What Does Amazon Have Against Europe? Or Is Kindle Just A Digital Stalking-Horse?

…but not in Europe!

There’s something strange going on with Amazon’s Kindle eBook Reader – and also with the Kindle app for Apple’s iPhone…

It’s going on for two years now since Amazon first launched the Kindle and really cranked up the interest in eBooks. It was understandable that Amazon should launch the device first in the USA only, to gauge interest and see whether there really was a market.

It was a little strange that Kindle didn’t also launch in the UK at the same time. As a Brit, I’m well aware that British English and US English are not quite the same – but they’re near enough as makes no difference once you’ve made it past color/colour, neighbor/neighbour and so on. I mean, there are really no barriers to Brits reading books formatted in US English – so why not take advantage of a second ready-made market?

Amazon UK won’t sell you a Kindle, though. And it doesn’t sell Kindle books either. My FB friend Iain Rae Lennox, who lives in Glasgow, has been desperate to get his hands on one ever since they shipped.

Iain’s an Apple iPhone user. Apple sells its wildly-popular phone in Europe, of course. So he was overjoyed when the new Kindle app was announced. He’d be able to use his iPhone as an eBook reader – or so he thought.

Trouble is, Apple’s iPhone app store in the UK doesn’t sell the Kindle reader. And he still can’t buy Kindle books in Britain.

So what’s going on? I’m sure Amazon wouldn’t tell me if I asked. But perhaps one of the better-known tech journalists will pick this up.

But here’s my theory. Copyright enforcement is much more rigidly enforced in Europe than in the USA. Google has hit this problem with its book digitization, and it’s clear that Europe will not roll over and accept what Google’s done here in the USA – even if the US courts eventually do.

I think Amazon sees the whole eBook copyright issue in Europe as a can of worms it really doesn’t want to open right now.

As Steve Jobs pointed out earlier this week, Amazon’s not sharing its Kindle sales figures – although I do recall seeing figures on the increasing proportion of Amazon’s overall book sales going to the Kindle.

Could it be that Amazon doesn’t really care about the success or failure of the Kindle device itself, and that’s its only a stalking-horse to ramp up the number of digital book titles out there? I’m sure that’s where Amazon makes its money – not on the Kindle hardware. If I’m any yardstick, I’ve already spent twice as much money on books as I spent on the device (at least as I would have spent if I hadn’t drowned one and lost one :-()

If there were lots of eBook readers out there, and they all read Amazon’s Kindle format, would Amazon care? I don’t think so.

Anyway, I’ll be watching Europe closely to see when the Kindle and the iPhone app actually make it into the hands of customers…

En France? Mais Non!

11 thoughts on “What Does Amazon Have Against Europe? Or Is Kindle Just A Digital Stalking-Horse?

  1. Björn

    I doubt it has anything to do with copyright issues (after all, all/most e-books are separate and publisher published releases) and the enforcement of copyright is not stronger – or different at all – than it is in the US.Something that could have a more likely impact would be the diversity of rules around book publishing, e.g. Germany has this weird Buchpreisbindung which is applied to e-books, too, and there are a lot contracts/agreements to be negotiated with the publishers in each of the European states. Also, our publishers do not seem to happy about e-books (for whatever reason, I presume the fear mongering of the music and movie industry about the evil consumers might have something to do with it, though…). But in the end we can speculate forever only, assuming that no one in charge and with the knowledge of the real reasons will speak up.

  2. Anonymous

    The solution is simple. Jailbreak the device, install installous, and 'pirate' the free app. It's not available in Canada – that's what I did. You can still buy books with it.

  3. bowerbird

    um, there's very little"mystery" about this.amazon hooked upwith sprint in the u.s.sprint was desperatefor any partner at all,so they gave amazona great wireless rate…none of the carriersoutside of the u.s.is willing to do that,so amazon stands pat.in case you wonder,yes, this is why it tooksony so long to matchamazon's wireless act,because no u.s. carrierswould give them a deal.the hardware itself ishard enough to makemoney on, but if youhave to pay too muchfor wireless on top of it,you'll never make money.and yes, amazon saysthat both the hardwareand e-books themselvesmust earn their own keep,that neither will be usedto subsidize the other…-bowerbird

  4. Bill Hill

    Wait a second, though. If he already bought an iPhone, the customer already has a carrier in the UK, who's charging a monthly fee for unlimited data. I know in the USA, AT &T won't let you sign up to an iPhone without a $30-a-month data plan.So I can understand Amazon not being able to launch the Kindle device itself in the UK because no carrier will play ball. But if Apple made the Kindleapp available, iPhone users should be able to download Kindle books using their existing data plan, if Amazon made Kindle books available on Amazon.co.uk, or allowed UK users to access Kindle Books on Amazon.comIt's not as if there's any danger of overloading data bandwidths, either. eBooks are tiny compared to music.

  5. Richard fink

    @BillBB's explanation makes perfect sense.But I'm glad to see you, too, are concerned about copyright law's chilling effects on digital publishing.Luckily, Thoreau's essay on "Civil Disobedience" is public domain.Regards,rich

  6. bowerbird

    amazon doesn'treally want tosell too manykindle-booksto people whohave an iphonebut no kindle…primarily due tothe fact that itis losing moneyon every $9.99best-seller now.once they maketheir power playand stop doingthe loss-leaderthing on all thebest-sellers,then yeah, theywill happily sellkindle-books to people who don'town a kindle.in which case theymight let customersuse their own plan.it's hard to resolve the dilemma causedby chicken v. egg…-bowerbird

  7. dan

    richard fink and Phil Corbett at the NY Times there:Philip B. Corbett., those things you speak of, [When Spell-Check Can’t Help] re: A few more entries for the file of sound-alike words that trip us up — and leave our sharp-eyed readers dismayed….Sir, those mistakes in newspapers and websites are called ATOMIC TYPOS or atomic typo in the singular, there is even a website blog devoted to the history of that term. One thing nobody can figure out yet is why they are called ATOMIC typos? Do you know? Can you dish later?Words like Gov. Christ for Gov. Crist, or sedan for Sudan or unclear or nuclear…… see? Spell check cannot find them either. They are called atomic typos. But why?

  8. dan

    thanks for update on Atomic Typos, now Rhian Howell in the UK on her blog has coined sub-atomic typos, for words that are mis-spelled with one letter MISSING, such as faculty for faulty, etc. google her blog for more.

  9. dan

    Rhian Howells, told me in an overseas email: re atomic typos like unclear/nuclear or sedan/Sudan……. "I really enjoy typos caused by a missing letter, which can create a different word and meaning, like ‘faculty’ to ‘faulty’ or ‘public’ to ‘pubic’. Should I coin a term for that …’sub-atomic typos,’ perhaps? "i told her YES, do it. it's YOUR word now. cool. still trying to track down who coined ATOMIC TYPOS, some editor in Florida, but cannot find name


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