you have before placing your order and they’ll reply within a few hours. I emailed them atleast twice for different concerns before placing the order. They were extremely quick and helpful. Amazon also has a section called “warehouse deals” where refurbished Kindles are sold on Amazon.com for very high discounts.

6. I have heard a few people saying that there may be a small refund due to me since the custom duty collected during my order is the maximum it can probably be charged but it is generally cleared for much less. The refund takes a good 3 months to arrive though. Amazon’s customer care will not comment on this issue incase you inquire.

There are a few downsides too:

1. The screen initially feels very primitive compared to the super bright and high resolution displays found in TV’s and laptops. You’ll get used to it very soon though. It’s not a touch screen too.

2. Even though you can grab the Kindle with one hand, if you hold it by the edges you are bound to press the page flip buttons thereby losing the page you were on. You can however lock the screen and keypad to avoid this.

3. A sense of monotonicity starts to set in after a while. When you buy a physical book, each book has a new cover, a new font and a new feel to it. With the Kindle, each book will look the same, exactly the same.

4. A true book lover loves the process of buying books as much as he enjoys reading it. With Amazon, each book is a click away. Very soon, you’ll start missing your trips to the book store.

5. Not all books are available in Kindle format. If you are looking for a specific title, there is a good chance it will not be available.

6. Most books are completely text. Most images or photos in the book are not included in the Kindle version.

7. The e-book format is not as expensive as the print format but it’s not cheap either. Remember, Amazon’s primary motive of selling the Kindle this cheap is so that it can make solid profits selling books.

8. The Kindle supports a landscape mode for reading as well. But the page flip buttons don’t suit that page layout.

9. The Kindle cover is necessary if you plan to carry it around with you without having other objects in your bag damage the screen. Some people have suggested that I can use a laptop sleeve or a simple cloth bag to carry it. Sure I can, but the original Amazon cover looks very tempting. It’s very expensive though, costing about $35, adding significantly to the total cost of ownership. If you do plan to buy it however, book it in the same order since shipping it later separately will turn out to be more expensive by about $20.

Overall, I think the Kindle is an amazing piece of technology and an absolute “must have” for any avid book reader. Incase I left out anything or you have any specific questions about the ordering process or about the Kindle itself, please add it as a comment.

Update: I got a refund of $16.83 from Amazon on 15 December 2010 stating the reason as “Export fee reduced” and the same was charged back to my credit card. Hence the net cost of owning the Kindle turns out to be Rs. 9966 – 727 = Rs. 9239.

Facebook wants to share your information without your knowledge!

As of today, there is a new privacy setting called “Instant Personalization” that shares data with non-Facebook websites and it is automatically set to “Allow”.

According to Facebook:

“You’ll find a personal and social experience the moment you arrive on our select partner sites — Docs.com, Pandora, and Yelp. We’re working closely with these partners so you can quickly connect with your friends and see relevant content on their sites. These sites personalize your experience using your public Facebook information. When you arrive on these sites, you’ll see a notification from Facebook at the top of the page.
You can easily opt-out of experiencing this on these sites by “No Thanks” on the blue Facebook notification on the top of partner sites.”

To disable this feature, go to Account > Privacy Settings > Applications and Websites > Instant Personalization and uncheck “Allow”.

(Thanks Arun Pattnaik)

Talent Vs. Attitude – Harsha Bhogle at IIMA

A must-watch talk on why attitude matters, not talent. Presented at IIM Ahmedabad by Harsha Bhogle, a well known cricket commentator in India.

(Thanks Harish)

Why the iPad is a #FAIL

The launch of the Apple tablet was possibly the biggest marketing hype I have seen in a long time. However, when I saw Steve Jobs holding the “iPad” for the first time, I could immediately sense that something has gone horribly wrong. Here are my top 8 reasons why I reckon the iPad will be a failiure:

1. As someone who owns both an iPhone and a Macbook, I wonder why I would want to carry a third “something in between” device with me.

2. The only possible reason i may want to use the iPad is to play App Store games on a larger screen. But why did this need arise in the first place? Because those games aren’t available on a Mac! Seriously people, if Apple really cared, they wouldn’t make you buy new hardware to play the same old games.

3. I’ve never used a Kindle and still don’t get the point of lugging around a dedicated e-book reader. There is a practical limit to the number of devices I can carry with me when I am travelling – and an iPhone + laptop should suffice most of the time. Hence, the iPad being projected as a “Kindle killer” may not be such a big deal afterall.

4. If the iPad screen is similar to a Macbook, why not read your e-books on your laptop instead? The iPad screen, no matter how good still cannot beat Amazon’s e-ink technology.

5. The iPad seems too big (and possibly fragile) to carry around all the time. Does the package include a casing?

6. A full fledged browsing device and no Flash? What were you thinking Apple?

7. Still no support of running multiple apps simultaneously. No way I’m going to close my browser each time I want to copy some text into my text editor.

