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Added cost for International eBook purchases ....


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Posted on Oct 26, 2010 7:42:57 AM PDT
It is an outrage having to pay $2 more for an eBook if you live outside the U.S. It doesn't cost Amazon a penny more to deliver an eBook across the street, or to the other side of the world. It's a fake charge just serving to make profit. What's even worse is the amount. It's not a percentage but a fixed amount, which seriously decreases the sales potential of books outside the U.S. It makes no sense at all, because while they may get more money per sale, in the end less books are being sold. I'm certain Amazon's profits will rise if they kill the surcharge. It's bad business.

As for the free eBooks, or any books not being available in certain territories; if a publisher decides not to make the eBook available in certain territories it is their decision. This can be related to hurting physical book sales in certain territories, but mostly it's just bad marketing. If you want to sell your book on a global site like Amazon, you have to be out of your mind to limit your potential audience.

Painting by numbers

Posted on Oct 26, 2010 3:32:17 PM PDT
I live in Grenada and my purchases are restricted to Latin/Caribbean countries. The price shown does reflect the $2.00 surcharge for international purchases. It is quite frustrating to discover that many of the books I would like to purchase are not available in my region. I also enjoy books my British authors but so many of these are not available thru the US website. I am going to try and change my region to Europe ( GB) but my credit card billing address must remain in the Caribbean.

Posted on Oct 27, 2010 12:42:50 PM PDT
gc says:
I live in Australia and find Amazon's lack of transparency over this "tax" extremely annoying and application of it to non 3G transactions to be totally unfair.

So, when I discovered this cost applied to my latest purchase, I asked for a refund of the $2 because I bought the book using my own network. Instead, Amazon refunded me the total book price and removed it from my digital library. Interestingly, the book was still on the home screen of my iPhone where I had been reading it (I suspect it might have something to do with the well publicised furore when Amazon arbitrarily removed a student's book and notes).

Could this be a strategy for dealing with this "tax"? I think if you purchase a book and don't use Amazon's 3G network, you are entitled to a refund of the $2. Just make sure you have downloaded the book to the home screen of your device and computer and have read a few pages. Hopefully this way it stays on your home screen if they refund it in full and delete it from your library.

Even if Amazon don't refund the book, having to respond to email complaints increases the costs of doing business. Petitions are useless; sure you can vent, but Amazon is not obligated to do anything. Being considerate towards customers (outside of the US) may not motivate them, increased costs will.

Posted on Oct 27, 2010 11:40:22 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Oct 27, 2010 11:41:42 PM PDT
MikeW says:
I've checked and the $2 plus in my case tax (so the "free" books are actually $ 2.30) is still being added when you actually access the item itself rather than a list containing the item.

In my case, I live in Finland where Amazon has *not* made an agreement with anybody to provide 3G support. (They make sure you know this when you order a device with 3G so can't be blamed for that).

So I naturally have a non-3G Kindle.

You'll all be aware of the madness here. Living and registered in a country where 3G support is not provided they are still charging me the $2 overcharge (plus tax) to cover international 3G costs!

The fact that I have a non-3G device is almost minor in this as they don't need to do an individual check on the user - checking the country should be enough.

(Formula: Non-US = $2 surcharge unless registered in a country with no 3G support from Amazon)

It's also annoying that they aren't charging me tax on (paper) books but are charging (Finnish) taxes on downloads of books (and that whereas Finland has low tax rates on books it has higher tax rates (more than double) on electronic downloads).

In some cases this makes the Kindle version more expensive than the paper book...

Posted on Oct 28, 2010 3:41:49 AM PDT
Nils says:
I live in Slovenia (Europe) and i tried to download book via PC, but they still charge $2.3. I couldn't find nothing about that before I bought it. You buy few books, this charges cost one book.

Posted on Oct 28, 2010 8:27:30 AM PDT
Mae O. says:
I'm quite sure there is no import tax on electronic downloads in Thailand according to WTO thing. However, Amazon still claim it's due to this and that and tax rates! And how on earth can they calculate tax from the book value $0.00? Who determine the pricing differences while they're non-license?

