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Amazon Hobbles Features For International Kindle 166

Posted by timothy
from the someone-call-me-when-the-sinister-starts dept.
Barence writes "Amazon has stripped several key features out of the international edition of the Kindle, PC Pro has discovered. Newspapers and magazines are delivered without any photos, and the web browser has been disabled, presumably because Amazon doesn't want to foot the data bill. There's also a 40% premium on books bought via the Amazon store. 'International customers do pay a higher price for their books than US customers due to higher operating costs outside of the US,' an Amazon spokesperson confessed."
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Amazon Hobbles Features For International Kindle

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  • by radish (98371) on Thursday October 22, 2009 @01:04PM (#29838007) Homepage

    1) The browser is not a "key feature" - it's barely useable and not an advertised/supported feature anyway.
    2) Calling the Amazon explanation a "confession" seems a little biased...sounds quite reasonable to me to charge more if their costs are higher.

    • by blowdart (31458) on Thursday October 22, 2009 @01:12PM (#29838115) Homepage
      OK what costs? Scanning/turning into an e-book? I'd bet that the vast majority of the offered titles are the same as they offer in the US, and processed/made in the US (or wherever it gets outsourced to) - so there's no extra cost there? Hosting could be an additional cost, Amazon do have a data centre in Dublin, London and Frankfurt, but bandwidth isn't that much more expensive here. Tax? Well perhaps, although books tend not to be taxed in the UK - who knows how ebooks will be treated though. Or it's the typical US move of take the dollar price and convert it to pounds or euros by changing the currency symbol.
      • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohnNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Thursday October 22, 2009 @01:24PM (#29838285) Journal

        OK what costs? Scanning/turning into an e-book?

        I think distributions rights get really complicated across regions and countries. If someone owns the rights to digital distributions or all distributions of a work, Amazon's probably got to pay them a premium for their market. Just look at DVDs, I can't even by "Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence [wikipedia.org]" in the states. I would imagine selection would be vastly hobbled for several reasons across different countries. And let's not forget Germany's regulation of book prices [slashdot.org] "in an effort to protect authors, publishers, and small booksellers." There could be a lot of factors at work here--most of which are specific to a single country.

        • by MightyMartian (840721) on Thursday October 22, 2009 @01:31PM (#29838359) Journal

          It's amazing they let you cross borders with books in your possession. "I'm sorry, senior, but your copy of HP Lovecraft's Best is still under copyright in our country, we will have to seize it, fine you ten million pesos. As well, we see this is the third time you have tried to cross the border in such a fashion. Last time it was Shakespeare's Portfolio, which we explained to you was owned by Sony Bono's widow, and before that it was Homer's Iliad, which the Walt Disney Corporation has filed ownership for. Since this is your third violation, you will no longer be permitted to read books. Please lean back while I gouge your eyes out.,,"

          What a moronic and ludicrous world IP law has created.

          • by amicusNYCL (1538833) on Thursday October 22, 2009 @01:37PM (#29838449)

            What a moronic and ludicrous world IP law has created.

            IP law didn't create the world you're describing, you did.

            • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

              by Again (1351325)

              What a moronic and ludicrous world IP law has created.

              IP law didn't create the world you're describing, you did.

              In fact, you own it! And now if I wanted to create a similar story you could sue me. Wow, this is cool!

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by MankyD (567984)
            It's not IP Law. It's marketing and, as frustrating as the end result is, it is completely reasonable in the bigger picture. If a product maker wants to sell their product for different prices in different places, then by all means, go for it. Furthermore, if an product maker needs to translate or in some other way localize their product for international markets, then that adds costs. There's nothing inherently wrong with adjusting your product for the market your selling in.
            • by maillemaker (924053) on Thursday October 22, 2009 @02:39PM (#29839165)

              [b]There's nothing inherently wrong with adjusting your product for the market your selling in.[/b]

              Then there should be nothing inherently wrong with me buying a product in any market available to me to buy from.

            • by sjames (1099)

              Fine and dandy, if they want to localize the product, but the interlocking laws and technical measures to enforce regionalized sales is over the top. There's nothing inherently wrong with adjusting the product for different markets, but there's nothing wrong with people going to those other markets to get a better deal either (but there can be legal trouble thanks to bought off legislators).

              • by st0nes (1120305)

                Fine and dandy, if they want to localize the product

                Except that they don't. They're too lazy even to provide a 220v power supply for jurisdictions which use 220v, anyone who is fool enough to buy one is expected to provide their own adapter.

            • But there's something inherently wrong in a consumer seeking out the cheapest price?

