Amazon is failing to be the iTunes of book world – so far

I’m warming on the idea of the Kindle – Amazon’s ebook reader.

  • I like it for mass reduction, especially when travelling – it sharply reduces mass that you need to cart around on an airplane or  motorcycle.
  • I like it for convenience – You’ll get books that you purchase instantly, rather than waiting for days or weeks for them to be delivered.
  • and finally I like it for price – books are US$9.99, which is a lot cheaper than their paper equivalents, and a heck of a lot cheaper than buying in New Zealand.

It’s clearly the path to the future – a single device that removes the print and distribution industry from the Author-Reader flow. (There is still, and I believe always will be, a role for (book and news) publishers, to raise and represent quality of their branded products.)

So while the Kindle is not perfect, it is certainly a vital step to the end game. That’s an endgame where we stop using so many trees, we stop manufacturing so much paper and ink, and that’s good for our ecosystems.

But sadly I cannot buy a Kindle.

Amazon, apparently hamstrung by publishers, will only allow those with US issued credit cards and addresses to buy the Kindle, and only those with US issued credit cards can buy the books.

This is transparently protectionist – and stupid – as Amazon has always allowed me to purchase US published books in paper form with my NZ credit card and NZ address. There is no real difference – save that I don’t have to pay 25-100% of the price in shipping costs, and that I don’t have to wait 14 to 40 days to receive the books.

Amazon’s international sales could explode if they released the Kindle offshore – and the future of local rivals such as Fishpond and Whitcoulls would be doomed in the long term. To be blunt, Amazon has the ability to be the iTunes of the book publishing world, to move books sles from stores to online, to move book selling power from bookchains to Amazon. Hoewver by constraining sales to the USA they are blowing it, and risking being like Sony, who released beautiful yet DRM crippled music playing devices that left the market wide open for Apple iPod and iTunes.

At this stage I should be able to turn to Shipbuktu, a promising Kiwi startup that provided US addresses and also wanted to provide US credit cards to Kiwis. However their forwarding service is on hold, and has been since Christmas:

Meanwhile their US credit card service never emerged. That’s sad for all of us.

So Amazon just continues to piss me off. Their US-centric approach means that I can actually buy less and less from their store, while locals like Fishpond and MightyApe just get better and better. Still-  they have enormous critical mass and they have the Kindle – so if they can get their act together quickly enough then they will be hard to beat.

On the other hand Apple, while US-centric themselves, now have 80 countrybased iTunes stores, and must be learning quickly. What if their next product, as some rumopurs have noted, is a kindle-sized device with the iPhone software? Kindle reader is available for iPhone, and if Amazon opens up their service then it is game over.

Meanwhile I’m searching for someone in the business of providing US-based credit cards to foreigners (cash up front, clip the ticket on each transaction). I’m guessing there is nothing there – so does anyone want to have some fun?

Published by Lance Wiggs


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