The Kindle goes roaming, but it's still American

The arrival of Amazon’s Kindle to Australian shores is good news for the development of our ebook market. Let's hope it kicks off ereader competition.

The Kindle goes roaming, but it's still American

The arrival of Amazon’s Kindle to Australian shores can only be good news for the development of our ebook market, even though it may be unwelcome news for many of the other ereader manufacturers who haven’t yet committed the marketing investment to this territory.

Since Amazon’s announcement thus far consists of a single statement on the front page of their website, meaningful information is scarce. I’ll endeavour to join a few dots.

Will Australian books now be available as ebooks to Australian consumers?

Although the Kindle will be available in Australia, for the time being the content will be sourced out of the US store (as it’s the only one). Ipso facto, only Australian publishers with distribution agreements with US-based partners suppling the Kindle Store will have ebooks available. So expect to be able to buy Tim Winton’s latest work but not your favourite niche author.

That said, what is unclear is whether we’ll see another case of territorial rights craziness, whereby consumers bump into the ‘this book is not available in your country’ brick wall (so to speak) when attempting to download the latest novel from their favourite author. Reports suggest some 200,000 titles will be available to international customers, but we’ll have to wait and see.

How are books purchased?

The Kindle connects to the Kindle Store ‘over-the-air’ (OTA), meaning via a wireless service — in Australia’s case a mobile phone network.

So how will the Australian Kindle connect to the US Kindle Store from this side of the Pacific?

If you’ve ever travelled overseas with your mobile phone you’ll know a little about global roaming, whereby your phone works as it always does except it costs a whole lot more to make calls.

My reading of Amazon’s announcement is that their so-called international version is in fact a US-based device that is roaming. In the absence of a local wireless agreement (Telstra, Optus, Vodafone) the Aussie Kindle is effectively connected to the AT&T network in the US via an Australian operator. Hence the higher price point for the international version as you’d be buying a global roaming deal as part of the purchase (if my analysis is correct).

Whether this means international purchases will incur a surcharge to cover potential roaming fees is (again) unclear from Amazon’s statement.

What about parallel import restrictions?

Irrelevant from an individual’s perspective. Buying a Kindle book is no different from buying a physical format book from Amazon.

How can Australian authors get their books into the Kindle Store and therefore available to Australian consumers?

It is timely to re-introduce Red Hill Digital, a sister business of Red Hill Publishing and our digital distribution division. We can get Australian content into the Kindle Store via our US-based entity Red Hill Publishing LLC. We’ve made the investment in the US territory to take Australian authors to the world.

This is significant because Amazon, for example, will only pay into a US-based bank account. In order to open a bank account in the United States we need a US operating presence and US-based partner. This is what Red Hill Publishing LLC achieves for our customers. There are also withholding tax benefits derived from our structure.

To learn more about opening an account with Red Hill Digital, read on, or feel free to call Robert Collings at Red Hill Digital on +61 7 3166 8849.