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I absolutely love my Kindle.  I got it a few weeks ago and have been completely addicted to it ever since.  I have the IHT delivered to it each morning and The Atlantic coming once a month, plus I’ve already loaded it up with about 10 books.  The iPad is fantastic and I use it a lot too; but for reading, nothing beats the experience of holding and reading off a Kindle.

Amazon’s Kindle works off a system called Whispersnet, which basically provides global 3G coverage that you don’t pay a monthly fee for.  It’s included with the 3G version of the Kindle, with the idea being no matter where you travel in the world (give or take a few more obscure countries) you can download a book in seconds or have your favourite newspaper delivered wirelessly each morning. But the 3G does a lot more than that… it permits rudimentary access to the Internet. The experience isn’t great, as it’s a bit slow, the screen dimensions are not standard, and it’s black and white.  But you can check your Gmail or sports scores online in a pinch, if needed.

What has recently been discovered is this 3G Internet access works around China’s great firewall.  The South China Morning Post has a front page story today discussing the Kindle’s allure to some information-deprived people in the Mainland (article is behind a paywall). Here’s an excerpt:

A seller in Beijing said he ordered more than 30 to be shipped to an address outside the mainland, and then had them carried in a few at a time.  He has sold 300 in the past month. Several Chinese bloggers are recommending the Kindle, touting its ability to “scale the wall automatically”.

Some Net users are accustomed to using proxy servers to circumvent the mainland restriction, but the Kindle makes this unnecessary.

“I still can’t believe it.  I casually tried getting to Twitter and, what a surprise, I got there,” a mainland blogger said. “And then I quickly tried Facebook, and it perfectly presented itself.  Am I dreaming? No, I pinched myself and it hurt.”

The article notes that Amazon doesn’t sell Kindles in Mainland China, and I did a quick search of the Amazon store and found no Chinese-language titles.  Nonetheless, this is a unique and creative way to avoid the Net Nanny that negates the need for a wireless data plan. Also, at US$189 for the 3G version, Kindles aren’t *that* expensive. (The cheaper $139 version is Wi-Fi only, and is subject to the same Internet restrictions as other Internet connections in the mainland).

One wonders how long before China closes this loophole.



  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Cam MacMurchy, XQ. XQ said: RT @zhongnanhai: New Blog Post: Amazon's Kindle puts cracks into Great Firewall: http://tinyurl.com/3xordt5 [...]

  2. Wow. Love this blog. So clean and refreshing.

    Anyway, this is such a great story, not only do I love the new Kindle (I might pick one up in Xuhui this Christmas), but I love that Chinese are really getting into digital books. The online access thing is cool, but we all know informed Chinese are using free VPN software. The real exciting thing is, in my mind, whether the Kindle (and ripoffs) can really popularize reading in China, even, make it kind of cool. ;)

    Hey, if reading on your cellphone is popular, the Kindle will really flourish.