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While the device is not available in China, users are finding it on the gray market
Kindle 3G owners in China are getting more than just a reading experience out of the wildly popular e-reader. While the device is not legal in China and Amazon has said that it is not able to ship the Kindle 3G to China, some have managed to purchase the e-reader on the sly and have found that the Kindle 3G allows them to bypass Chinese Web censorship firewalls on sites like Twitter and Facebook, the South China Morning Post reported Monday. This, of course, is why Chinese authorities do not allow the sale of the Kindle 3G in China.
With more than 420 million Web users, China represents the world’s largest Web community. Amazon has said that it is not able to ship the Kindle 3G to mainland China or offer content in China. But a seller in China told reporters that he has the devices shipped a few at a time to an address outside of China and then sells them on the gray market. He claims to have sold 300 in the last month.
AFP found several Kindle devices on a Web auction site called Taobao (the Chinese equivalent of eBay), going for anywhere from 700 yuan (U.S. $105) to 5,000 yuan (U.S. $746). Additionally, several Chinese bloggers are recommending the device for its ability to “scale the wall automatically.”
“Scaling the wall” refers to the number of ways that Web users can get around government firewalls. Though difficult, it can be done, but now it can be as easy as turning on your Kindle 3G. The issue became front page news around the world during the 2008 Beijing Olympics, when foreign journalists were frustrated to find that they couldn’t access sites like Flickr, Wikipedia, BBC News, YouTube, or even Google Cache. China reportedly employs approximately 30,000 censors to monitor the Internet, but a number of reporters found ways to get around the censors, such as routing Internet browsing through proxy servers.
The Kindle 3G gets around the firewall uses Amazon’s Whispernet network, which uses AT&T’s 3G data network in the U.S. and around the world. While the Wi-Fi Kindle can only access local Internet connections, the 3G relies on global system mobile (GSM) communication technology, which provides Wi-Fi coverage to more than 100 countries, including China.
It is worth noting that Web traffic through the Kindle 3G is routed through Chinese mobile phone providers, which are required to comply with Chinese censorship requirements. Nevertheless, Kindle 3G users are browsing the Web with ease (though I’m sure as I write this, Chinese authorities are getting on the ball).
"I still can't believe it. I casually tried getting to Twitter, and what a surprise, I got there," said one mainland blogger to reporters. "And then I quickly tried Facebook, and it perfectly presented itself. Am I dreaming? No, I pinched myself and it hurt."
Image source: web-censorship.org
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