Why are Kindle books more expensive in Thailand than the US?

Why are Kindle books more expensive in Thailand than the US?

I have been using my Kindle a lot the last month or so to read books. It is my “Best gadget buy of the year”. I like the convenience of reading on an e-reader and downloading as and when I want a new book. The prices haven’t been too bad. There are often special sales for Kindle books and I have been reading many of these lately.  But then, last night I went to buy a new Kindle book called “Muay Thai Fighter” by Paul Garrigan and had a shock.

The price at Amazon.com was $7.50 which is not a bad price compared to the paperback version which is listed as $12.80. And  of course I am saving on shipping costs. I went to click on “buy” and to my surprise I was told that there was a a problem with my “listed country”. The last shipping address that I used was in the US and obviously they saw from my ip address that I am in Thailand. I changed my listed country to Thailand. It was then that I spotted that the price of the book jumped to $9.50!

Now, this seemed strange as there are no shipping costs involvded. The reason that I bought a Kindle was so that I could get the latest books from amazon.com without paying for shipping. Then I thought that maybe taxes were different in the two countries. So, I tried another book at random. This one by Jack Needham. Here the prices were the same for the US and Thailand. I tried again for some books in the bestseller list. Some were the same others were more expensive if your ip address is in Thailand.

I contacted the publishers, Maverick House, via their twitter account. This is what they replied to my tweet:

  • @maverick_house: I’m pretty sure it’s taxes or Vat. We’ve no control over this.
  • @maverick_house: I’ll double check all of this but I suspect this is taxes.

I wasn’t convinced as some books in the US were the same price for people who lived in Thailand. Also, when it wasn’t the same, the price differences were never consistent, so its doubtful its taxes. So, I decided to contact Amazon customer support to see who sets these prices. This is what they told me:

  • Me: Why do prices vary in the Kindle bookstore for the same books?
  • Amazon: Content is available based on the country and the prices also vary. This is set by the books’ publishers, not Amazon.com
  • Me: Is it anything to do with VAT or tax being different in the two countries?
  • Amazon: Not at all, this is simply the publishers cost, it varies between countries.

So, according to Amazon.com, it is Maverick House who decided to set the Kindle price at $7.50 if your ip address shows that you are in the US and $9.50 if it shows that your ip address is in Thailand. It doesn’t matter if you are an American abroad or not.

UPDATE 31st August – I’ve now had the following reply from Maverick House via Twitter:

Hi Richard, we price books all the same in every country. It’s some sort of tax which is being applied. We would never charge people who live in Thailand extra for ebooks. We are big into customer service and loyalty

After I re-tweeted their reply, I then got a tweet saying that the extra $2 cost was a “whispernet surcharge” charged by Amazon for downloading ebooks in certain countries outside of America. As Thailand doesn’t officially sell Kindles yet, we are apparently subject to this “tax”. From what I understand, the tax is to cover the cost of the “free 3G download” but it doesn’t matter if you download on your PC or Kindle. It’s still there. Check out this blog for some background information on this scam being run by Amazon. Also check out some of the comments down below from people who are not exactly happy about this practice.

I know $2 may not seem like a lot of money to some people, but to authors and publishers who are trying to be competitive, to have their books $2 more expensive in certain countries is a significant factor. After all, they don’t get any benefit from the high price as Amazon pockets that $2. If you are an author, you might want to consider either selling on your own website or on Smashwords.

22 thoughts on “Why are Kindle books more expensive in Thailand than the US?

  1. Publisher controls all prices on Kindles, but that doesn’t mean they make the same profit, as there are country issues, and some countries do collect tax. However, the price offered to the customer is set by the publisher. Most pricing differences are the publisher trying to make the same profit per sale in a given market. Sometimes there is mistake, though.

  2. Hi Richard, I’m just happy that you would consider buying the book 🙂

    Seriously though, this does annoy me. I have no say in how the publisher prices the book, but it makes no sense to me that people should have to pay more because they live in Thailand.

    1. I’m waiting to hear back from Maverick on this matter. It doesn’t bother me too much. I’m more curious than anything to know why it is like this for a digital product. I am pretty sure its not tax as Jake Needham’s books are the same whether you are in US or Thailand. Anyway, Amazon has marked my account as “travelling abroad” and I’m allowed to buy 5 books at US prices. So, I have just bought the Kindle version of your book for $7.50

  3. It has nothing to do with the publisher. Amazon automatically tacks $2 on to the sale price set by the author or publisher whenever the kindle device is outside of the store’s market (eg, outside of the US & Canada if buying from Amazon.com). The publisher or author has not control over this, and in fact if the publisher has opted for a 70% royalty structure, Amazon will actually knock that back to 35% and charge a delivery fee based on the file size, so they get even less despite the higher price.