I don't mind the free books. I can find them from other sites. But free books give me the very clear evidence that you can't trust Amazon.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 28, 2010 4:20:54 PM PDT
Brian Dear says:
Use a VPN and avoid all regional restrictions and charges. You'll have to download content via your computer instead of directly on the kindle, but for $2 a title, I would gladly do it. Also, you have full access to the freebies. When I'm in Shanghai, a VPN is vital -- apparently it's also vital for the Kindle as well.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 28, 2010 10:08:10 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Oct 28, 2010 10:08:31 PM PDT
Nigel Bree says:
While using a VPN to deal with GeoIP checks is possible for current or former US residents (who have US billing addresses, something largely not available to international users), Kindle 3G users should note that Amazon are constantly aware of your real geographical location (see http://www.mobileread.com/forums/showthread.php?t=51371 for the gory details) and so Amazon do know what's going on. And in any case, if you have a US billing address then you are generally exempt from the additional Amazon charges anyway.

However, the billing address is the main thing to deal with and that's not something that spoofing GeoIP helps with (as easily demonstrated using Amazon EC2; as an Amazon EC2 customer I can start a virtual machine running in the US or EU, securely access it an browse the US store from a US IP, but when I log in from such a US-hosted EC2 instance the Amazon store applies the regional restrictions associated with my Kindle's registered location).

By the way, just to clarify my earlier observation regarding pricing with Amazon having apparently lifted the flat US$2 Whispernet surcharge unilaterally for we customers in New Zealand; some of the pricing variation that wasn't changed by this and which we still do see from time to time in the Amazon store is due to its handling of different regional *editions*.

For example, the Kindle edition of Iain M. Bank's Surface Detail comes in B0046A9NLC Surface Detail at US$12.99 (unavailable in my region of course, although Amazon will sometimes "recommend" it even though it won't show up in my searches) while the edition I am presented with most of the time is B00462RVHI Surface Detail which is quoted to me as US$14.40

While this particular piece of price discrimination is still profoundly irritating, I'm not inclined to automatically assign this to Amazon as opposed to the publisher and it's not as massively offensive as the "bait and switch" Amazon do with the US$2 Whispernet fee.

@MikeW It's sad to hear that the Kiwi good fortune in apparently having the Whispernet fee lifted for Wi-Fi is not shared in your region. One thing that occurs to me might be helpful in dealing with Amazon Customer Support is filing a complaint about a benchmark book by ASIN (similarly to my above example) to demonstrate that the issue you are seeing is NOT one related to publisher issues, but rather purely Amazon's pricing. If the publisher is involved in any way in the price difference, the title would have a different ASIN.

The fact that the outrageous Whispernet fee clearly *has* been lifted for at least some international customers like me means that those of you in regions still affected by this curse actually have a *stronger* basis to complain to Amazon CS about why your region is still subjected to it. If necessary, use the EC2 trick to access Amazon from a US IP address (which I'd recommend over a third-party VPN for such an exercise) so the effect of using a US IP on a non-US account can demonstrate that it's purely your Kindle's *registered* location affecting the price charged.

Posted on Oct 30, 2010 2:30:59 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Oct 30, 2010 3:10:11 AM PDT
If you read this topic all the way through, there's a lot of people from the same countries in the same boat, but whom had no idea of the fee beforehand. At the moment there's even unconfirmed countries that are seeing the $2 fee drop off entirely, while some only see it in lists. Confusing times. :(

In a bid to educate others (Kindle owners and potentials alike), please share your local Kindle experiences in your country at http://www.kndl.info/select-your-country/ - not just about the $2 fee, but anything else that will help potential Kindlers make an informed decision. You know, the kind of stuff you didn't know when you first bought one! While you're there be sure to read about the $2 fee petition that we started to raise awareness and hopefully get an answer to the question everybody is asking here, why?

This $2 fee is just one example, there's a lot of ambiguity about how well Kindles are supported country-to-country, but we Kindle readers can help change that. :)

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 30, 2010 3:43:22 PM PDT
L. Langer says:
Could this $2 charge be part of a cost for the transfer over, from hard copy to E copy. No doubt someone has to be paid to do this. Still it should be an up front charge from the out set, as it is an added thing to consider when choosing an e book reader.
Is there a list anywhere of the best ebook sites around?

