Amazon charging strange International Prices for Kindle Books

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dgaughran

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Hi all,

I'm trying to get to the bottom of Amazon's very strange pricing system for Kindle Books outside of the US/UK & Germany.

I published a book for $0.99, and that's the price people in the US see it at.

I am living in Sweden, so when I look at my book it is $1.16 (because of VAT/sales tax). My friends in Ireland see the same price. So far, so good.

However, when my friend in Poland looks at it (on the US site), it is $3.44. Same for my friend in Hungary. The guy in Hungary has a Kindle the guy in Poland doesn't, so this couldn't be anything to do with a Whispernet surcharge.

Does anyone have an explanation? I don't expect one from Amazon.

Dave
 

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I don't have an explanation, but I've also been puzzled by Amazon's Kindle book prices. I'm in Finland, and I would have to pay $3.44 for your book. I look forward to hearing what others have to say about this.
 

dgaughran

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Between here and another forum, I'm trying to collect a list of what 99 cent books cost in each country that uses the Amazon US store for e-books (i.e. any country outside the UK or the Amazon Germany countries - Germany, Austria, Liechtenstein, Switzerland & Germany).

There are two issues here.

First is VAT (which is charged at 15% all over the EU because they bill from Luxembourg). Amazon seem to add this to some 99 cent books (like mine, or this, or this) - I see a price of $1.16 for all those 99 cent books. But they don't seem to add to other 99 cent books (like this, or this, or this) - I see 99 cent for all those books.

Second is the international surcharge which varies from country to country.

This is the price of my 99 cent book in various European countries (where I have set the price at 99 cent) - this is all I have data for so far.

France, Finland Poland, Hungary - $3.44

Ireland, Sweden - $1.16.

A friend in Hungary has tried emailing Amazon several times to ask about the discrepancy, but always gets a canned response which doesn't answer the question at all.

Anyone get any idea what's going on? Or some more data points to share?

Dave

P.S. None of this applies to books sold through Amazon UK or Amazon Germany, where prices are set by the writer/publisher and already include VAT in that price.
 
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Weird. Where's the $3.44 coming from? I may mention it to the sales rep here who deals with Amazon, but don't hold your breath for a snappy response.
 

dgaughran

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Amazon charge whats called a Whispernet Surcharge in certain countries.

I used to think this only applied if you bought your Kindle in an official Kindle country (UK, US, Germany) then used it elsewhere (France), but it seems to apply whether you own a Kindle or not, depending on which country you are purchasing in.

If anyone asks Amazon, they fob them off with a canned response saying "operating costs vary from country to country", but I can't imagine their costs are higher in Poland or Hungary than in Sweden, that's just crazy.
 

dgaughran

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Another canned response a friend got claimed it was something to do with roaming rates (for the SIM in the Kindle), and that they hadn't got agreements in all countries for cheap roaming yet - hence the variance.

That would make sense, if these price differences were only showing to Kindle owners, but they are not - my friend in Poland doesn't have a Kindle and he sees the $3.44 price.
 

dgaughran

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Spain is another with the $3.44 price for $0.99 books.

It breaks down like this.

Amazon charge a $2 Whispernet Surcharge in some international countries. That gets added to the $0.99 price tag, then 15% VAT gets added to the whole lot.

($0.99+$2)*1.15 = $3.4385 = $3.44

But why is it some countries and not others?

Why is it some books and not others?

Bob Mayer has two 99 cent books that are priced differently when I view them. Atlantis is $1.16, yet Eyes of The Hammer is $0.99. In the listing Amazon claim that both include VAT, yet this could not be the case.
 

dgaughran

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Netherlands as well? Sheesh. They love English books.

Well I sent a long letter off to Amazon, it will be interesting to see what they say.

I have since found out that this charge used to apply to Ireland and Australia (and possibly Canada), but was removed.

Maybe some customer pressure could do the same for the rest of Europe.
 

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Dave, this is what I see for your book:

Kindle Price: $3.44 includes VAT & free international wireless delivery via Amazon Whispernet
I get the same message for the other $3.44 books you linked to plus Not What She Seems. The other two are $0.99, like you say.

I'm in Portugal, btw.
 

dgaughran

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Ok thanks for that Sara (I love Portugal btw I am going on holidays to Nazare at the end of the summer - can't wait).

The list for the "surcharge" countries I have so far is:

France, Spain, Portugal, Netherlands, Hungary, Poland, and Finland.

Quite a chunk of the European market.
 

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So the $2 surcharge is being described as "Free international wireless delivery"? That doesn't sound free at all. In fact it almost sounds like it costs $2.
 
