After much anticipation, Amazon is due to release the international version of Kindle, a hand-held device on which consumers can read electronic copies of books, known as e-books. Orders can now be placed online at Amazon’s website and Kindles are expected to be shipped to Australia from October 19.

However, the move is surrounded with controversy and doubts have been cast over the limited capabilities of the international Kindle device. Malcolm Neil, chief executive of the Australian Booksellers Association, remains unconvinced about the number of books Australians will legally be able to download and read.

“The content for the Kindle is still locked into the American market,” Neil said. “So if you try to buy The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown for the Kindle edition from the website, it’s not available to an Australian consumer. So they’re not actually servicing the Australian market, they’re just making the Kindle available to Australia and some of their titles available as well.”

While e-books have been available in Australian for several years, many retailers fear the shift in focus from traditional books to electronic versions will place significant pressure on bookstores.

Currently, Australian consumers can legally download books with out-of-date copyrights from websites such as Dymocks holds the market share in selling new e-books and since 2007 the company has sold e-book reading devices similar to Kindle.

According to a video leaked online, Microsoft has already manufactured a trial electronic booklet that allows consumers to read e-books and rumours suggest Apple will release a tablet PC with similar functionalities early next year. Sony and Nintendo are reportedly focused on creating similar devices and iPhone and Blackberry users can already download e-readers using their mobile phones.

Target’s online American store has also entered into a deal with Zinio, a digital publishing company, and has started offering consumers single issues or annual subscriptions of online magazines through their website at discounted rates. This has not only raised concerns among bookstores but also for retailers that sell magazines.