Romance, Historical, Contemporary, Paranormal, Young Adult, Book reviews, industry news, and commentary from a reader's point of view

How Do We Solve a Problem Like Geographic Restrictions

Probably once a week, I get a question by (generally) non US readers asking why a certain book isn’t available to them that they KNOW is out there because they have seen it on the torrent sites. Geographic rights have become more complicated since the growth of ebooks. There are books that were removed from bookshelves; shopping places closed down to reader and this most recent wrinkle one reader shared with me:

Comments: Here’s a new twist on the geographical restrictions that I hadn’t understood in the least, and I’m sharing with you because you’re my e-book font o’ knowledge. I thought it was all publishing rights, and I couldn’t comprehend why I could buy the paper copy of the book in Canada, but not the ebook.

Then I noticed that some books that were coming up as unavailable in Canada at Books on Board showed up as available at Kobo (via, so I emailed BoB, and here’s what they told me:

Thank you for shopping with BooksOnBoard.
The publisher territory restrictions prevent users from purchasing titles from retailers who are not in their same country. They are designed to ensure that ebook purchases in countries where these are taxed cannot avoid paying taxes by shopping abroad. Also, since the publishing industry business model has remain almost unchanged since Gutenberg many publishers have divisions in US/Canada/Europe. It seems they parts of the whole had begun to squabble over who captured the revenue for an internet sale, the division of the publisher located where the custoemr initiated purchase from, or the division of the publisher located where the server sourcing the digital file was located. Needless to say, we also are not at all fans of the territory restrictions, especially since they seem to mostly prevent our international customers from buying from us, but it seems US consumers can still shop outside US, if they don’t mind paying the taxes. We understand the difficulty this creates for our users, but we are required to do as the publishers wish in order to be able to offer their product for sale.

Last week, there was an article in the Bookseller about how easy it was to bypass Amazon geographic limitations by merely providing a legitimate address in different countries. The Bookseller article urged Amazon to institute different procedures so that this bypass could not occur.

Geographic restrictions, in a readers’ eye, is an unreasonable impediment to purchasing a book. A reader knows that the book is out there, in digital format, one click away, and the inability to purchase it because of some incomprehensible reason termed “geographic restrictions” fosters anger, frustration, and anxiety.

Geographic restrictions made sense in the old publishing paradigm where print publishing was the only game in town. An author writes a book and with the creation of a book arises a number of rights known as intellectual property rights. Intellectual property is just a little bundle of rights that the author can sell individually or in a group. Think of the rights as a bouquet of flowers. An author could give one rose to the publisher in exchange for money or she can give a dozen or the entire garden.

flowers and rights

When authors enter into contracts with publishers, generally, they sell just a few flowers to the publishers. Those flowers give the publisher the right to use that Book in various ways but only in North America. But these contracts can vary a great deal. Foreign rights sales can end up making as much money for the author as the original advance. What I have been told by some authors is that they don’t want to impair their marketability for those foreign markets by allowing an english language digital edition to be sold in that region. Other authors say that their foreign edition rights haven’t been purchased by any publisher and they don’t want to give them up for no additional money.

In the meantime, readers see the first result on google being a link to a free copy of the book. They want to buy the book but can’t because of these geographic limitations yet downloading the book for free has virtually no barrier.

Even crazier is that there are books that have worldwide distribution like the Harlequin and Mills & Boon books but some retailers who don’t want to deal with the hassle of determining who can buy what, just shut you out. For example, I can buy a book from the Mills & Boon site, but I can’t buy those same books from Amazon UK, WH Smith or Waterstones (the latter two being UK bookstores). I used to be able to buy from WH Smith and Waterstones. I remember years ago buying PJ Tracy books in digital format there. For some reason those books weren’t available digitally in the US. I didn’t know about geographic restrictions. I only knew that I wanted those books in digital form and I happily paid for them with my US credit card and my US billing address. I’m guessing five or so years ago no one really cared about geographic limitations when it came to ebooks. Everyone was just happy getting a sale.

Unfortunately, the publishing business is not just about making a sale and I understand that. Probably no business is about just making one sale. A business should be about maximizing profits. Yet, I have to wonder whether the cumulative missed sales in a non home territory really makes good business sense, particularly now. When I saw the front page photo of Jeannie Lin’s book in the largest Vietnamese newspaper in the country, I was reminded about how global stories are. The largest English speaking country is the US but India isn’t far behind and neither are countries like China and the Phillipines.

Does foregoing digital sales in hopes of a foreign rights sale to a native publisher really make good business sense in today’s burgeoning digital market? I don’t think it does because depriving a reader of a legitimate path to purchase books makes it an easy battle for pirates to win. Obviously there are the arguments that even those books that are available worldwide are pirated (probably the most often pirated books I see are Harlequin books which have a worldwide distribution). Yet, not even making the book for sale seems to be conceding the ground. Further, couldn’t popular digital sales of a book in particular country spur foreign rights sales much like Kindle popularity has led to traditional book contracts?

