Saturday, October 10, 2009

Kindle 2 International and actual UK vs U.S. book pricing - Update

UPDATE - Oct 12 - Australia's The Age just copied The Guardian story without checking Amazon's Australia country-info on product page for the International Kindle.
  The Age and other repeating-newspapers claim it's $13.99 for books in Australia and a 40% increase while the product page says $11.99 unless marked otherwise.  Whatever happened to first-level fact checking?
  Meanwhile MediaBistro understandably picked it up and reports that "Jeremy Fisher, executive director of the 3,000-member Society, thinks Australian writers should avoid the Kindle for these pricey reasons."

Main blog entry from Oct. 10
Well, a column by writer Bobbie Johnson that I briefly referenced yesterday for citing an unreasonably-high pricing calculation for the cost of providing a book for UK residents via 'roaming' mechanisms (at the same time that a sibling Guardian-column quoted an Amazon spokesperson saying there would be "no" roaming fees for UK residents in the UK) was updated by Johnson to report that, per a conversation he had with an Amazon rep, Amazon "confirmed" they will be charging a "premium" for UK residents and then he linked us to another column of his that said "International Buyers to be charged 40% more per book" than U.S. customers are - an alarmist column that did anger readers who believed it.

  I bring this up because today Twitter is alive with 'tweets' about other newspapers picking it up, one after the other, and just repeating it as fact.  That's nothing new but it's unnecessary and definitely misleading.

  Ironically, that was an update to a column in which Johnson originally opined that American customers were subsidizing the UK customers' higher costs for Amazon.

  Johnson cited the one UK price of $13.99 despite the Amazon product page for the UK Kindle specifically saying, from the announcement day:
' Free Wireless: ... No monthly fees, service plans, or hunting for Wi-Fi hotspots.  For non-U.S. customers, there are also no additional charges for wireless delivery in or outside your home country...

  Low Book Prices: New York Times® Best Sellers and New Releases are $11.99 to $13.99 (prices include VAT), unless marked otherwise. You'll also find many books for less - over 70,000 titles are priced under $5.99. '
First, Value Added Tax charged by Great Britain is *included* in the book price.  That's not an Amazon premium charge.
  As of January the VAT will be nearly 17% over the cost of the book.
And the base price of the range is $11.99, not $13.99. In the U.S. bestsellers are $9.99 and up.

So, no, it's not generally 40% over the cost in the U.S.  Even at the $13.99 range, U.S. Kindle owners are aware some bestsellers are not selling for only $9.99, too often going for as much as $15  And, again, the int'l pricing includes the government's value-added tax and is not a charge for the book. (Edited per correction by Jim.)

However, the UK will not have the experimental web browser, which some of us value having.  And I guess they won't have it unless or until the wireless-provider pricing is low enough in affected countries to cover the cost of that as Sprint does here in the U.S.   Countries which WILL have the web-browser enabled are Mexico, Hong Kong, and Tokyo.

For added irony, Johnson linked us to another Guardian article, this one by Charles Arthur, who spoke with Amazon's SVP in charge of the Kindle, Stephen Kessel, who reiterated Amazon's policy (I quoted this yesterday) that UK residents won't be paying roaming charges at home nor in the U.S.  This was why Johnson's first focus was that it seemed to him that U.S. residents would be subsidizing UK Kindle users.

  The problem for those in the UK is that they can buy books for now only from the U.S. Amazon store.  This means a possible import/customs fee -- these don't apply to hard-cover books but somehow appear to be in the mix for e-books (which the government can change).  However, those also are not Amazon book charges.  But prospective buyers will need to factor that in.

So, as this 40% added Amazon-charge for UK customers rumor percolates around the globe, maybe some will know it's not true, even if repeated by 50 newpapers and online sites.

  The basic price difference in the bestseller price-range for both U.S. and U.K. is 17% - near the cost of the Value Added Tax charged over there.   And here are additions from knowledgeable people commenting to the article.
"Pricing sounds quite logical, VAT will be 15% or 17.5% from 1 January which does explain part of the price differential vs. a print book. Why is this?
Surely the EU should be promoting E-books from a green perspective and allow no VAT like the paper format?

It would also make sense that from a scale perspective that costs in the other countries will be more than the US where there is a bigger market."
  [ by jimbob70 ]

"On the pricing thing. A lot of it has to do with UK publishers charging higher list price for their ebooks than US publishers.

