The Amazon Kindle is not officially for sale in mainland China, reports indicate that it is becoming a popular item to buy via Internet auction sites and through underground markets. Why? Apparently Kindle's 3G model allows users to circumvent China's Internet censoring system - the "Great Firewall of China."
Unlike the WiFi-only devices that must rely on local connections, the 3G model uses its own network called Amazon Whispernet to provide wireless coverage via AT&T's 3G data network in the US and via partner networks worldwide. And according to the Amazon website, coverage appears to extend to a number of cities within China.
Of course, that coverage may be so that Western visitors can still download new eBooks while they travel. But according to a story in the South China Morning Post, many Chinese bloggers have been recommending the Kindle as a way to bypass the country's censorship mandates as the device can "scale the wall automatically."
"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."
As Chinese officials have battled most famously, perhaps, with Google in terms of censoring access to Web content, the ability for Amazon to have bypassed scrutiny is surprising to some. University of Hong Kong's Professor Lawrence Yeung Kwan suggests that it may be that this was just something that was overlooked. Or it may be that Chinese officials do not see the Kindle's open access as a problem in China. Yet.