Although eBook readers have been around for over a decade, it wasn't until Amazon released the Kindle in 2007 that people started to take them seriously. Now, on its fourth iteration, the Kindle, reviewed, seems to be ubiquitous.
Jump on a commuter train and you're virtually guaranteed to see at least one person in the carriage reading on a Kindle. Chances are that the owner isn't a geek, either. In fact, they're probably a technophobe that's had a Kindle bought for them. That's the beauty of Amazon's set up: a relatively affordable price for the hardware, a vast library of books to choose from and near-instant downloading via Wi-Fi directly to the Kindle.
It really is revolutionary. Gone are the days when you'd have to choose which books to take on holiday and which to leave behind. Even with 2GB of memory inside your Kindle, you can take more books than you could hope to read. And if you're not off on holiday you'll still appreciate that the Kindle is smaller and lighter than a real book, yet the screen is just as easy to read from.
However, there's a piece missing from the puzzle. It's frustrating enough for Kindle owners that they're not allowed to lend an eBook to a friend as they would with a 'real' book, but there's also no way to buy a Kindle book for someone else in the UK. It seems like an obvious omission, too, since Amazon's US customers can 'gift' Kindle books. But not in the UK.
This is a big problem, especially if you don't like giving gift cards and certificates. Although plenty of people like receiving them, plenty don't want to give them because they lack the personal touch - and thoughtfulness. It isn't quite the same to give a voucher with an accompanying note suggesting that the recipient spends it on a particular book because you think it will be 'right up their street'.
It's also confusing for anyone that doesn't realise it's not possible to buy a Kindle book for someone else. We know of people that have bought a book using their own Amazon account only to realise it's locked to their Kindle, so have then had to buy a gift certificate and send it to the other person. To make matters worse, it's not obvious how to get a refund on a Kindle book that you've bought by accident as they're not listed along with your other Amazon purchases.
Fortunately, you have seven days to ask for a refund on any Kindle book, but you have to know to click the 'Manage your Kindle' link to see this option. Otherwise, you could easily believe that refunds aren't allowed on eBooks.
The main annoyance, however, is that Amazon allows its US customers to 'gift' Kindle books to each other. Quite why the option is missing in the UK is a mystery, but the as far as we know, the situation isn't about to change.
We'd love to know your thoughts and feelings on the subject so feel free to comment below.