Why is buying e-books so fuming hard?

I love my e-reader. I have a kindle, so I can download from quite a few sites. I confess I do not understand why I can’t download books from Amazon UK or DE – but it’s their company, I suppose. My partner in life has just bought a Sony e-reader. It’s a nice piece of equipment. We bought it in the US at a much lower price than it would have been in Australia, but that’s another story. Now all we have to do is buy books to read on said device.

Easy peasy. Ya reckon?

First, we went to the Sony e-book store. Sounds obvious – they’d be able to offer books to read on the Sony reader. It’s franchised out to Borders and Angus and Robertson – which is understandable, I guess. It’s not Sony’s area of expertise. But we were unable to purchase books from there because we don’t live in the US or Canada. Pardon? Why?

Ah well. Back to Google. After a fair bit of googling, I found a site for the books my husband wanted. You beauty, I thought, and proceeded to load my cart with seven titles. Then I set up the account at checkout (as you do). The site couldn’t sell me six of those titles. (Time out for heavy breathing and suppression of swear words). Why?

So then I went to the Sony store’s Australian ‘stores’. I’ll give one example from my husband’s list. David Stone’s ‘The Skorpion Directive’ was not available for purchase as an epub, yet I could have bought it from Diesel if I lived in the ‘right’ country. Why?

We also found that books we could download cost up to a third more from an Australian site than on a US site. Why?

Get your act together, publishers. The world is a smaller place and restrictions like these are nothing short of ludicrous.

Rant over. We will now return to normal programming.


18 thoughts on “Why is buying e-books so fuming hard?

  1. Pingback: Big publishers encourage book piracy | Greta van der Rol

  2. Pingback: I’m back on #Smashwords (want to know why?) | Greta van der Rol

  3. Pingback: Why is Buying Ebooks so Hard In Australia (via @GretavdR) | Literarium – The Blog

  4. Kathryn Scannell

    It may not solve all your problems, but if you’re looking at books that don’t have DRM, and are available to you locally in other e-formats, there’s a free software package called Calibre which will convert from one to another. You’re not stuck with Sony’s distribution channels.

  5. Cameron

    Publishers need to start buying worldwide English-language rights, rather than just North American rights (or whatever country the book is originally being published in). As this post proves, all they’re doing by only purchasing geographically-based rights is hurting their own sales figures. It wasn’t such a big deal with print books (as you could always order a copy from a store in whatever country the book was available in and have it shipped), but with ebooks it’s a big deal. And there’s no reason for it other than the fact that legacy publishers are still stuck in their traditional way of thinking about rights and how publishing works. So they’re getting left behind by the indie publishers and small publishers who can change with the times.

  6. Sudama Chandra Panigrahi

    So sad Greta, as you realized Sony is not a player in the field. I mailed to Barnes and Nobles about availability and use in India. They just say sorry. There is no division of Amazon in India. Sad I don’t buy any E-books. Indians are still in the paperback age. I love my books in the shelf. I read free kindle books in my cellphone and PC. I fear though i don’t know, the 99c books will cost me more if purchase from Amazon us. In India recently an Indigenous company has launched an E-book but not all books are available there. So i’m not going to buy any E-book at this point of time.


  7. Rebecca

    I really don’t get this. Wouldn’t they want to sell to as many customers as they could, no matter where they are? There may be a plot line in here for the future interplanetary exchanges, G.

  8. Steven J Pemberton

    Are those books available in print where you live? Selling goods from one country to another, even virtually, creates all sorts of paperwork and expense over export regulations, taxation and customs duties. If the shop considers the issue at all, they probably think it’s not worth the small extra profit to sell outside their country.

    We’ve been here before, with region coding on DVDs. Remember when the rest of the world got to see a movie six months after the US, if at all?

    It’ll sort itself out – a US shop will spot an opportunity to sell to Australian readers, and Australian ebook shops will have to cut prices and increase choice to stay competitive. (Either that, or they’ll get the government to blacklist the US shop, so your ISPs are obliged to block it…)

    1. Greta van der Rol

      Yes, I can buy those books in print. Where I live? With one tiny bookstore, I’m not sure. You’re probably right – but maybe a bit of ranting will help make the point.

  9. obsidiantears83

    It is quite frustrating if you are a non-American ereader owner. I did a lot of research before I bought my sony reader, and I still research now. It is difficult to find stores that sell to Australians, and when they do, not all their books are available. I’ve created a list on my blog with sites that do lend to Australians: http://bookbitesoz.blogspot.com/2011/02/guide-to-ebooks-in-australia-please-rt.html if you scroll half way down the page you’ll see the listings. I hope this can help you and your husband.

    I am not sure if you know, but libraries now lend ebooks too. I am not sure where in QLD you are situated, but there is a library in Brisbane which has a large catalogue that you may like to join.

    Good luck. I’ll let the others weigh in about why it is so difficult to obtain them. I understand the economic rationale that the publishers espouse, although I don’t agree with it. I think the internet is its own region and there should be no regional borders online.

  10. pattyjansen

    This is why I don’t have an ereader. Tried it with Kindle for PC, but found the territorial rights restrictions just too aggravating. So for the forseeable future I’ll buy all my books at the Book Depository, with Borders having gone the way of the dodo.

  11. K. A. Jordan

    Have you taken a look at Smashwords.com?

    It may not have all the books you are looking for, but there may be a good number.

    The first e-reader in our family was a Sony. However, we are in the USA, so we never had the same issues.

    Best wishes!

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