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.