By Siobhan O’Leary and Edward Nawotka
It’s finally here! Following months of speculation, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos has announced that Amazon will start shipping the Kindle outside of the USA. The GSM-enabled e-readers will be available in hundreds of other countries starting on October 19th, reports the Boersenblatt. (and virtually every other news outlet). The advertised price is $279, and which is about 190 Euros, according to the current exchange rate. The device will offer some 200,000 English-language books available for download on launch, as well as newspapers from around the world. Of course, not all is as straightforward as it seems. The world wide GSM wireless service that powers the Kindle will be provided by AT&T, which does not serve Canada (where the device will not be available). Shipping will cost buyers a bundle (adding as much as 20% to the price of the device), and buyers abroad will find books have a $1.99 surcharge added to the price to accommodate the international wireless delivery. Also, two of the biggest publishers in the world, Random House and Macmillan, are holding out and not allowing Amazon to sell their titles abroad at this time.
While all this is exciting news for book consumers overseas, it also creates some very thorny issues with regard to international rights, as Michael Cader points out on Publishers Marketplace. He quotes an interview with Wired magazine in which Amazon chief Jeff Bezos says Amazon will “pay royalties depending on the territory of purchase” (so if a customer purchases from the UK, regardless of where they live, the UK publisher is credited with the sale).” Then there’s potential price disparities between, for example, the US and UK, for specific titles, and royalties, which are still being negotiated.
Once again, it appears that publishers are going to be pushed into the future whether they like it or not. Of course, Amazon has a huge impetus to go ahead with their global Kindle without working out all the fine print: Bezos told Wired today that Kindle sales account for 48% of sales for titles that are both available as ebooks and print. Meanwhile, Forrester -– a media consultancy that has made some wild predictions with regard to ebooks -– claims that US customers alone will have bought three million e-readers by the end of the year (of which they say 65% will be Kindles) and double that in 2010.
But we agree that once publishers overseas call their attorneys, the trouble will really start. After all, nearly all of Europe is unified in their opposition against the Google Book Settlement. We can’t see them giving in to Amazon for the sake of convenience. In the future, we predict –- wait for it –- there will be talk of an Amazon Book Settlement. Just remember that you heard it here first.