Amazon.Oz – what does it all mean?

picture of kindle and glassesSo now, it seems, we in Australia slash New Zealand have our very own slice of the Amazon pie – Amazon.com.au. We’ve arrived! We’ve been recognised! Or have we?

Amazon has made it a habit to divvy up the globe. There’s an Amazon for the US, UK, Germany, France, Canada, Brazil, Japan and India (at least). A lot of people wondered why there wasn’t an Amazon.au. I always thought it was pretty obvious – we might live in a huge country, roughly equivalent in area to mainland USA, but there’s only 22 million of us. That’s a pretty small market by world standards. So why bother? And what effect will it have on us as customers and authors?

For customers

  • Prices are shown in Australian currency. I’m not sure at this point whether the price will fluctuate with the exchange rate. If it does, what’s the point?
  • Items of interest to Australian purchasers are listed. I’ve only looked at books, and seen offerings from Tim Winton (no, not Tom Winton), Judy Nunn, autobiographies for Wendell Sailor and Ricky Ponting (rugby player, and ex-cricket captain for those who didn’t instantly recognise the names) and no doubt other items specifically targeting an Australian market.
  • I would hope that delivery costs for printed books would drop but that’s not clear because print books aren’t offered. One hopes that will be qualified with ‘yet’. It should be a no-brainer because the Book Depository delivers free to Australia, which suggests it must have some of distribution arrangement in place. And Amazon owns the Book Depository.
  • You get to pay GST. Quote from The Australian: “In an interesting anomaly, Amazon has confirmed to The Australian that consumers who buy books in the local store will pay GST, which they do not pay when buying from foreign online stores.”

For authors

  • All my kindle books now appear on the Oz site.
  • However, no reviews were transferred. Updated. The reviews from other sites now appear.
  • Print books are not listed
  • There’s no Author Central so author biographies etc are not shown

For Amazon

  • For each slice of the market Amazon sets what percentage of royalties it pays. Standard is 70% – but if you want to be paid 70% from sales made on some sites, like India, you only get 70% if you make your book exclusive to Amazon. Locked in. For many people this is probably not a problem because they make most of their sales via Amazon. But other small time authors prefer to spread themselves across the market place for two reasons (a) a form of advertising – get your name out over more than one platform (b) an aversion to Amazon’s monopoly
  • Amazon gets to target its offerings – which is not necessarily a bad thing.
  • Amazon pays royalties by site. So you have to earn $10 per subsidiary before they pay you. This is a whole lot better than the $100 it used to be, but even so, I fail to see why the money can’t accumulate over a month, for all subsidiaries
  • Amazon hangs onto the money longer, thereby earning interest which ought to be yours

I can’t help but feel this is another Amazon move in its Grand Plan to take over the world. I’m not altogether complaining. The changes that have happened in publishing are, for the most part, good and Amazon deserves credit for much of it. But I don’t like monopolies. But then we already have a cartel, or an oligarchy, controlling the publishing industry. The Big Five/Six don’t like Amazon, either.

On a slightly different subject, but still relating to Australian authors,

I’m glad to see that Amazon’s powers that be have finally grabbed a brain and made life easier for its international authors in obscure backwaters like Australia.

  • We can now have money paid directly into an Australian bank account. This is a good thing. Before, we’d get a cheque posted – and in the true spirit of usury, the bank charged $10 per cheque for translating $US to $AU, so that has to be good.
  • BUT we can now publish from Australia, which means we no longer need to mess about with getting an American ITIN (Individual Taxpayer Identification Number) or an EIN (Employer Identification Number) to get out of paying the standard 30% US withholding tax. UPDATED: This is not true. We DO still have to get an ITIN or EIN, or pay 30% withholding tax. Details about publishing through the Australian site here. It’s not an easy business getting an ITIN via the US bureaucracy. I’ve tried, spending $80 on a certified copy of my passport, filling in the form and checking til my eyes bled, to eventually get a letter back saying I hadn’t replied to a request for information, which I never received. Never mind. I didn’t take it personally – it’s happened to plenty of other people.

Will having an Amazon Australia make a difference to me?

Not as a customer (I’ll continue to buy from the US kindle store, where I don’t pay GST). Updated. Also not true. I can do longer buy on Amazon US. So really, it’s simply going to cost me money.

Whether it makes a difference to Amazon remains to be seen.

5 thoughts on “Amazon.Oz – what does it all mean?

  1. Nhys Glover

    I query your statement about reviews moving across from .com. My aussie reviews haven’t moved across to .au so I have to start again building them up. Its frustrating that the different shops keep reviews separately.

    1. Greta Post author

      The reviews don’t move across – but you can read them all from the Australian site. I agree, it is frustrating.

  2. Curious

    Regarding

    > BUT we can now publish from Australia, which means we no longer need to mess about with getting an American ITIN (Individual Taxpayer Identification Number) or an EIN (Employer Identification Number) to get out of paying the standard 30% US withholding tax. Details about publishing through the Australian site here.

    Are you 100% sure of this? I’ve been digging around but haven’t found any confirmation yet, but it seems that the US/Non-US split has always existed for people from all countries, which I would presume includes places which already had localised Amazon stores.

    1. Greta Post author

      You’re right – you still need an ITIN or an EIN. I’ve updated the post. Thanks for pointing out the error.

  3. Jeremy

    Thanks for the info! One question: when you say we (as Aussies) can now get paid directly into our bank account, do you mean just for our Australian sales, or for global sales? I too have been riding the whole foreign cheque merry go round, and it would be a godsend to get off it. Cheers

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