Geographic restrictions (or territorial rights) is something that authors, in particular, are going to have to really pay attention to. It’s a problem in need of a good solution. A reader’s solution is to make those books available everywhere a reader is willing and able to purchase them. What’s the author or publisher solution?

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She self publishes NA and contemporaries (and publishes with Berkley and Montlake) and spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com


  1. emmad
    Nov 02, 2010 @ 18:09:21

    Thanks ShellBell I’ll have a look.
    I read heaps mainly scifi/ fantasy/ murder-mystery/ etc. Don’t like historicals but that’s about it :)

  2. Jane
    Nov 02, 2010 @ 19:50:59

    @emmad If you are a big scifi/fantasy fan then Baen would be a great place for you. The covers are awful, but the talent there (Lois McMaster Bujold, frex) is pretty good. Baen is DRM free and I am pretty sure, region free.

  3. emmad
    Nov 02, 2010 @ 21:09:53


    Thanks Jane I’ll look into that as well :)

  4. Estara
    Nov 03, 2010 @ 09:23:17


    Baen is DRM free and I am pretty sure, region free.

    As a German ebook reader I can confirm that BAEN is both ^^. They also offer e-ARCs of new books half a year before the book comes out and huge excerpts to decide on what to buy.

    However, in the case of Lois McMaster Bujold you might want to buy the current 1st edition hardcover of the newest Miles Vorkosigan book, Cryoburn, because of the now 14 Vorkosigan books every book (except for Memory, for some reason) – [b]as well as the Vorkosigan Companion[/b] – is on a cd-rom which is included only in the 1st printing of the hardcover. In all the formats that Baen supports as well as html.

    Amazing value for money.

  5. Angela James
    Nov 03, 2010 @ 11:22:20

    @Estara: I think that cd is a fantastic deal and I’ve been thinking of reading these books, so that seems a good way to start. Do you know if all hardcovers of Cryoburn contain the CD? I was looking at Amazon and it doesn’t seem to be noted in any way, so I wondered if I should wander to my local B&N and take a look in person to make sure I’m getting one.

    I remember Baen doing this with David Weber’s Honor Harrington series. Really brilliant, I thought.

  6. GrowlyCub
    Nov 03, 2010 @ 12:10:57

    @Angela James:

    Only the 1st print run of the HC will include the CD.

    If you go to Borders, they have a 33% off coupon available right now thru tomorrow I think. :)

  7. Geert
    Nov 03, 2010 @ 12:31:22

    All Baen CD’s can be downloaded (legally) from

  8. Geert
    Nov 03, 2010 @ 13:48:29

    Correct website:

  9. Angela James
    Nov 03, 2010 @ 14:04:08


    Thank you, this is pretty amazing. It looks like all they ask is that you make a purchase. You can download all of the CDs or any of the CDs without making one, but they do ask for your monetary support in return. That makes perfect sense to me. Dl these for free and spend $15 on the Cryoburn ebook in return. Wow. Pretty amazing value. Kudos to Baen.

  10. MG
    Nov 03, 2010 @ 15:03:20

    Well, if you’re willing to work for it, there may be a solution to work around this: proxies.

    For example:

    I’d use extreme caution when using a proxy to purchase something as the proxy could easily sniff your traffic. To be as secure as possible, I’d recommend using a site like Amazon where you can log on, grab a cookie, hop on the proxy and then subsequently purchase something without providing passwd or credit card into in clear text (instead, just passing the cookie). Once your purchase is complete, *immediately* log off Amazon (thus invalidating the cookie).

  11. Estara
    Nov 03, 2010 @ 17:07:55

    @Angela James: From what I understand of this post at LMB’s myspace page, this only goes for the first printing of the hardcover, so if that hasn’t sold out yet, you’re fine.

    I simply ordered it via and got the correct version. If you buy it in a shop it has a small sticker printed on the top which says cd-rom included.

    There are also speeches, interviews and travellogues by LMB on it.

    Everything except Memory (but Diplomatic Immunity is on it twice ^^ – once as a single title and once in an omnibus).

  12. Thursday Midday Links: Be Grateful You are Plagiarized | Dear Author
    Nov 04, 2010 @ 11:14:33

    […] etc. You can also provide links to places that provide books without restrictions. Thanks to Suze for the grand idea. I knew that international issues were a big deal because I receive emails from […]

  13. sabredog
    Nov 06, 2010 @ 17:51:58

    As an Australian, geo restrictions are even more of a concern to me that DRM ever will be. I cannot even buy ebooks written by Australian authors due to this anachronistic practice.