8. (BONUS) The iPad is a silly name – Sounds like a feminine hygiene product to me!

e-Waste disposal and recycling in India

I always thought that e-waste disposal and recycling was a non-existent concept in India, till I came across these companies-

1. Attero

2. Ecoreco

3. E-Parisaraa (Thanks Ambuj)

Like most Indian households, even my house is filled with tons of old and obsolete gadgets which I no longer use.

But, Indians typically refuse to let go of anything unless they’re paid for it. Even if it means that it’ll continue to lie around their house for ages. Yes, they did pay a hefty sum for it when it was the hottest thing around. But giving it to the local kabari wallah, who has no idea what to do with it except weighing it in kilos and giving you a few pennies in exchange, is not the correct way to dispose it.

Considering the rapid innovation and ever decreasing “shelf life” of electronics, it’s time we also take responsibility of correctly disposing what we owned.

How Social Media is growing

This is how fast the Web 2.0 bubble is swelling:

Obviously this data is not real-time, but still provides a relatively accurate representation in terms of the average growth.

Do you think you can keep pace? 🙂

Roundup of Tech TV shows in India

There are lots of TV shows to catch up with the latest technology and gadget headlines as well as interesting gossip and discussions. Here’s my roundup of the best ones I know-

1. Gadget Guru, on NDTV Profit, hosted by one of my favorite TV hosts – Rajiv Makhni

2. Tech Guru, on CNBC Awaaz hosted by Ankit

3. Cell Guru, on NDTV India (with re-runs on NDTV 24×7 and NDTV Profit)

4. Sony Style TV Magazine, on AXN hosted by Oli Pettigrew. Partially dedicated to Sony’s innovations but still a must-watch.

5. Tech Mantra, on IBN 7

6. Tech Toys, on CNBC 18

7. Click, on BBC World News

If you watch any other TV shows which deserve a mention here, please add them as a comment.

Why Apple products sell

The market is flooded with hundreds of laptops and mobile phones, each one claiming to be the latest, the fastest and the most feature rich. Choosing the right one is a difficult thing. Some people would rather prefer to stay out of the chaos and be happy to pay a premium to help them decide what is the best for them.

Apple targets exactly this segment of customers, which by the above description, fall under the “exclusive” category.

Here is Apple’s simple mantra:

1. Make your users feel they have a great product. Obsess over aesthetics or whatever that works.

2. Don’t confuse your customers by giving them too many choices. If you have to give a choice, keep the options easily distinguishable through features like screen size, storage capacity etc.

3. Don’t obsess about hardware specifications. Most users don’t really care how much CPU and RAM they have if their computer is fast enough for their work.

4. Don’t introduce products too quickly. Give your users enough time to boast about their new toy. Nothing works like word of mouth. Let the novelty fade away before you hype up and introduce the “next big thing”. Keep this cycle predictable.

5. Don’t leave any opportunity to bash your opponents. TV ads or whatever that works. People love to hate.

No wonder we call it the decade of Steve Jobs.

How to turn off the display on your Mac

You often need to turn off your laptop’s LCD display to save on battery power, but don’t want it to go on sleep. This used to be fairly easy on a Windows PC but I had a hard time figuring out how to do this on a Mac.

Just try this useful but not very commonly known keyboard shortcut:


I bet you didn’t know this 🙂

Indian celebrities on Twitter

Indian celebrities usually leave no stone unturned to keep their popularity ranking high, whether it is by creating controversy, endorsing brands, appearing on TV shows or even owning an IPL cricket team.

I noticed that a few of them have also adopted Twitter, which upto now was only for the creme-de-la-creme of the tech community. The ones listed below are the “real” celebrities, since all of them have “Twitter Verified Accounts“, which I believe is trustworthy. Here’s the complete list-

Priyanka Chopra – @priyankachopra
Karan Johar – @kjohar25
Barkha Dutt – @BDUTT
Shashi Tharoor – @shashitharoor
Mallika Sherawat – @mallikala
Gul Panag – @gulpanag

For the sake of completeness, here are some Internationally known celebrities too:

Arnold Schwarzenegger – @Schwarzenegger
Britney Spears – @britneyspears
Oprah Winfrey – @Oprah
Janet Jackson – @JanetJackson
David Blaine – @davidblaine
Al Gore – @algore
Heidi Montag – @heidimontag
Richard Branson – @richardbranson
Pamela Anderson – @PamelaDAnderson
Serena Williams – @serenajwilliams
Venus Williams – @Venuseswilliams
Ricky Martin – @ricky_martin
Paris Hilton – @parishilton

If you come across anyone else who deserves a mention here, please leave a comment and help me keep the post updated.