Take a look at this Teleread discussion. A reader has noticed that ebook retailer Fictionwise/Ereader.com, recently acquired by big US book retailer Barnes and Noble, appears to be tightening its policies, blocking foreign buyers from purchasing titles.
In the past, under independent ownership, it seems to have had fairly loose territorial restrictions on its customers. I know you’ve been able to buy titles from Fictionwise fairly easily from New Zealand, for example.
Says Teleread’s Paul Biba:
Many, if not most, ebooks have geographical restrictions and I would suppose that eReader/Fictionwse now has access to a larger staff who can take the time to vet such things – and, of course, is now owned by a company who takes such stuff pretty seriously. Sony and Amazon have this problem as well and have limited their distribution outside of the United States.
I think this is probably right. A smaller operator is going to have think seriously about how much time and money it can put into ascertaining and managing the maze of territorial rights across thousands of ebook titles. Frankly, many publishers would have trouble providing the precise scope of digital rights so a pioneering ebookseller like Fictionwise/Ereader could end up spending a huge amount of effort trying to extract this information, and build the database and technology to enforce it. Easier simply not to bother and focus on making sales to stay alive. However, a big player like B&N would have more resources and more concern about its reputation or legal position.
In a post responding to this blog, author Mia Amato makes this observation:
In the future, I do see a market in foreign language digital, especially Spanish, French, German, Japanese, and Portugese. Near future, I would expect rights departments of publishers at least looking into going back to authors and re-acquiring world English digital rights, in the form of a contract amendment, similar to amendments sent out back in 1999 to nail down digital.
Let’s hope this tightening up of geographical rights doesn’t make it even more difficult for those English language markets outside of the US and UK to get moving in this market.
On the other hand, is this an opportunity for local retailers to jump into this market and compete with the big international sites by sorting out their own country rights and offering a comprehensive catalogue to their local ebook customers?