          • The laws governing sale of a good in a jurisdiction are generally different from the laws regarding possession of that good. How is this moronic and ludicrous?

        • by Malc (1751)

          So if I'm in the UK, why won't they let me buy content for the Kindle from the US? That's right, because they want to charge higher prices.

          I spent five months in Australia earlier this year. The book market there is out of control, and I ended buying from Amazon.co.uk because it was cheaper to have them shipped from the other side of the planet. For example, the Lonely Planet guide to New Zealand was $45 in Australia. It cost me $37, include $15-20 shipping to get it from the UK. That's disgusting. Am

        • by mrboyd (1211932)
          Strangely amazon has absolutely zero issue shipping hardcopy book to Europe when I buy from the US store.
      • by yamfry (1533879) on Thursday October 22, 2009 @01:29PM (#29838343)
        There may be a significant cost in converting from Letter size to A4.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by b0bby (201198)

        Tax? Well perhaps, although books tend not to be taxed in the UK - who knows how ebooks will be treated though.

        TFA says that EU taxes on ebooks are higher than paper books; if it's like most other VAT that's 20% right there, your $10 book becomes $12.

        • by MobyDisk (75490)

          Pardon me for being horribly American here, but... there the EU has a a tax on books? Why?
          (Yes, I know I pay taxes on books indirectly via sales taxes)

          • Pardon me for being horribly American here, but... there the EU has a a tax on books?
            The EU has a tax on almost all products sold called VAT. It's similar to a sales tax though the details differ.

            VAT rates are allowed to vary across the EU within certain limits and some product categories in some countries attract rates lower than the standard rate for that country.

            Books generally get a reduced or sometimes even zero rate but this then requires a definition of what counts as a book. IIRC the rules on that v

          • by MooUK (905450)

            In the UK, hard copy books are exempt from VAT (sales tax). As I understand it, ebooks are not exempt. That's an immediate 15% (normally 17.5%, but we had a temporary cut for some obscure reason) on top of the price.

            • by MobyDisk (75490)

              Ahh, okay, that makes sense. It sounded like ebooks had a specific tax on them or something strange like that.

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by Eivind (15695)
            The EU isn't a country. Different nations have different taxes. Some require VAT to be paid on books, and others don't. (here in Norway, there's no VAT on books, nor any other tax)
        • by Malc (1751)

          Don't you remember the story a year or two ago about people importing real books from the UK in to the US, because they are cheaper in the UK (especially for university books).

      • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 22, 2009 @02:01PM (#29838705)

        OK what costs? Scanning/turning into an e-book?

        Dude! Have you ever tried turning an English book into Engrish?

        Oh, they already speak English? Hrm, well, I guess then they'd have to create a "Ministry of Funny Spellings and Pronunciations" for words like 'color' and 'schedule.'

        No? Ok, I'll leave.

      • It's the cost of the cell phone network. Obviously they couldn't get a cheap data plan in Europe so they have to disable things that use bandwidth and charge more for the necessary parts. There's no mystery here, there's no book tax, it's not the cost of converting from anything. It's just European cell phone companies rip off Amazon just because they can.
      • by clickety6 (141178)

        OK what costs? Scanning/turning into an e-book? I'd bet that the vast majority of the offered titles are the same as they offer in the US

        All those extra U's in the UK English version don't come for free you know!

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by chadenright (1344231)
      Logically speaking, why would their operating costs be any higher? They aren't actually shipping books around--they're shipping data. And that data is probably hosted on the same servers, maybe even the same bits as their US products.

      A more reasonable explanation, in my opinion, is that pictures are being stripped and the internet locked down so they aren't liable under chinese law for anyone who evades the eWall of China. And they're charging more because they think they can get away with charging more,
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by toppavak (943659)
        Its particularly odd that they would strip the browser citing costs when mobile internet access outside of the US is so much cheaper!
      • by harlows_monkeys (106428) on Thursday October 22, 2009 @01:35PM (#29838415) Homepage

        Logically speaking, why would their operating costs be any higher? They aren't actually shipping books around--they're shipping data. And that data is probably hosted on the same servers, maybe even the same bits as their US products

        The data is essentially delivered by cell phone. They are using AT&T's international roaming service for the international Kindle, and that costs a lot.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by hattig (47930)

          You would think that in certain territories they would come to an arrangement with a native provider.

          Going with AT&T is strange. T-Mobile, Vodafone, Telefonica, Three all have large international networks and one of these would be a far more logical provider for Europe than AT&T.

          Instead they're going to make the product worthless and expensive.

