Amazon’s Kindle is going global. From October 19, customers in 100 countries will be able to buy a Kindle, buy ebooks from the Kindle’s 200,000+ English language titles, and do it all over the wireless network that has made the Kindle so popular.[Update: 1:37pm Just had a call to tell me that Amazon is not presently able to ship to New Zealand but will ship to Australia. Have amended story.
Update: 9 October 2009. See story: Details still unfolding.]
And if you don’t want to buy a US$279 Kindle from Amazon.com, you can still access it from the free Kindle app for the iPhone. The international wireless support comes via the AT&T wireless network. Outside the US, AT&T uses the common GSM system supported by operators such as Vodafone, Telecom and Hutchison. Amazon will add a US$1.99 surcharge for each ebook download from outside the US to cover wireless charges.
Among the publishers supporting the Amazon move with global rights, making their ebooks available for sales to non-US territories are:
Atlantic Books, Bloomsbury, Canongate, Faber and Faber, Hachette, Harlequin, HarperCollins, Lonely Planet, Penguin, Profile Books, Quercus, Simon & Schuster and Wiley.
A notable absence, Random House, is still in discussions with Amazon.
As well as books, more than 85 newspapers and magazines, including many international publications, are now available for subscription on the Kindle.
For those among who would have liked less global and more local in the territorial rights issue, it’s time to put that debate behind us and work with the new rules that will clearly be predicated on global editions. This will impact on English language titles and many other geograpahically dispersed languages such as Spanish.
- For publishers in all territories, it’s now time to do deals with Amazon, not just for international sales but for an early shot at early adopters in their domestic markets.
- For Amazon competitors in the ebook reader space such as Sony, it’s time to put the leisurely pace of global roll-outs behind them and crank into high gear. Let’s hope New Zealand and Australia are at the front of the queue now.
- For Amazon’s bookselling competitors, it’s time to get started because if they don’t build brand awareness in this space fast, they won’t get into the game. There’s only going to be room in customers’ heads for a tiny number of sites when they think where to go and shop. Booksellers at the country level will need to differentiate on the basis of local prices (Kindle sales are still $US but that will change), local title availability and local promotion.
- Expect to see the global rights issues sorted out pretty soon by early global e-booksellers such as Barnes and Noble‘s Fictionwise and the recent Canadian entrant with global aspirations, Shortcovers.
Amazon is already a major global presence. In the press release announcing this, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos refers to the “millions” of existing international Amazon customers. Certainly, a lot of them wil reside Downunder so we’ll expect a lot of Kindle users arriving here pretty smartly.
It’s our job now to make sure they’re reading local as well as international books. In this regard, the announcement this week that New Zealand copyright collective Copyright Licensing Limited (CLL) will lead the charge to get New Zealand books digitised and licensed to groups such as libraries, booksellers and others, couldn’t come soon enough. I’ll be part of that through the work we’ve been doing with the Digital Publishing Forum and the 1000 Great New Zealand Ebooks initiative.
Publishers will increasingly need to work with trusted digital content agregators to get their digital content into many places, to negotiate with large players, track their digital sales and make sure their content is properly managed. Rights organisations such as CLL are well placed to do this if they can adapt from their current print-based role to the digital environment.
This very timely blog from Mike Shatzkin speculates on the need for such a role for the US rights organisation, the Copyright Clearance Center. Following the lead from CLL in New Zealand, we’re going to see more of this.
We live in exciting times.