image[3] The Bookseller reports that UK bookseller Waterstone’s has halted all e-book sales to customers outside of the UK in order to comply with territorial restrictions held by publishers.

A letter sent out to customers said: "We regret that as of 20th October 2010, we are no longer able to sell e-books to customers placing an order from anywhere outside of the UK and Ireland. We have had to take this action to comply with the legal demands of publishers regarding the territories into which we can sell e-books."

While I’m disappointed to see territorial restrictions draw a little tighter, I’m kind of surprised that they had been continuing those sales this long; Fictionwise/eReader stopped doing it a couple of years ago.

And shouldn’t they continue to be able to sell the English language books in the rest of Europe given that, as Mike Shatzkin pointed out, UK publishers license European English-language rights for all of Europe now? Perhaps it’s just too much effort for Waterstone’s to audit its catalog to find out which titles have European English rights and which do not.

In a way, this is a good thing, as it brings added attention to the issue of territorial rights. If Europeans are clamoring for English-language titles but cannot buy them, perhaps it will put more pressure on publishers to come up with a solution. There are certainly other avenues by which consumers can acquire these books, which will not earn publishers any royalties at all.