        • So they can't pony up for some servers in europe and an agreement w/ a euro cell carrier? sounds like bad planning or a bullshit song-and-dance to rake in the $.
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by phantomfive (622387)
            What on earth makes you think they can make an agreement w/ a euro cell carrier that is cheaper? Why on earth do you think they didn't try? I'll bet you don't even have a Kindle, don't want one, and just like to complain about evil corporations.
            • by sznupi (719324)

              I seem to remember one of the explanations for delay in international Kindle launch was "negotiating with carriers" (isn't it still used by Amazon somewhere?)

              But for roaming you don't need any negotiations, AT&T already did those...so is it really roaming what international Kindle uses? Or did Amazon choose such terms?

              Also, with competition between carriers much higher in the EU, with much better prices, and with a low bandwith device like Kindle, one would guess Amazon would be able to find carriers wi

        • by DrXym (126579)
          The data is essentially delivered by cell phone. They are using AT&T's international roaming service for the international Kindle, and that costs a lot.

          Then offer users the choice of tethered purchases that cost the same or wireless purchases that cost 40% more. The excuses Amazon are coming out with are complete bollocks.

          In some respect this bullshit is a good thing since it may open some people's eyes to the benefits of an open format ereader, one that allows you to switch retailers at will rather

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by sznupi (719324)

      Regarding 1), free wiki acess anywhere seems really nice. I guess that falls under "disabling web browser" also?

      Oh well; no Kindle for me then.

      • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Thursday October 22, 2009 @02:25PM (#29838999) Journal
        I'm just wondering how long it will be before somebody writes up a little program that automates the process of using wikipedia to "launder" material from the broader internet through wikipedia for free Kindle access.

        Since anybody can edit wikipedia, you could easily stash a URL on some obscure page. This program, running on a computer with a real ISP, would be watching for edits made by you, and would respond to them by retrieving the requested URL, reformatting it, and posting that as a subsequent edit. The wikipedia guys would presumably crack down if it occurred on a wide scale; but a few geek enthusiasts, particularly if they cleaned up the edits used after they were finished, could probably fly under the radar for a good while.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      Not to mention exchange rates and associated taxes in foreign countries, which vary from country to country.

      Slow news day, I guess.
    • by Red Flayer (890720) on Thursday October 22, 2009 @01:19PM (#29838227) Journal

      2) Calling the Amazon explanation a "confession" seems a little biased...sounds quite reasonable to me to charge more if their costs are higher.

      No offense, but if you accept that explanation, you're one of the suckers their PR people spew that line for. That's not why they are charging more. Prices are set based upon maximizing profitability, not based on "cost + some acceptable profit margin".

      They've made the determination that they'll make more money selling overseas at a higher price (even if they sell fewer units). Their "higher costs" explanation is just a standard explanation for "we're going to charge more in a certain market because we've determined that's how we'll make the most money".

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Late Adopter (1492849)

        No offense, but if you accept that explanation, you're one of the suckers their PR people spew that line for. That's not why they are charging more. Prices are set based upon maximizing profitability, not based on "cost + some acceptable profit margin".

        I agree with your post in entirety, but I'll take it a step farther and say "Who cares?" Different markets are different. Amazon doesn't owe you an explanation as to why it's "fair". You either take them up on their offer or not.

        Non-story.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Dogtanian (588974)

          Different markets are different. Amazon doesn't owe you an explanation as to why it's "fair". You either take them up on their offer or not.

          While you're correct that the public can accept or reject Amazon's offer, your implication that they don't have the right to discuss or criticise it as they're doing here is wrong.

          The public don't owe Amazon the right to have them STFU and not discuss the merits and/or reasons behind their offer. Amazon have the right not to sell the product in the first place if they (or you) don't like it being discussed.

    • by Fizzol (598030)
      Also, this wasn't a "discovery." This was all announced and well known to anyone who bothered to read the information Amazon provided on launch day.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    ... is still better than unavailable, which is the current state of the Kindle here in Canada (we don't even get the "International" version)

    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 22, 2009 @01:12PM (#29838117)
      ... is still better than unavailable, which is the current state of the Kindle here in Canada (we don't even get the "International" version)

      What part of "Third World Nation Axis of Evil" do you Nucks not understand?
  • by RotateLeftByte (797477) on Thursday October 22, 2009 @01:08PM (#29838065)

    That is Marketing Droid speak for

    Lets screw everyone else.

    I fail to understand the reasoning for this in places where Amazon already has a huge operation (eg UK)

    Ah well, If they screw us up so much then people will find a way to get, sorry pirate or hack the US Editions and then watch Amazon cry fould as the whole thing is a mega flop just like the Zune is outside the US.(just an example)

    When will the so called international companies really view the world as one big market and 'do the right thing'.

