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Friday, 15 April 2011

THE GREAT AMAZON RIP OFF - or how to diddle a few extra bucks

It was the recent release of Chap O'Keefe's Misfit Lil Cheats the Hangrope (click HERE) which brought this to my attention - in my review I listed the US price at $3.44 which is the price I saw when I went onto Amazon.Com to check the book out. The author promptly emailed me saying that the price in the US is actually $2.99 - and yet I was still getting $3.44 when I visited the Amazon US store -Why was this? Well it seem it's a complicated business and Amazon are charging international buyers a surcharge when titles are purchased through the Amazon US store. The fact that the book offers great value at either price is besides the point.

Some have suggested that the reason for this is that international data roaming can be expensive - yet this would only apply if you were buying the eBook over the Kindle's 3G network, since if you were using the wireless to connect than you are merely using your own internet connection.

Another reason for this surcharge, at least to UK customers, is that the current government is a limp coalition with the nasty party very much in charge, and they classify eBooks as software rather than books. The reason for this is that there is no VAT payable on books but there is on software. So is it the British government that are forcing Amazon's hand over the surcharge? If this was so then this should only affect UK customers but I am informed that everyone outside of the US and Canada is charged this extra rate when using the US Amazon store. So maybe, for once, it is not the fault of those self serving, library closing, warmongering, manifesto-breaking, cut-making toffs in the British government. Mind you, pretty much everything else is!

Amazon commented - "International customers do pay a higher price for their books than US customers due to higher operating costs outside of the US. Additionally, VAT rates in the EU are higher on eBooks than on print books."

However that seems to be bollocks when you consider that Project Guttenberg doesn't charge for it's free downloads outside the US, the books are not just free to those in the US.  And with most other digital stores it seems eBook prices are the same for US customers and those elsewhere in the world. Something seems not quite right here.

Another important factor is that, despite the above statement Amazon don't seem to be upfront about this extra charge. Check out Misfit Lil again from the UK but using the US store and the price is clearly stated at $3.44, when the books should be $2.99, but we are not told there is a surcharge or that the actual price set by the publisher is $2.99. If the surcharge can be justified then the price should come up as $2.99 but state that there is an extra charge for international buyers.If you email Amazon about this they come back with the above statement, but this should be made clear in the Amazon store itself.

My bet is that most people are unaware of this extra charge.

So what's going on? What is the reason for this surcharge?

(Shrugs shoulders,scratches head,frowns) - I've no idea!!!


John Sinclair said...

Amazon are now decidedly 'extracting the urine'. As they seem to have the online merchandising world by the short hairs they are shamelessly abusing their position. Well, that's their lookout. Before too long some company with a HUGE advertising budget will come along and cut the rug out from under them.
I reckon the next market the Chinese will go for will be the online one.
And that'll be it for Amazon.And i can't say I'll be sorry.

Chap O'Keefe said...

Whatever anyone does (or tries to do), please don't try to blame the author. He or she sees nothing of that surcharge.

And the US price of Misfit Lil Cheats the Hangrope is $2.99 when I go to the site on my PC in New Zealand. Just to make sure, I bought a copy. Yes, of my own book, which I already have in several files on my PC and in two fine print editions on my bookshelves. (the US company) delivered the book immediately and sent me an email saying:
Total before tax: $2.99
Sales Tax: $0.00
Total for this Order: $2.99
The charge for this order will appear on your credit card statement from the merchant 'Amazon Services-Kindle'.

The process was no different from when I recently purchased the Kindle edition of Terrell Bowers' 1986 BHW Armageddon at Gold Butte.

Perhaps "someone" doesn't know that NZ is outside the US and Canada. If so, please don't tell them!

For the author, it's this kind of stuff that makes doing your own publishing more of a chore than a pleasure. The wider freedoms and greater creative control have to be balanced against the necessity to keep a closer eye on the business issues.

Over at his Bear Alley blog, Archive friend, comics bibliographer and researcher Steve Holland, who has recently turned book publisher, is today also recounting a story of difficulties with Amazon pricing.

As I suggested to Gary yesterday, despite Amazon's great reach, a few features of its systems could be improved. All said and done, I do think the first Chap O'Keefe ebook is a great bargain for $2.99 or $3.44. Nor can anything beat the convenience of having it delivered instantly.

Gary Dobbs/Jack Martin said...

Indeed - I also bought a copy immediately. In comparison to the physical book price the cost is peanuts. The UK Amazon store's price of £2.10 (which I paid) is also bloody good value.It's a great book at a great price but AMazon's surcharge applies to all eBooks bought by those in the UK.As I've said maybe it's not Amazon's fault and maybe it is the bollocking UK VAT on eBooks.

Howard said...

While I understand it is a tiny bit annoying, it's only 45 cents, which if Keith's book is 160 pages or so works out to what? .35 tenths of a cent per page? Consider it slight digital postage! After all, if we order a $7.99 paper back or L11.95 BHW, Amazon will charge $4 to mail it in the US, and probably closer to $11 or &12 to UK. For an entire novel delivered instantly an extra 45c makes no difference to me. $3.44 is still a great value.

Gary Dobbs/Jack Martin said...

Howard - that is indeed a good point and the Misfit Lil book does remain excellent value at either price. As I say I bought one immediately but this does apply to all eBooks and sometimes the price hike is quite high. I didn't want to suggest with this post that UK readers are getting ripped off with the Misfit eBook - Indeed I hope all western fans buy it and make the western a viable genre in this new eBook world.

David Gaughran said...


I just found your blog while researching the extra charges that Amazon applies to customers outside the US.

I'm trying to collect a list of what 99 cent books cost in each country that uses the Amazon US store for e-books (i.e. any country outside the UK or the Amazon Germany countries - Germany, Austria, Liechtenstein, Switzerland & Germany).

There are two issues here.

First is VAT (which is charged at 15% all over the EU because they bill from Luxembourg). Amazon seem to add this to some 99 cent books (like mine - If You Go Into The Woods by David Gaugran, Lunch Break Thrillers by Declan Conley, or Atlantis by Bob Mayer ) - I see a price of $1.16 for all those 99 cent books.

But they don't seem to add to other 99 cent books (like My Blood Approves by Amanda Hocking, or Eyes of The Hammer by Bob Mayer, or any John Locke book) - I see 99 cent for all those books.

Second is the international surcharge which varies from country to country.

This is the price of my 99 cent book in various countries that use the Amazon US store (where I have set the price at 99 cent) - this is all I have data for so far.

USA, Australia - $0.99.

Ireland, Sweden - $1.16.

France, Finland Poland, Hungary - $3.44.

A friend in Hungary has tried emailing Amazon several times to ask about the discrepancy, but always gets a canned response which doesn't answer the question at all.

Anyone get any idea what's going on? Or some more data points to share?


P.S. None of this applies to books sold through Amazon UK or Amazon Germany, where prices are set by the writer/publisher and already include VAT (sales tax) in that price.

Anonymous said...

An ebook that costs 99 cents in the US costs 2.99 in Japan. There is no notice that says it is a surcharge, tax or delivery charge; 2.99 appears as the price of the book.

The price is not so much a problem as feeling cheated by being charged more for the same book, and with no explanation about the extra charge.