    Amazon is ripping off both readers and authors, but few people know about this unless, like me, you publish directly through Amazon. They’ve never publicly acknowledged they’re doing this, and lots of publishers don’t know about it, but it is well-known in the publishing community.

    1. Thanks Michael for your insight. However, it doesn’t explain how Jake Needham sells his books for the same price in US and Thailand. Same with other books too. Plus, when there is a price difference, it is not consistent.

  4. Since Amazon won’t publicly acknowledge that they do this, it’s hard to explain what’s going on with any certainty. It may have to do with the royalty tier of the books. If the publisher chooses the 35% tier across the board, then maybe Amazon doesn’t raise the price. Or maybe it has to do with popularity. If you’re a ‘name’ author like Jake, with an established sales record, maybe they don’t think they can get away with charging more.

    I wish Amazon would be more forthcoming about this policy so that those of us trying to sell ebooks could make informed decisions.

    1. Thanks again Michael for your insights. Maverick, the publishers for this book, have promised to looked into this. I’m not blaming anyone here. I have an open mind and just want to know what is going on and what the reason is for these different prices. The digital revolution was supposed to give us a smaller world. But this kind of practice will just put us back.

  5. I just had an email from Amazon customer service clarifying some of the points that I brought up during the live chat this afternoon:

    “I’m sorry you had trouble buying Muay Thai Fighter by Paul Garrigan, listed at $7.40 in Thailand, from the Kindle Store. Pricing of titles from the Kindle Store varies by your country or region due to differences in digital list prices, local market segment prices, and tax rates.”

    You might notice that the part “tax rates” contradicts what I was told earlier.

    I also just had this tweet from the publishers on this issue:

    “I’ll double check this now. If its an error on our side I’ll gladly apologize.”

  6. Richard, did you know that Amazon also pays authors a much lower royalty if one of our books is purchased in ‘certain countries’ (35% instead of 70%)? First they charge the buyer more (because of “taxes and other expenses” they insisted to me when I complained once on behalf of a book buyer who had complained to me), then they pay the author less. Sounds a little like a scam, doesn’t it?

  7. Reading the thread (so far) with comments from publishers and authors it is a little easier to see why some publishers were keen to embrace the less-controlled iBookstore. Not that the US DoJ sees it like that: they would rather support the Amazon monopoly.

  8. I have updated the blog above with replies from Maverick who tell me that they release the book at the same price worldwide. Which means it is Amazon changing the price depending on which country you are downloading from. I have now found out that it is a “whispernet surcharge” of $2. It doesn’t matter if you download on your PC or Kindle via 3G.

    Now, I bought a WiFi Kindle as it is cheaper than the 3G Kindle. The latter model advertises free 3G downloading of books worldwide. I don’t need that as I can download in my own WiFi network or by using WiFi at a hotel. In some ways a “whispernet surcharge” does make sense to offset the cost Amazon must have to pay to local carriers worldwide. BUT, they advertise this as a FREE service. This is what they say when you go to click “buy” for a book:

    “Kindle Price: $9.50 includes free international wireless delivery via Amazon Whispernet”

    If it’s free wireless delivery, then why add the $2 “whispernet surcharge”?

    The same book has this when your country setting is the US:

    “Kindle Price: $7.50 includes free wireless delivery via Amazon Whispernet”

  9. Hi Richard,
    Thanks very much of your post, I was also wondering why some kindle book’s price is higher than paperback version, and I found out it’s because my region sells higher than U.S.
    I am also very unhappy about this 😀

  10. I posed this same question in a Google+ writing forum. Sorry, the resulting link back to why was three weeks ago. But the jist of it is Amazon for no other reason than more profit sells ebooks more expensive overseas. At least they stopped charging for free ebook promotions…

  11. I don’t mean to put a dampener on your parade, but why should Amazon pay for the 3G/whispernet service? It is a business not a charity.

  12. “This is set by the books’ publishers, not Amazon.com”

    Total lie. I’m the publisher of my own book and Amazon charges people in some countries (like the one I come from) three times as much as it does those in the US and possibly other countries with local Amazon sites.

    As soon as I learnt this I removed my book from Kindle Select and looked for an alternative. So far Smashwords is looking good.

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