    I certainly won't be buying one of these. I urge others to boycott them until the functionality is restored.

     

    • by h4rr4r (612664) on Thursday October 22, 2009 @01:11PM (#29838099)

      The Zune is a huge flop inside the U.S. as well.

      • The Zune is a huge flop inside the U.S. as well.

        Informative? This seems more like a candidate for an 'Obvious' mod.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      The books need to be converted from the NTSC format that America uses to the inferior PAL system that European books use.

      • The books need to be converted from the NTSC format that America uses to the inferior PAL system that European books use.

        So the Europeans will get one-sixth more words and deeper blacks in their books?
    • by OzPeter (195038)

      That is Marketing Droid speak for

      Lets screw everyone else.

      No .. this is fundamental capitalism for lets see how much the market can bear

    • > When will the so called international companies really view the world as one
      > big market and 'do the right thing'.

      Perhaps when governments do likewise?

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      I fail to understand the reasoning for this in places where Amazon already has a huge operation (eg UK)

      That's because you fail to understand how the device operates. It uses a connection to the cell phone network to receive data. In the US, Amazon has a deal with Sprint to use the Sprint wireless data network. For the international Kindle, they have a deal to use AT&T's wireless data network. When used outside the US, this incurs roaming charges.

  • by maillemaker (924053) on Thursday October 22, 2009 @01:14PM (#29838141)

    What is to stop someone from buying "American" book and reselling them to European customers for, say, only a 10% markup?

    Oh, let me guess - no interoperability / not an open format.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Zerth (26112)

      Nothing, as long as you use a web proxy in the US for downloading and don't expect the wireless to work on a different cell network.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by BZ (40346)

      Put that way, nothing except the fact that it's likely to not be profitable. Given a US price P (always excluding sales tax) and a VAT of 15-25% depending on the EU country (applies to e-books in most of them; must typically be included in the price by law) you have to charge somewhere between 1.15*P and 1.25*P just to break even.

      So 10% markup in the list price would be a loss. 20% would be about break-even, if we assume a 20% VAT. A 10% increase in what the seller gets would mean a 32% markup in the lis

      • by smoker2 (750216)
        What has the US price got to do with it ? The US price is the US price including their profit. It's not like they have to buy any more copies to sell in the EU. So you're suggesting they are making profit on their US profit ? Sales tax in the US is VAT in the EU. Wouldn't surprise me if they just added more on for the hell of it. Shame it'll sink without trace.

        Plus you don't pay vat on second hand goods so if you're reselling you shouldn't be charging it.
        • by Zerth (26112)

          There is no sales tax unless you are in the same state as Amazon, unlike VAT.

          Done singly you could get away without charging VAT, but I imagine customs would notice after awhile.

          • by BZ (40346)

            > There is no sales tax unless you are in the same state as Amazon, unlike VAT.

            True, but doesn't matter much for the point of the argument, since the US list price doesn't include the sales tax no matter what, and the article is comparing list prices.

            > Done singly you could get away without charging VAT, but I imagine customs would notice
            > after awhile.

            I'd think so. ;)

        • by BZ (40346)

          > What has the US price got to do with it ?

          The whole point of the article is that the UK list price is 40% more than the US list price.

          > The US price is the US price including their profit.

          Right.

          > It's not like they have to buy any more copies to sell in the EU.

          That depends on the licensing terms.

          Also, the operating expenses (e.g. the data connection for the kindle) remain and might not be priced the same in the EU.

          > Sales tax in the US is VAT in the EU.

          Sort of, except that the list price (which

  • by starrsoft (745524) * on Thursday October 22, 2009 @01:15PM (#29838161) Homepage
    Amazon sent out an email [hansmast.com] this morning to people who bought an International Kindle (mine arrived yesterday) informing them that they had dropped the price by $20 and would be applying a $20 refund to my credit card. With this kind of customer service, I buy even my groceries from Amazon these days; no need to venture outside. I suspect that this is also fighting back against the Nook [barnesandnoble.com].
    • The nook does look pretty snazzy if you ask me. Amazon really needs to step up there game or the good ol' invisible hand will smack amazon in the face :P

      • by fafaforza (248976)

        The only cool feature with the Nook is that LCD on the bottom. It would have been perfect to load up a keyboard onto that thing to let you annotate, and look up words in the dictionary, but I haven't heard about it having such a feature.

        Only lame book cover previews and setting menus. You'll still be staring at eInt 99% of the time, and that isn't different than the Kindles, and books at B&N's ebook store are reportedly much more expensive.

