All E Ink Kindles Should Come With Free 3G Wireless


Kindle Paperwhite

Something occurred to me this past week with the WiFi Kindle Paperwhite becoming unavailable from Amazon.com (unless you live outside the United States, that is).

Why does Amazon charge more for the Kindle Paperwhite with 3G wireless?

Why do WiFi-only E Ink Kindles exist at all?

After all, when we really stop to think about the wireless capabilities on the E Ink Kindles and the features that brings—primarily buying ebooks from Amazon—you’d think that Amazon would benefit more by having a line open with all their Kindle customers at all times.

It’s not like the old days with the Kindle 3 and earlier keyboard models where you could use the 3G wireless to surf the web, check email, and do all kinds of things on Amazon’s dime because the wireless was free once you purchased the device.

But since the release of the Kindle Touch, and the so-called improved web browser that can now only be used with WiFi, Amazon has made it so that 3G Kindles can only access Amazon’s website to buy ebooks and other items, as well as Wikipedia and Shelfari for certain features.

The main thing 3G wireless is used for on E Ink Kindles is to buy things from Amazon when WiFi is unavailable.

So why are we paying more for that feature?

And why is Amazon choosing to limit the number of devices that have the ability to purchase ebooks and other items from them at any time?

I’ll admit that there’s been more than a few times when I was away from WiFi where I would have bought something from Amazon had my Kindle had 3G wireless. You can’t always prepare ahead; sometimes you want to download an ebook right now when you’re thinking of it, or when plans change.

It seems like Amazon would benefit more from having free 3G on all their E Ink Kindles, especially when that’s something none of the other brands even offer at all. It would separate the Kindle from other ebook readers even more.

Right now Amazon charges $60 extra for the Kindle Paperwhite models with 3G. They say right at the top of the page that the 3G wireless is “free”. Well, last I checked $60 wasn’t free, even if there are no monthly wireless charges. That’s a 50% increase in price from the WiFi Paperwhite. You’re paying for wireless up front instead. The modem doesn’t cost Amazon that much extra to install.

I think it’s time that Amazon does away with WiFi-only E Ink Kindles altogether. Go back to how things used to be and give all the Kindles free 3G. Sure it might cost a little more to buy one up front, but Amazon already has the lowest prices so what’s another $20 or so (that would be a lot more fair than $60).

8 Responses to “All E Ink Kindles Should Come With Free 3G Wireless”

  1. Well … there’s the cost of the 3G radio. As it is, we have to pay extra to get rid of those annoying ads, so why would they give away 3G? I’ve owned every Kindle from the original through the Touch. Didn’t spring for the Paperwhite, as I have a lighted case and didn’t want to give up audio. And until last week I owned a Kindle Fire HD 7″ that I sold once I picked up a Nexus 7 FHD. My first two Kindles were 3G, but I found I rarely used it. I’ve got a smart phone, so if I really want to buy a book when I’m away from WiFi, I buy it using the Kindle app on my phone and make do with that till I’m back in WiFi land. I don’t see Amazon ever giving away 3G, and personally I don’t want to pay extra to subsidize others’ use of 3G. I’d rather them sell me a Kindle without ads … and the extra fee required to get rid of them. 🙂

  2. Because 3G celluar data service is something that Amazon doesn’t provide. There is no free cell phone, cable tv , sat tv service either.

    If the Kindle has an expected average 3 year service lifetime then $60 is about $20 ‘unmetered’ cellular data service per year. That’s about $2/month.

    I don’t want to label as ‘unlimited’ data because then folks want to treat it as “all you can eat”. Lightweight, sporadic, limited graphics epub books could be done as small overlay onto the cellular data streams for very low amounts like this. A photo/music/app streamer device would not.

    I think the 3G wireless providers would be cautious with both browser and ebook bloat ( ePub3 multimedia books like iBook textbooks. ) being moved down to these “ereader” devices. Similarly, with ebook books being intertwined with wikipedia/search-engine look-up data it is a marginally higher rate of data transfer.

    The data transfer costs built into a book doesn’t really pay to keep towers running 24/7/365 when not buying anything.

    The other major issue is how often folks just use the kindle app on their device that has cellular data radio in it already (cellphone and/or modem device perhaps with hotspot). I suspect that usage is way higher than direct Kindle 3G data usage ever was (or is now).

    What Kindle’s ( and other ereaders ) should get is Wifi-Direct so that can more easily leverage a cell-modem’s connectivity in a relatively small radius around a person. Multiple cellular radios per person isn’t a efficient solution path.

  3. There have been reports that Amazon has been looking into a proprietary wireless network as a way to provide their gadgets with a persistent roaming data connection.

    • I saw that, and it’s one of those rumors that actually makes sense.

      • Amazon was playing around with sat-to-ground spectrum. Doubtful that will make it as a ground based system without running into the same problems that Lightsquared did ( other nearby spectrum holders not wanting high power transmitters bleeding into their spectrum.)

        If there was super cheap, low bandwidth sat data with global coverage then might might some sense for global ebook distribution with one system feed. Presently, there are dozens of service operators that Amazon has to deal with to do worldwide ebook distribution.

        Probably more useful in sabre rattling with the majors to become a Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) or updates to their limited MVNO service that is Whispernet (just limited to low bandwidth data).

        There has been rumors of Amazon jumping into the cellphone market too. They are certainly ramping up to do more than just Kindles.

        http://www.theverge.com/2013/1/4/3834548/amazon-lab126-expansion-research-development

        Amazon Ultra Prime where shipping, video content , talk/text , phone , and cell data all wrapped up in one (or more) large payment(s).

        If Amazon did “all kindles” then I think it would be more like the Kindle Fire HD 8.9″ and its $49.99/year data plan. Something lower in price and bandwidth ( e.g., $19.99/yr for 100MB/mo. ). Over 3 years, they would incrementally get the $60 out of folks who use 3G/4G data often. That removes the upfront payment that is the blocker to wider adoption.

  4. I don’t mind having an e-reader with just Wi-Fi capability on board. I think it’s really just a matter of “inconvenience” for those people that are concerned that they don’t have 3G capability to download books whenever/wherever they want at a moments notice.

  5. My Kindle DX has free 3G. Its my go-to device for purchasing Amazon’s eBooks. I think all e ink Kindles should have this feature at No extra charge. It only facilitates the buying process. That’s in Amazon’s favor.

  6. I wouldn’t mind having 3G capability but I wasn’t willing to pay $60 more for it. If they ever lower the price for their 3G model, I might consider replacing my WiFi only Paperwhite.