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 30, 2010 4:00:28 PM PDT
Nigel Bree says:
@L. Langer The charge is absolutely, definitely, *not* part of format transfer; it was applied even to out-of-copyright converted texts from the free Project Gutenberg where the conversion has been done by volunteers for free (often some time ago; Project Gutenberg had already developed considerable momentum back when I started using USENET in 1985). The charge is purely a Whispernet fee; why US$2 has been chosen as a more-or-less flat rate for it is likely just Amazon simplifying things for themselves, since inter-carrier contracts for international 3G data roaming certainly aren't that simple, but the fee itself is purely for Amazon's share of 3G data delivery.

Posted on Oct 30, 2010 6:24:56 PM PDT
Mae O. says:
@Nigel Bree: It's not a flat rate. For free books, Amazon applies $2.0 and $2.x for other kinds of novels. I'm not quite sure now 'cause Amazon has changed the way to display their Kindle store pages. No US price on my page now.

Every time I visit the e-reader sites in my country, I always, always spot this issue for those who are in the decision of picking an e-reader. Free Whispernet? Free 3G? Forget it. Amazon includes those fees of 'Free' in every downloads. Big fat lies.

Nook color version is coming. EPub format stores have grown bigger while the 'Amazon' brand has gradually been rotten by their own action. They aren't worthy enough to get loyalty from their beloved customers.

Again, I love my Kindle device. Totally in love with it. But how can I stay with it while I, non-U.S customer, am not truly welcome by Amazon.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 3, 2010 5:38:41 AM PDT
M. Lawson says:
I don't own a kindle although I do have an ipod. I have Kindle for PC installed on my computer and download all my kindle content that way and drag and drop it into itunes when I want to read something. I have never been charged that $2 surcharge and they have my visa on record so theoretically they could.
As far as some books not being available here in New Zealand, I read that this was due to conflicting copyright laws. If a book is sold with a limited copyright on it then that book and its publisher and author are only protected by law within the country the limited copyright applies to. A full copyright protection is much more expensive which is why some books are published with the limited copyright.
I don't by books from here as the postage to New Zealand is a rip off. I buy alot of second hand books from USA but never from here. There is a standard international shipping fee regardless of the supplier having a much lower shipping fee. For example, if I buy book A through Amazon's second hand books and the supplier is Thriftbooks then I am charged $12 US for shipping. Thriftbooks only charges $4 for international shipping. The balance is a tidy profit for Amazon. So I shop directly with Thriftbooks.
Here in New Zealand many of the better literature study books just aren't available, or if they are, they are hugely over priced. For example, Whitcoulls online store is selling this book for:

Writing Fiction: A Guide To Narrative Craft
by Burroway and Stuckey-French
FORMAT: Paperback
ISBN: 9780205750344
ONLINE PRICE
NZ$235.95 (that's about US$181)
Amazon has the exact same book/version etc for US$68.
Purchasing such a book second hand in New Zealand is impossible. I bought the previous version (2007 I think) for US$6 + $4 shipping. All up it was about NZ$16.
My reason for showing this example is that although I can appreciate the unnecessary $2 surcharge I think that standing back and seeing the benefits of being able to source good quality books without having to sell your mother, gives us a better perspective.
My advice is don't complain, get smart, get business smart and shop around for the best deals whilst remaining very aware of how lucky we are to escape the greedy Whitcoulls type businesses.

Posted on Nov 3, 2010 4:37:00 PM PDT
@M. Lawson: The surcharge isn't added onto your credit card afterwards, so you won't notice them charging your visa as you say. It's included on the price of the book *as you see it* on Amazon. That's why there's so much confusion and lack of knowledge that the fee is being charged to people outside the USA.

Hopefully the reports are correct and Australia/New Zealand is now exempt from the fee.

Interesting that you mention real books are expensive to ship - the last lot of books and blu-rays I purchased were sent from an Amazon Warehouse in New Zealand itself. I can't agree with your argument about expensive shipping. Years ago (around 2000-2001) books were prohibitively expensive to ship for Australians, and especially worse if you were buying other non-book products in the same order.

Amazon have come a long way since then, with shipping prices down to reasonable levels, made even better by the current AUD-USD rate.

Posted on Nov 4, 2010 12:23:11 AM PDT
Laura says:
And the, I am looking at a book I can't get BECAUSE I have a USA billing address. If I were to change my "location" to Tokyo then I most likely would be able to download the book.