    • by PitaBred (632671)
      The Nook still seems like a better deal to me, even without the web browser.
      • Nook will give Kindle a run for its money, only if BN is not stupid enough to limit it to US.
        Unfortunately, corporations have an innate act for stupidity.
        So BN is running an also-ran product into a market saturated and broke.
        Good luck BN.
        You have a great product, but you are stupid.

  • by rinoid (451982) * on Thursday October 22, 2009 @01:28PM (#29838327)
    Amazon did have to lay the cable across the oceans to deliver said books. You gotta pony up!
  • by petes_PoV (912422) on Thursday October 22, 2009 @02:31PM (#29839083)
    On Amazon's websites: War and Peace, same edition, UK and US prices. Penguin Classics (paperback) in the US this is sold for $10.88 with free delivery. In the UK the price is £7.12 with free delivery. Using an exchange rate of $1.60 to the £, the prices are certainly not 40% different.

    So why do I get the feeling I am being lied to?

    • by PitaBred (632671)
      I'm betting that they're trying to cover for the wireless fees, rather than the licensing stuff.
  • Wow really? (Score:3, Informative)

    by aceofspades1217 (1267996) <aceofspades1217NO@SPAMgmail.com> on Thursday October 22, 2009 @03:13PM (#29839547) Homepage Journal

    Was amazon really too stupid to contact vodafone or orange and get a plan from them. I mean really why would they actually pay roaming charges with AT&T. Its not like they bought the kindles from AT&T and AT&T locked them :D

    • by vegiVamp (518171)
      Just a guess: some bigwig signed an exclusivity deal with AT&T, not realising that there is a rather sizeable "rest of the world" where AT&T is not omipresent.
      • Its things like this that make me really wish the FCC would hurry up and ban permanent exclusivity deals.

        But that would only happen in a world where congress can actually get anything done and stand up to businesses.

  • Really - I remember everyone having orgasms about the fact that the PlayStation II was going to have a browser and that was going to take over the world. If you are going to buy a Kindle you are not thinking about surfing the Internets, you're thinking about reading books in the same way as you're thinking about playing games on the PSII.

    No photos is a bit sucky though.

    And the high price thing - meh. Ve Europeans vill nevargh geev oop our reediculous high prices! It is ze mark of civilization!

  • by tunapez (1161697) on Thursday October 22, 2009 @03:40PM (#29839855)

    Here's a brilliant idea, DON'T BUY IT! Here is a WANT(read: not NEED) that costs way too much for it's purpose and is hobbled every time the lawyers gets a scent of blood or a penny. Vote with the only thing these corp's care about, your money! Stop being the consumption drone the media tells you to be!!!!

    Too much to ask, I guess. Gotta get the new Droid...oh my, it's a phone, too? And the new Lana Johannah album, she's hawt! And of course, them 20" rims for the Prius, they save batteries cuz they are cooler!

    /common sense

    • by fafaforza (248976)

      So is one automatically a consumption drone every time they make a purchase? Any purchase? There are thousands of people that enjoy their readers, many have multiple ones, and still keep up with the new models coming out.

      Are you seriously saying that people buying these things to spend hours reading are making impulse buying decisions to satisfy some emotional need? Cmon. Most people buying these things are rational about the pros and cons and why exactly they buy them. After all, these things arent ch

      • by tunapez (1161697)

        Are you seriously saying that people buying these things to spend hours reading are making impulse buying decisions to satisfy some emotional need? Cmon.

        Yes, yes I am. Where we going? I hope it's to the Yahoo Music Store!

        want -verb (used with object)
        1. to feel a need or a desire for; always wanting something new.
        need -noun
        4. necessity arising from the circumstances of a situation or case.

        Don't complain when your functionality and content is further struck. Please keep in mind, your willingness to accept less ownership and relinquish control to a corporate entity sets precedent for future generations' choices. Validate your decision however you like,

  • The headline (and linked article) are unclear. Are pictures stripped from newspapers/magazines (a) on the international Kindle, no matter where it is used; or (b) on a Kindle only when used outside of the USA?

    The difference is significant. I was considering getting an international Kindle even though I live in the USA - so that it would work on trips. But, if my daily NYTimes has no pictures, then forget it. If the Times has pictures while I'm at home, but none when I'm in London, that is still annoying,
  • by Anonymous Coward

    If the international kindle used wi-fi instead the problem of high data charges on a roaming US sim is gone. Or partner with a local GSM network. Am i missing something here? >> because this seems like a simple problem to solve.

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