By Iola Goulton @iolagoulton
Last week was a mess for many authors, as Amazon appeared to remove thousands of Kindle books from the Amazon.com store. Only they didn't—it was just (just!) that international readers couldn't see the Kindle books.
Authors thought their books were missing.
Readers couldn't find the books they wanted to buy.
Then we found the books weren't missing. It's just Amazon had started geoblocking: checking customer IP addresses, and not permitting international customers to buy from the Amazon.com store. Click here to read an excellent blog post from David Gaughran explaining what happened. Or click here to see my screenshots.
But Amazon messed up. Instead of showing the book page and saying the book wasn't available in the customer's region (as is normal practice on Amazon UK), the books simply disappeared.
Yes, the books could be found in the local Amazon store—in my case, Amazon Australia. But switching to the local Amazon store is not a viable option for many of Amazon.coms international customers. It didn't take me long to come up with 13 reasons why. Or why not:
- Existing Kindle Library
- More Variety
- Better Sales
- eBook Gifting
- Gift Cards
- Currency Conversion
- Affiliate Links
- Embed Codes
- Kindle Family
- Audible Subscriptions
- Other Subscriptions
Lets look at each of these in a little more detail.
Existing Kindle LibrarySwitching from Amazon.com to Amazon. com.au means customers run the risk of losing access to their Amazon.com purchases. It shouldn't happen, in theory, but I've heard of people having their entire Kindle purchase history wiped, so anything is possible.
Last time I checked, my Amazon.com purchases didn't show. Now they do. Amazon assures me it's to my benefit to change, but I disagree.
More VarietyAmazon.com has a wider variety of Kindle books available. Well, it did last week. It still does—it's just I can't buy most of them from Amazon.com. I've seen many complaints that customers can't buy specialised books in the Australian store.
Better SalesA lot of sales are only available at the US site, including free downloads.
Note that only US and UK residents can benefit from Kindle Countdown deals, which is annoying. But switching to Amazon Australia won't get me Countdown deals either, so that's a moot point.
ebook GiftingAmazon US allows ebook gifting. The Australian site does not. You can check this in the screenshots above: the US site has a "Give as GIft" button below the buy button. This is missing from the Australian site.
Many authors, influencers, and bloggers (including me) like to be able to gift Kindle books to friends, fans, or contest winners.
Gift CardsAmazon US allows customers to buy and give away gift cards. Authors, influencers, and bloggers often use gift cards as an incentive to get readers to perform some action e.g. comment on a blog post, or write a review (but not an Amazon review, as that would be against Amazon's reviewing guidelines).
GiveawaysAmazon US allows customers to give away books as a promotional tool. Amazon Australia does not offer this feature.
ReviewsCustomers have to spend USD 50 per year on an Amazon site in order to be able to review (something I've previously discussed). If I'm forced to move from the US to the Australian site, the time will soon come when I'm no longer able to review on the US site. Reviews have more visibility on the US site, and book promotion organisations require a minimum number of Amazon US reviews before they'll promote a book. Restricting reviewers will make that target harder to meet.
Currency ConversionMany Amazon customers are also Amazon affiliates or Amazon sellers. It makes sense for them to shop in the same currency they earn in. For most people, this is US dollars, because Amazon.com is the biggest store.
Affiliate EarningsI'm an Amazon affiliate, which means if you click one of my links and buy something on Amazon, they'll pay me a commission of around 4% for referring you as a customer. I don't earn a lot in affiliate income, but what I do earn is paid out as Amazon US gift vouchers. I could get paid direct to my bank account, but the minimum payment is higher and much of it would be taken as fees.
I've also signed up for the Amazon Australia affiliate scheme. It only pays out to Australian bank accounts ... which I don't have, because I'm not Australian. Because Australia and New Zealand are different countries. Like the United States of America and Canada are different countries. It seems Amazon doesn't understand this relatively simple fact of geography.
Embed CodesAmazon offers embed codes so bloggers can embed a sample of a book on their blog post, like this:
Kindle FamilyI don't use Kindle Family, but it is a scheme which allows family members to effectively share a Kindle account. There is a catch: the family has to live together and shop at the same store. So if one family member tries to tell Amazon he or she lives in the US (to be able to access the US store), then the Family is broken and they can no longer share the account.
Audible SubscriptionsAudible (Amazon audiobook) subscriptions are still on Amazon US. Yes, customers can transfer them, but that's an added hassle, and one more place for things to go wrong.
Other SubscriptionsSome Amazon users subscribe to newspapers or magazines through Amazon US. I saw one person complain that when they tried to switch to Amazon Australia, they were warned their subscription would no longer be available.
So there you have it.13 reasons why Amazon.com's international customers will be reluctant to shift to their local store. I'm sure most international customers will be affected by at least one reason—and that's only the impact of shifting as a reader. There are even more reasons for authors.
Yes, there are at least 13 reasons why geoblocking international customers is a bad idea.
Were you affected by Amazon's geoblocking? What was your reaction? Are you planning to stay with the US store, or switch to Australia?
About Iola GoultonIola Goulton is a New Zealand book reviewer, freelance editor, and author, writing contemporary Christian romance with a Kiwi twist. She is a member of the Sisterhood of Unpronounceable Names (Iola is pronounced yo-la, not eye-ola and definitely not Lola).
Iola holds a degree in marketing, has a background in human resource consulting, works as a freelance editor, and has developed the Kick-Start Your Author Platform Marketing Challenge, an email course for authors wanting to establish their online platform.
When she’s not working, Iola is usually reading or writing her next book review. Iola lives in the beautiful Bay of Plenty in New Zealand (not far from Hobbiton) with her husband, two teenagers and one cat. She is currently working on her first novel.