Posted on Nov 4, 2010 1:23:20 AM PDT
Nigel Bree says:
@Christopher: Although I can't agree with M. Lawson about the irrelevance of the US$2 charge (which he won't see anyway, as it seems to be related to the 3G capability of physical Kindles, and not to the PC application) and his point about its importance is wrong, his characterization of how most NZ retailers charge relative to international prices *is* accurate. Which is why, of course, specialist technical literature was one of the pioneering fields behind on-line stores - years before Amazon was first founded I was an online customer of Computer Literacy in Stevens Creek Boulevard, and why customers of such literature have used such channels for 20 years or more.

By the way, one tool that is very useful for research is the "insert a product link" button on these very forums, which have an interesting quirk: they search the US store, returning ASINs for US-available items, unlike the main Amazon store which uses GeoIP to control search results - the search result panel also shows a price (which would be hidden if you view the item on the main Amazon store and it's regionally unavailable) and I suspect that it's the base U.S. price rather than the adjusted price.

As for the US$2 charge, the critical points remain these:
- that for people who purchased a Kindle, the surcharge was not apparent in online research and Amazon have concealed its existence, thus the element of "bait and switch", which is unethical (and would be illegal if Amazon were incorporated in New Zealand or the EU where the consumer-protection authorities take a dim view of such behaviour).
- that it is unfair to authors and publishers as it's taken by Amazon as a delivery charge even though actual 3G delivery costs are tiny (as I indicated before, wholesale data rates in NZ of US$.01/Mb when the mean size of a book is under a Mb).
- that it is being applied to Wi-Fi-only Kindle users, and not split with authors or publishers even when the price to Amazon is effectively zero for standard Internet delivery.

A more minor point, as a software developer myself, is that it has a serious chilling effect on the viability of the device. I would very much like to develop for it and sell software on Amazon, but since most such download software is priced in the US$2-US$6 range having Amazon add (and then cream for themselves) US$2 off the top of international sales is simply unacceptable - and quite bizarre, when you compare it to not just the iTune or Google stores, but Intel paying US$10,000 to US$25,000 to bring developers on board to their store: see http://appdeveloper.intel.com/en-us/article/faq#Fund_00

[ Amazon's approach to developers is truly wretched - delays of six months or more to even respond to requests to sign up to the beta SDK and download the tools needed to develop apps for the Kindle, even though it's a bog-standard Linux device and using standard Java web publishing techniques. Overall, amongst mobile device platforms Amazon are only to Sony's PSP in terms of *hostility* to third-party developers. ]

Posted on Nov 4, 2010 3:47:06 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Nov 4, 2010 3:48:56 AM PDT
MikeW says:
> (which he won't see anyway, as it seems to be related to the 3G capability of physical Kindles, and not to the PC application)

I have a Kindle which does not have 3G capability. I can assure you that the $2 (+ local taxes) extra charge is NOT related to 3G capability as I have these extra charges for my downloads too. (and I am the person who bought the Kindle so Amazon know which device type I have)

As has been already stated these additions are baked into the price you see when you try to access the "book's" page. You can see the US price on lists of recommended "books" for instance; access the book itself and the price changes.

Posted on Nov 4, 2010 5:49:39 AM PDT
Mae O. says:
M. Lawson : I do mind surcharge and what I mind most is how Amazon treats their customers with ambiguity and lies so far. In Thailand, I can get physical books in better price than Amazon. Book pricing was one factors that led me to be an Amazon customer. You know how much I was frustrated once the prices on my screen change, $2.xx, higher than the time I was a non-Amazon customer!

By the way, I've never buy any physical books from Amazon 'cause I once saw horrible condition of my friend's books due to shipping, plus their outrage fees. Fortunately, there are local bookstores in town offering import services (without shipping charge) so I don't have to suffer from Amazon stuff.