  14. Geographical Restrictions, Take Two | Dear Author
    Nov 07, 2010 @ 04:01:13

    […] last week’s post, there was quite a bit of discussion in a number of areas about the issue of geographical […]

  15. Martin
    Nov 07, 2010 @ 08:20:35

    @SarahT: I completely agree. I recently bought a Swindle, and having found out that publishers won’t sell to me because of where it’s registered, I wish I hadn’t.

  16. Kelly McClymer
    Nov 07, 2010 @ 14:01:46

    Someone I know from a group of us working to self publish our out-of-print books forwarded a link to this discussion. I had to laugh, because I have been looking at this issue as a potential topic for a writer’s conference panel in 2011. This discussion has helped me pinpoint a lot of the questions that need to be answered. Thank you!

    I know it seems like authors should be able to say to publishers: make my e-book available worldwide. But we can’t. Publishers have complicated and interdependent contractual obligations with publishers (and divisions) in various countries. They aren’t motivated to renegotiate those until they understand the money they’re losing is significant. Agencies have to deal with the same entities. These are high level negotiations that have to go on (as someone said, it took Amazon years to get a deal with Canada, and Amazon was highly motivated).

    I like the idea of a list of “book sales lost”, but I have another suggestion: go to Fictionwise, Smashwords, Kindle, and buy the books that authors are putting up after they’ve gone out of print. Hard numbers on the money involved will do more to convince publishers (and governments) around the world to renegotiate than anything else.

    The authors who are putting up their out of print back list don’t have to put geographical restrictions on the books. In fact, Amazon offers the 70% royalty rate only if you don’t put geographical restrictions on your distribution (Amazon gets it, and it is definitely trying to push the publishers and governments toward a more global-friendly e-marketplace).

    This doesn’t deal with the immediate frustration of not being able to get new traditionally published books, which must be enormously annoying. However, it is doing something to send a message direct to the publisher’s pocketbook (as they watch Amazon help thousands of out of print books find new readers, which I consider a big plus).

    After my sig, I’ve pasted three sites which provide info on award-winning out of print books. Check them out, and remember — for every one you buy, you’re reminding the publishers the clock is ticking. They need to get this renegotiated. Yesterday. The authors want to sell books. The readers — everywhere — want to read them.


    Backlist Ebooks
    A Writer’s Work
    BookView Cafe

  17. Estara
    Nov 08, 2010 @ 06:21:22

    @Kelly McClymer: Well, two of those three are already added as resources at, but I can certainly add the third one, too ^^.

  18. Ranty McRant Time: Geo Restriction Style | The Book Pushers | Book Reviews | Book Chatter
    Nov 08, 2010 @ 13:25:04

    […] over at Dear Author did a fantastic post about geographical restrictions, and then I read comments made by some authors. Some of them seem […]

  19. Authors’ Rights Become Readers’ Headaches « Genreville
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  22. Clare
    Nov 12, 2010 @ 16:36:08

    @Jill Sorenson:

    That said, just because my publisher owns those rights doesn't necessarily mean they will utilize them.

    I’m smiling sadly here in the UK, from maybe the other POV. I’ve just had an e-book released in audio through Amazon/Audible but I can’t actually buy it myself! The rights – for whatever reason, and I’m still stirring up those waters – haven’t been licensed to Europe at this time. Yet I signed over rights to my publisher for “all territories”. I think Jill’s comment is very true, I’m at the mercy of a publisher and whether they can – or choose to – utilise all the distribution outlets.

  23. Greatest ebook idea of the year: | Bookbee Ebooks
    Nov 15, 2010 @ 23:04:43

    […] to the site, the idea came from by Suze in a comment over at Dear Author on the topic of geographical rights… If I had the time and computer savvy, I'd set up a […]

  24. Booksprung » New website lets you tell publishers why you didn’t buy that ebook
    Nov 16, 2010 @ 09:27:10

    […] The site was created by a group of volunteers familiar with the ebook and indie publishing scene, and the idea was sparked by a commenter at the Dear Author romance novel blog on a recent post, “How Do We Solve a Problem Like Geographic Restrictions?” […]

  25. New website lets you tell publishers why you didn’t buy that ebook
    Nov 16, 2010 @ 09:29:44

    […] The site was created by a group of volunteers familiar with the ebook and indie publishing scene, and the idea was sparked by a commenter at the Dear Author romance novel blog on a recent post, “How Do We Solve a Problem Like Geographic Restrictions?” […]

  26. FC
    Nov 22, 2010 @ 09:02:18


    I live in a country with massive restrictions on what can be bought. I own and e-reader and love it. Until I can buy the books legitimately, I will continue to download them from torrents. I took the trouble to try and find out how to buy the books before realizing that these territorial rights existed and even so, the shear mission to get an e-reader registerd and the right software on the right computer was a total abortion. I gave up. I have several hundred ebooks that I’ve obtained from various sources now. I would happily buy them, but it seems I can’t.

