Following yesterday’s announcement by Amazon that the Kindle is going global from next week, there’s been a flurry of activity trying to sort out the details and implications of the announcement.
Given the scale of the announcement — the move will make the Kindle, previously only available in the US, accessible to readers in 100 countries — the details are still unfolding. In my haste to get the story out, I initially picked it wrongly myself and thought New Zealand was in the first wave. It wasn’t.
This item from Bookseller UK casts light on one key issue: Did Amazon rely on global rights for the titles it will make available or will it respect the mesh of territorial rights that make the book business so complex. The answer, it seems, is that territorial rights are safe and secure. From Bookseller:
Publishers have been assured by Amazon.com that territoriality will be respected following the international launch of its Kindle e-book reader this week.
… Amazon said a safeguard has been put in place to respect territorial rights. A spokesman added: “When a customer first buys Kindle content, they identify their region or country. In order to simplify their browsing experience, we then display the appropriate catalogue for the customer. When they travel, the content available to a customer is determined by their home country, not by the country they are travelling in.”
This is good news for those of us who think this long-established practice is as important in the digital age as it has been in the print world. It will be interesting to see if it remains the norm or is just a legacy issue to deal with the past. But even a short period will serve a useful purpose in allowing country and regional markets to get established in the face of large, global competitors.
On the subject of New Zealand which, along with Canada, Singapore and a range of other territories, will be Kindleless next week, I’m still trying to get to the bottom of this. It was especially surprising given that Australia will be in the initial launch group and, in terms of territorial rights, are very similar. See this excellent round-up of who gets what over at Blog Kindle.
Major publishers I spoke to here did not believe the issue of rights should have stopped New Zealand customers from accessing Kindle ebooks. If it’s a telco issue, it will hopefully be resolved soon since Amazon’s network partner AT&T has data roaming agreements with two mobile operators in this country.[Update: 10:30am. This story from Chris Keall at NBR confirming rumours that telco issues are causing delays. Vodafone has confirmed it’s in talks with Amazon about bring the Kindle here.]
It’s probable, given our small size, that any complication, no matter how minor, will see New Zealand pushed back.
In the meanwhile, booksellers and other industry players can knuckle down and work on bringing their own ebook plans forward, ahead of the Amazon juggernaut. Witness this amazing statistic, just provided by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos to Wired magazine: Of books available on Amazon in both paper and Kindle ebook formats, 48% now choose the Kindle format. That statistic is well up from the already-impressive 35% figure he gave earlier this year.