Posted on Nov 4, 2010 9:47:08 AM PDT
I just wanted to add another country to the discussion: Brazil is also charged 2 dollars for books that are free in the US. What bothers me the most, though, is that these books are only free in the US because their copyright is no longer valid - after 70 years a book has been written, it usually turns to public domain (there are some exceptions, of course). The thing is, publishers are not allowed to charge people for the rights of the books anymore, so they should only charge for printed versions, don't you agree? Because then we would be really paying for something that the publishers put some work on. With ebooks, that's not the case - the work has been done a long time ago, by the author, who usually couldn't care less if we are paying for his/her works in digital format, since he/she is... well, dead.

I think we all should send e-mails to the publishers, copying Amazon. Maybe that would bother them a bit. Amazon has limited ways to pressure publishers, we have to put our hands together and push them all at once if we want things to change.

Posted on Nov 4, 2010 10:14:59 AM PDT
MikeW says:
>What bothers me the most, though, is that these books are only free in the US >because their copyright is no longer valid (etc.)

The free books are really not the problem because most of them are available for download *in Kindle Format* from Project Gutenberg (here for the free Spanish language books for instance: http://www.gutenberg.org/browse/languages/es)

Once downloaded to the PC these can be e-mailed to your Kindle device or transfered by USB cable.

The problem is therefore mainly with books for which for the Kindle there is no alternative to buying from Amazon US (and, to repeat, for some of us the total addition over the US price is not just $2 but is $2 plus local taxes on the "price + $2" - a $18 dollar book US for me then becomes 23 dollars; a "free" one $ 2.30)

Posted on Nov 4, 2010 4:26:17 PM PDT
There is a petition to get an answer from Amazon as to why we're paying this extra fee:

http://www.kndl.info/2010/10/the-2-dollar-international-fee/

I've mentioned it before, but it gets lost in this ever-growing thread. :) Be sure to tweet/blog about it also, so more people are aware that they are paying more than U.S. customers.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 5, 2010 6:23:59 AM PDT
You're right. I've just browsed an Amazon page which lists 10 "top free" Kindle books - none of them are free for non-US customers. Some of them cost over 10 dollars for us, and since they're new releases, I doubt we can find them for free elsewhere. This way it's probably better to just buy the printed version - I honestly don't understand why our country makes any difference for buying e-books. Let's just sign that petition and make some noise!

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 5, 2010 8:01:36 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Nov 5, 2010 8:44:41 AM PDT
Liquid Sky says:
I own a kindle and am from the US. I recently traveled out of the US and a message downloaded itself onto my kindle saying that there are international delivery fees as follows: $4.99 a week for a periodical subscription. $.99 per megabyte for personal documents. It is free to download a whole book or a single issue of a periodical. It is also free to use the internet or shopping in the kindle store. There is no charge for transferring things from your computer to the kindle, but I haven't been able to transfer a periodical from my computer to the kindle.

That's what the message told me. It may be different if you are downloading things in your home country. Hope this helps.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 5, 2010 8:06:36 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Nov 5, 2010 8:07:16 AM PDT
Liquid Sky says:
Books that are free in the US have primarily been around long enough to avoid certain copyright infringement laws in the US. Your country may have different copyright laws. I'm not sure, but this could be one major reason for the price difference.

Posted on Nov 5, 2010 8:36:35 AM PDT
Liquid Sky says:
One additional thought: I really don't know why people on this list are being charged more, and haven't read all of them, but a few more things to keep in mind if you are considering purchasing a device for shopping in the U.S.:

If your country charges some sort of tax for this kind of thing, that is worth investigating. There are no taxes for downloading products from any company in the US so I'm not sure how that works.

As for taxes, when shopping in the U.S, all posted prices are BEFORE sales tax. If you go to the United States and shop, the price you see is lower than your final bill because your tax will be added to the final bill. How much tax depends on where you are. I think most countries do it the other way around, with the posted price being the final price. If your country charges a tax for books or downloads, you are not going to see it in the pre-order price on the American website.

Also, it is definitely worth examining the roaming charges for the wireless coverage. For instance, I know that if I make a cell phone call from Canada it is going to be very expensive. There is no way for me to get around this so I just don't do it.

Additionally, the price of books varies from country to country. For instance, the same book is more expensive in Canada than it is in the U.S., especially considering the fact that the Canadian dollar is stronger (but books there cost more Canadian dollars than American dollars). Most American English titles are cheaper in lots of other countries with different book covers, though. This is especially true of text books, generally. Not sure how the price of E-books changes from place-to-place.
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