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Kindle currency Amazon Coins launches

Amazon has officially launched its own virtual currency program, dubbed Amazon Coins.

To kick things off, Amazon is providing all Kindle Fire owners in the US with 500 free Amazon Coins, which are worth $5 (£3.22). "You can use the coins to buy apps and games, as well as items inside apps and games," Amazon said in a note on its homepage.

It is unclear if or when UK users will be able to benefit from the new currency, but if the journey of the Kindle Fire itself is anything to go by, these shores will eventually be treated to a rollout.

Amazon also said Coins are available to purchase at a discount, for savings of up to 10 per cent depending on how many coins you purchase.

Amazon is offering 500 Coins for $4.80, for example. Users can also purchase them in increments of 1,000 ($9.50), 2,500 ($23), 5,000 ($45), or 10,000 ($90). Amazon said the Coins do not expire, and do not include any fees.

"From Cut the Rope: Time Travel to Scribblenauts Remix, you'll find plenty of fun to choose from, and the selection is growing every day. Selection has tripled over the last year, with 25 per cent more in the last three months alone," Amazon said.

When buying apps and games, users will be given the option to purchase with a credit card or via Amazon Coins.

Amazon first announced plans for Coins in early February.

Amazon said at the time that Coins will provide new opportunities for developers, who will earn the standard 70 per cent revenue share when customers make purchases using the virtual currency. Developers with apps and games already in the US.

"Developers continue to report higher conversion rates on Amazon compared to other platforms," Paul Ryder, vice president of apps and games for Amazon, said in a statement. "Now we have another new way to help developers reach even more of our millions of customers. Amazon Coins gives customers an easy way to spend money on developers' apps on Kindle Fire in the Amazon Appstore."

The move came at a time when other companies were phasing out the use of virtual currency. In October, Microsoft confirmed that it will be phasing out the use of Microsoft Points in Windows 8. In June 2012, meanwhile, Facebook announced plans to ditch its Credits platform in favour of local currencies and allow app developers to offer in-app subscriptions.

In January, Amazon announced plans to extend its in-app purchasing service — already available for the Kindle Fire and other Android devices — to cover Mac, PC, and web-based gaming platforms.