For example Audrey Niffenegger's new book Her Fearful Symmetry...

US list price $26.99 (approx 17.02)
UK list price 21.84 (approx $34.63) "
  [ by BrianEb ]

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  1. "Even at the $13.99 range (30% over lowest U.S. price), U.S. Kindle owners are aware some bestsellers are not selling for only $9.99."

    Unless I read your post incorrectly, your math is a little off.

    $13.99 - $9.99 = $4.00 higher price.

    $4.00 / $9.99 US price = 40% higher price.

  2. Jim,
    You're right. I was focusing on $9.99 being 71% of $13.99 - offbase.

    I'll change that; however, I hope you are not going along with the faulty assumptions for the basis of the assertion that Amazon would be charging 40% more for books to Int'l Kindle owners. If so, I would almost give up. That's almost wishful thinking of a negative kind.

    - A

  3. Jim,
    As for that sentence, one compares the higher price of the range to the known higher prices of the US Kindle book range. There have been many reports of how many books go above the $9.99 and too often as high as $15. And the LOWER number that matches the $9.99 is *$11.99*.

    Amazon never promises that the U.S. bestsellers will all be $9.99 though.

  4. Andrys, I do agree with you. The VAT is a problem though when comparing prices (US vs. UK) as it appears unavoidable. The VAT, as I understand it, helps pay for a lot of their social services.

  5. Jim,
    True! But I think people there understand that and, unlike that columnist seems to have done, would not be blaming that particular amount on Amazon, which makes enough problems for itself at other times :-)


  6. I'm in the UK and considered getting a Kindle purely because I liked the idea of having newspapers automatically delivered to it. Unless I am reading it wrongly The Times costs $9.99 per month for a US resident but $22.99 per month for a UK resident.
    For this UK resident that is far too much so I cancelled the order for the Kindle

  7. Anonymous,
    As a U.S. customer, I can't see the pricing on the other country pages for individual items. But there was also no range of pricing showing in their UK-info for periodicals.

    What I wrote in the blog article was about the book pricing and the ranges quoted by Amazon.

    With newspapers and magazines, what I see from the material so far is that only *U.S.* customers wirelessly downloading perodicals *when outside the U.S.* must pay $4.99 per week for all periodicals *OR* they can download them to a computer/laptop instead for free.

    There is no added downloading charge for anyone except U.S. customers who are away from the U.S. though.

    However, if you went to the U.K. subscription page (which I can't, without changing my country and giving a false address), my question is this: Is the actual pricing by Amazon showing $22.99? Or did you calculate that in some way?

    It would be ludicrous for The Times to charge UK customers (via Amazon) more for the newspaper than it charges U.S. customers.

    Could you tell me where you got the $22.99 pricing? Is that the actual pricing you see at page? (shorcut link).

    When I go there, they show me only U.S. pricing, which is $9.99. So I'd like to know what they're showing a UK customer there. Thanks.

    - Andrys

  8. Yes, I'm in the UK and if I click the shortcut link you give, I get The Times showing at a price of $22.99.
    I'm not impressed with paying more than twice as much as US resident would to get a UK paper. I've not worked it out but could probably go to the shop and buy it every day for less!

  9. That's terrible!

    I'd feel the same way. I guess it has to do with agreements made for pricing in the U.S.

    Publishers have been complaining about what they consider unfairly low revenue for themselves after Amazon and the wireless provider each get their share (the wireless getting it through Amazon).

    I suppose it -could- be that the wireless costs in Europe are known to be quite a bit higher than the deal Sprint has given Amazon for the U.S. and more expensive than the U.S. wireless in general.

    But if it's too much, that's it.

    I've heard that the iRex, though more expensive, will eventually have newspapers in the normal newspaper layout, so you may like that better; I think most prefer that if it works well on the e-Ink technology. They will have an 8" reader that works with Barnes and Noble here, for $400.

    Good luck with the search. Things seem to be changing very quickly in the E-reader world. I don't know what the subscription charges will be for other ereaders. I do know that the iRex's 10" model is about $900. More on iRex at and a follow-up at

    - Andrys

  10. I received a PDF of the UK pricing page as viewed from the UK by K. Chant. I put that up at kindle-times-uk.pdf

  11. Hi, it's my article you're referencing. And they aren't columns; they're news stories.

    The reason I use the $13.99 figure is because that is the one given to me by Amazon. I asked them what the typical price of a new release was in the US; I asked them the price a British customer would pay for the same title.