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Interesting: Amazon.co.uk had supersaver free shipping in the UK, but not to the Netherlands. However, they must've realized they're competing against Bol.com, the Dutch version of Amazon. So they introduced supersaver free shipping to the Netherlands, right after my fourth Amazon order that year.

I sent them an email that I was 'miffed' by not announcing that the Free Shipping was in the making, or I would've waited with my orders. Without questioning, they refunded the shipping costs of my last four orders.

Now, especially since the Dutch read a lot of English books, it stands to reason that they eliminate the surcharge. I don't mind paying 1.16 for a 0.99 download, but I'll be buggered if I pay a 2 dollar surcharge while an international download isn't more expensive than a national one.

By the way, check this link: http://www.amazon.de/dp/B004YTI01Y/ Your book is 99 eurocents if downloaded from the German Amazon site... However, "Bei Amazon.de sind keine Kindle-Titel für Ihr Land erhältlich.
Kindle-Bücher finden Sie bei Amazon.com." I'm forced to buy your book through .com, because .de is not allowed to sell books to my country.
 
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Could the differences be down to taxes? Different countries have different tax laws; it could explain the variation, but I am just guessing here.
 

dgaughran

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It's not taxes.

Amazon trade out of Luxembourg, so 15% VAT is applied to all sales within the EU.

There appears to be a $2 surcharge, which at various times Amazon have called a "delivery charge" (a bit rich for an e-book), and a "Whispernet surcharge".

Some readers have emailed for an explanation, but they always get palmed off with a canned response.

Usually it's either "operational costs vary from country-to-country", or "each country has it's own tax system which affects pricing", or "we haven't made deals with carriers in all countries yet which allow us to deliver books to your Kindle cheaply as you are not in an official Kindle country".

But all of these are bogus. Tax is only 15%. There are no real operational cost differences between someone downloading an e-book in Ireland and Poland, and they charge this surcharge whether you are downloading through your Kindle or not, or whether you even own a Kindle or not.

Dave
 

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I saw something somewhere (unfortunately, I can't remember where) that said the surcharge was to cover storage and download costs on third-party servers. Which might or might not be the truth, and sounds like a steep charge for the service, even if there is a legitimate third-party service charge.
 

dgaughran

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I don't know enough about servers to say if that's true or not, but I can't imagine there are significant cost differences to Amazon for someone downloading a 300 Kb file whether they are in New York or Paris - especially if they don't own a Kindle and they are downloading through their computer.
 

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You know, geez, Amazon: just host them on your own massive array of servers. It's not like people in Poland can't connect to them and it's not like having to reach over to a server in the USA to download a tiny little ebook will be a significant speed bump.
 

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It can't be an EU thing either, since it's 2.99 in Norway as well.
 

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Could it be a 'let's retard growth of the ebook market in this territory until we have officially launched Kindle there' charge?
 

dgaughran

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Thanks for the additional info guys - I'll add Norway and Thailand to the list.

@Torgo - Could be. But how much sales are they missing out on by doing this? And, given the pace of the international roll-out so far, how long will that take? Finally, wouldn't such a strategy leave a wide gaping hole for Apple (if they cared about selling books other than to p*ss off Amazon) or Kobo (who are making a big play in Europe this summer) to exploit?
 

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Thanks for the additional info guys - I'll add Norway and Thailand to the list.

@Torgo - Could be. But how much sales are they missing out on by doing this? And, given the pace of the international roll-out so far, how long will that take? Finally, wouldn't such a strategy leave a wide gaping hole for Apple (if they cared about selling books other than to p*ss off Amazon) or Kobo (who are making a big play in Europe this summer) to exploit?

Yes even as I typed it I was kind of unsure what I meant there. They're surely protecting something, I simply don't buy that it's a charge that they have to levy in order to cover costs. (Why would it be the same in all those different territories? Norway, Thailand... Unless it's being amortized out over all of them...?)
 

dgaughran

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Yes even as I typed it I was kind of unsure what I meant there. They're surely protecting something, I simply don't buy that it's a charge that they have to levy in order to cover costs. (Why would it be the same in all those different territories? Norway, Thailand... Unless it's being amortized out over all of them...?)

I don't know about the UK, but they had this charge before in Ireland and Australia (and maybe Canada), but got rid of it.

I would love to know if customer or publisher pressure was behind that.

Obviously, this is an issue affecting all writers and publishers who sell e-books internationally, as well as readers in those countries.

I'm still waiting on a response from Amazon. I'm not holding my breath.
 
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