Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos is launching an international version of its Kindle e-reader

Amazon is to bring the Kindle, its "most wished for, most gifted and number-one bestselling product" to customers around the world.

The Kindle, which has been available only in the US since its launch two years ago, allows readers to download books, magazines and newspapers and "looks and reads like real paper".

Allen Weiner, research vice-president at Gartner, said: "The e-reader market is fast growing and will really take off in 2010."

He added: "Amazon has made the Kindle international as it was hearing the heavy footsteps of competition." Competitors include the Sony Reader, IRex, Cool-er and the rumoured Apple "tablet".

Amazon will start shipping the devices to 100 countries around the world from the US on 19 October. In Ireland it will cost $279 plus shipping ($20.98) and import fees ($64.50), bringing the total to around €250. The Kindle Store has 200,000 English-language books available from publishers including Bloomsbury and Penguin.

The device has proved staggeringly successful in the US. Amazon has not revealed the number of devices sold but its chief executive Jeff Bezos said 48% of books available in both formats were downloaded electronically.

According to the Association of American Publishers, e-book sales in the US were up 149% for the year to June and account for $14m (€9.5m) in sales a month. John Makinson, chief executive of Penguin, said: "The publishing industry is experiencing explosive growth in digital book sales in the US and we hope to stimulate digital buying elsewhere by making our content widely available on new devices."

Analysts are bullish over the industry's prospects. Three million e-readers will be sold in the US this year, with the Kindle taking a 60% market share and the Sony Reader 35%, according to Sarah Rotman Epps of Forrester. "We expect sales in 2010 to double, bringing cumulative sales of e-readers to 10 million by year end," she said.

Allen Weiner said 2010 would be "the year of the e-reader". Yet he said the format still has issues. "The price will put some people off, and the war between the formats still has to be played out. It won't be a straight line to success."

Amazon is shipping the devices with wireless technology provided by AT&T, although it doesn't have an exclusive deal with a UK operator.

As a result, insiders expect the books to be slightly more expensive than in the US to cover download costs. One telecoms insider said: "It is slightly messy that there is no carrier in place, but they probably wanted to rush it out in time for the Christmas market."