    They said $9.99 and $13.99 respectively.

    There may be cases that are outside that, but this is what Amazon said. Blame them if you want.

    And yes, the UK price includes VAT: we usually include VAT in all our sales, rather than show prices excluding sales tax, as in the US. But in this example, that would account for $1.69.

    There's still $2.30 left.

    Yes, I wrote a piece the previous day that suggested American users were helping to subsidise roaming costs for non-American customers. However, as more facts became available, it became clear that this was incorrect. The process was entirely transparent.

    The real point I was trying to make was that:

    (a) Amazon insisted that there was no roaming charge for international customers for using Whispernet
    (b) Yet users in the UK and EU were paying significantly more than the US list price.
    (c) No reasoning was offered for this variation of prices - higher wholesale prices from publishers and so on - meaning that Amazon had basically delivered two contradictory statements with no sufficient explanation of why.

    Fair enough if you don't think that's an issue. I do, for a number of reasons, and I think there's reason for people to be concerned that they're being treated a little unfairly.

    That said, it's worth pointing out that just as I updated the story as I found out more about the pricing structures, I'm happy to update again if it turns out that there are fair reasons for the $4 difference. More information is always good.

  12. Bobbie Johnson,
    First, thanks for coming here to reply to my post.
    I responded to your earlier note today at Next Web -- my reply there was to points you're repeating here, so you may not have seen my earlier response to you.

    Your story/article started well with the Amazon-UK spokesperson saying yes, they are charging higher prices -- since $11.99 (low range of the bestsellers there) IS higher than the U.S. basic starting point of $9.99. No argument from anyone about that.

    You wrote that the Amazon-UK spokesperson told you that operating costs in Europe were higher for Amazon and that VAT-$ are also included in the book pricing. Those are -two- reasons.

    You mentioned the "at $13.99" number after your conversation instead of the $11.99 to $13.99 pricing range publicized.

    You've graciously explained your own understanding. The most basic information of all is the Kindle Int'l product page at Amazon which everyone interested can see -- and the numbers have not changed since the announcement of the int'l Kindle.

    New York Times® Best Sellers and New Releases are $11.99 to $13.99 (prices include VAT), unless marked otherwise. You’ll also find many books for less – over 70,000 titles are priced under $5.99.

    You did say earlier that you didn't mention $11.99 because it "is the low water mark for books in the EU."
    But the same public info at Amazon-US for the UK gives $5.99 as a lower price in Europe for about 70,000 books.

    $9.99 is the lower U.S. price for best sellers, unless otherwise marked (and we pay more too often), so the two lower prices should be compared also or, at least, mentioned.

    The $2.30 you say is left over after VAT-$, are covered, would fall within what you wrote, that Amazon said that they have "higher operating expenses" in Europe.

    Part of the "higher operating expenses" could be wireless costs - not added on top of the cost of a downloaded book as it would be for U.S. customers buying when in the UK.

    Amazon's said that European customers in the U.S. would not be charged extra for downloads when traveling (unlike Americans).

    So, the pricing can be $11.99 - 20% more than $9.99 - or it can be more.

    There are normally different costs for operating out of one's home base, and wireless costs are high enough (as you've pointed out) that no web-browsing is enabled in Europe while it's enabled in Japan, Hong Kong, and Mexico, so far.

    To summarize -- where we've disagreed:
    To make your headline at the higher pricing only, of $13.99, was just not comparing like-amounts. If you had said, "as high as 40%" in the worst cases but 20% at the bottom of the bestseller range, there'd have been no problem.

    At the end of your comment here, you're talking about "the $4 difference" as if it wasn't a $2 difference with some of the books and $4 with others.

    You and I agreed on one thing in particular - comparing oranges to oranges. So the $11.99 portion has to be mentioned vs the $9.99 as well as the higher amount.

    The product page is here, and you click on the pull-down menu to select the country of interest. I chose "United Kingdom" to get the quotes above.

    I do hope you'll update the story with that public info at least -- both the $11.99 pricing and the $5.99.

    I think you got justly angry at what you thought was the pricing, before checking a bit more, and wrote what you felt was an honest story.

    I respect you for addressing the concerns here though! And I realize you have to go with how you feel about all this.

