The Writer’s Guide to E-Publishing has a piece by an indie publisher, looking at Amazon’s 99-cent e-book pricing, and explaining to writers who price their e-books that way how far from universally available that pricing actually is. It starts by reminding readers that the Kindle Fire is only available in the US (as with every Nook B&N sells), and outside of North America even the old black and white Kindle is only available in Britain, France, and Germany.
In many parts of the world that don’t have hardware Kindles yet, the Kindle app is still available—but that 99 cent e-book can cost considerably more. Belgium and Italy have a 15-cent VAT (Value Added Tax) that applies to e-books but not print books—and they also have a $2 surcharge applied by Amazon.
We discussed this surcharge in July. It seems to be a flat fee that applies to any e-book purchase, whether it’s 99 cents or $19.99. Author David Gaughran wrote on his blog that some of his readers who emailed about it have been told Amazon has higher operating costs in some countries—though this doesn’t make a lot of sense given that it’s just as easy to download an e-book to Italy as it is to someone in the US. He suspects that it’s actually being used to bankroll the free-3G Whispernet that is available to owners of the higher-end Kindle.
The Writer’s Guide article also points out that some parts of the world—such as West Africa, where the writer of the piece lives—can’t download e-books at all. (Which means he can’t buy his own e-book from Amazon.)
Across Africa there are 350 million English-speaking people. But part from some limited access in South Africa, Amazon blocks downloads to the rest. Add in all the English as a Second Language readers on the continent and the number of people who can’t buy your books is humungous! And that’s just in Africa. The same block applies in English-speaking countries in Asia like Singapore, as but one example.
Then he discusses a case where Amazon arbitrarily removed one of his e-books from sale without explanation, and subsequently lost over 240 reviews for the novel including over 130 five-star ratings. More recently, the book vanished from Amazon UK for almost three weeks so far, and Amazon has explained that though the problem was on its end, it would not be reimbursing him for lost sales.
By coincidence the latest KDP newsletter announced that only thirty indie sellers had managed 100,000 sales.
We’re one of them. In fact we achieved that figure with just one title.
That same title is now unavailable not only in half the world where Amazon blocks downloads, but also is unavailable in the UK. Bizarrely it’s fine on am.com, but UK buyers cannot buy from am.com. As we enter the busiest sales period for ebooks, one of Amazon’s biggest selling indie books cannot be bought on Kindle UK.
He concludes that Amazon might be a great place to sell e-books, but it can’t necessarily be relied on to keep those e-books available even in the parts of the world where it doesn’t expressly block them from sale.