    Thanks again for speaking directly to all of this.

    - Andrys

  13. I'm not saying there aren't other price points, but that Amazon UK (and later US) told me specifically, when I asked for an example of the price differences, that a best-selling title would cost $9.99 in America but would cost $13.99 in the UK.

    I realise other prices may be different (back catalogue titles may be cheaper, some titles may be more expensive) but for the best-selling titles (ergo, the ones that form the majority of people's purchases) this is the pricing example Amazon gave me personally. This may not chime precisely with the wider price structures Amazon had publicly stated (and given that the store was not active at the time, it was impossible to check specific examples) but if I can't use the information that is given to me straight from the horse's mouth, there's something awry.

    And the point still stands: Amazon said there would be no roaming charges for users in foreign countries, but then admitted some of the price discrepancy was due to higher operating costs. That's doublespeak, and that was what I thought they should be held accountable for.

    We did edit the language of the article, on Amazon's request, to try and prevent other outlets who weren't bothering to check their own local situation from using the UK pricing examples we were given. I'd hope that other reporters wouldn't just cut and paste what we'd written without checking local pricing, but clearly sometimes that's too much to ask.

    When the Kindle starts shipping internationally tomorrow, I'll be taking a look to see what the prices actually are. At that point, I'll put together an update: would prefer to do so based on concrete evidence.

  14. Bobbie (you weren't signed in so are showing as 'anonymous' this time)

    You did quote Amazon-UK a lot but didn't actually quote them on the prices, only on their acknowledgement the European pricing was higher...and why it was.

    You're adding here that Amazon US also said only $13.99, but that makes =no sense= since they've asked you to revise some of your info.
    And I did see their own public info that first day.

    The public info for each European country has that $11.99 figure and it's repeated in some bloggers' added-info tables -- $11.99 TO $13.99. That's just the basic thing. It never occurred to us not to include it.

    At least now we know you wrote from what you felt they said to you while their quoted statements in your story didn't refer to those numbers specifically. And your talk was earlier.

    > I realise other prices may be different
    > (back catalogue titles may be cheaper

    We should at least get on the same page that the product pages were -clear- that the pricing is from $11.99 to 13.99 for *bestsellers*.

    Re your ... "once the store was active" -- It was active announcement day. I now know that your phone information was earlier than that then. Best to talk to Amazon-US headqtrs, I imagine.

    > but if I can't use the information that is
    > given to me straight from the horse's mouth, > there's something awry.

    Once the pages were up all you had to do was check to see if there had been changes since your talk. And yet you wrote an angry column about broken promises.

    Roaming charges you're focused on are charged people by the minute.
    You keep alluding to this alleged promise they've broken to you. They have flat book prices that are calculated on operating expenses -including- wireless charges anticipated for Europe and any other factors in any business operating outside its own country.

    > ...then admitted some of the price
    > discrepancy was due to higher operating
    > costs. That's doublespeak, and that was what
    > I thought they should be held accountable for.

    Earlier, you wrote here that VAT accounted for only part of it and where was the rest and didn't mention those higher operating costs.

    "Holding a company "accountable" for higher pricing in another country before checking actual pricing on release day?

    The buying contract is online - and the prices are given to customers there.

    Sorry to be so hard on your story, but you're better than that story. I've enjoyed that Tech column.

    Thanks for letting us know that Amazon requested the article's language be edited to prevent (too late) other outlets who "weren't bothering to check their own local situation"

    All we have is your understanding of an EARLIER phone coversation before the store was up with pricing for pre-ordering.

    > I'd hope that other reporters wouldn't just
    > cut and paste what we'd written without
    > checking local pricing, but clearly sometimes
    > that's too much to ask.

    Glad you'll yourself be re-checking the prices tomorrow for the UK. Newspaper outlets do tend to pick up on other newspapers' stories these days.

    Am looking forward to your release-time look at prices as of tomorrow and your update. You're right that it's better to do it based on concrete data.

    None of this can be easy to do or iRex and Plastic Logic would set up wireless in Europe (their home) before the U.S. But for now, only the U.S. for Spring.

    Check the subscription pricing! That IS far higher. Maybe because of daily-wireless for those. Also, publisher agreements mean the US has e-books UK buyers can't get due to publisher arrangements. Why can't US be 'point of sale' ? More to ponder. :-)


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