  27. Anonymous book buyer
    Nov 22, 2010 @ 15:37:03

    @ Sarah T. One way which *works* is to register at Books on Board as a US resident – using a US address. Then buy gift certificates and buy ebooks using the gift certificates. There is a promotion there where you get 10% rewards for buying a gift certificate (as long as it’s over $30) so it’s not all bad news. Because you’d be using a gift certificate to pay for a geo restricted book there is no checking of a credit card address or PayPal address (even though you will probably have used one of those to buy the gift certificate). Voila – no restrictions. It gets around geo restrictions, gets you the book you want in the format you want and gets the author some royalties and, IMO, it’s better than pirating. It works for me, I’m sure you could do it too if you wanted too.

  28. Another anonymous book buyer
    Nov 23, 2010 @ 06:33:57

    @Anonymous book buyer: I can confirm all of this, the only thing is that you have to pay tax according to the US address you have chosen, which will be added at check-out.

    If you buy Samhain books, etc. at Books on Board these jumps through hoops are not necessary and you can pay via Paypal very easily (but I no longer flip the address, I simply keep the US address there as well).

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  31. CELIC » STOP aux DRM
    Dec 12, 2010 @ 12:23:16

    […] prêter votre exemplaire à un ami…), voire même les fonctions d'achat (comme c'est le cas des restrictions géographiques, rendant impossible d'acheter un fichier si votre matériel n'est pas de la même zone […]

  32. Kat
    Jan 06, 2011 @ 08:04:37

    I live in Australia and have been extremely frustrated about not being able to access ebooks despite being willing to pay. I used a fake US address on Amazon and it worked for a while until they enforced IP detection. After some digging around, I’ve found a way around it so thought I’d share it with you guys.

    1. Create Amazon account with fake US address.
    2. Go to and then go to from there.
    3. Browse and purchase from Amazon as per usual.

    The site basically masks your non-US IP address. Pages load a bit slower but it’s a small sacrifice. I’ve just managed to purchased an ebook this way. While I’ve only tried it on Amazon, it should work with BoB and other stores that use IP detection.

    Good luck!

  33. Another frustrated Australian ebook reader
    Jan 08, 2011 @ 09:25:42

    A partial workaround for WH Smith. I use the Kindle App as well as Adobe Digital Editions to read ebooks on a Macbook Air. (I cannot, of course, read ibooks on my Mac but that is for another rant). I was chasing an ebook that neither Amazon nor WH Smith (UK bookseller) would sell to me in Australia – in fact nobody would sell me the ebook in Australia although the book is readily available in dead tree format. However, a close family member resident in the UK set up a WH Smith account and bought me the ebook and emailed me the download link. I downloaded it with no problems and now I am reading it on my Mac. My family member paid up front for this with their credit card and shared their WH Smith account password with me (by phone not email). No casual acquaintance is going to do that for you. You need a relationship with a very high level of trust for this to work.

  34. Another frustrated Australian ebook reader
    Jan 08, 2011 @ 09:33:09

    @Jackie Barbosa: Yes we can. And you got a sale :-)

  35. StatesideAussie
    Mar 24, 2011 @ 09:26:03

    As a reader, I am totally frustrated. As a lifelong reader of John le Carre, I would love to get digital versions of his earlier works. These are available in the UK but not the US. As an aspiring (= unpublished) author, I do have to echo what the authors on here have said: it’s all very well to say authors need to negotiate more aggressively with their publishers, draw a line in the sand or whatever, but in any practical sense, it’s not going to happen. I haven’t read all the comments on here (but I did read the first 200 or so!), but I feel people are arguing at cross-purposes: readers keep pointing out what *should* be done, while authors keep pointing out that in a practical sense, it *cannot* be done (at least, not by them).

    The reality is that like any other contract, rights require the agreement of both parties, the authors and the publishers. It has to be mutual, because both parties have to sign. This means that both parties have, in effect, the power of veto. For example, I understand that the reason you won’t find any Harry Potter ebooks is that the author herself won’t sign off on it.

    But what’s important to understand is that there are only a handful of authors who have that sort of power. I don’t mean the power to say “no” to a publisher, because anyone can do that. I mean the power to say “no” to one aspect of the deal, and still force through the remainder of the deal. The power to say no selectively, in other words.

    Let’s look at some statistics. In order to get published, you need an agent (publishers no longer accept unsolicited manuscripts and no longer deal directly with authors). In the US, the average agent receives more than 1,000 new manuscripts a week. (Most, of course, are rejected summarily.)

    According to industry estimates, in 2009, more than 1 million new titles were published in the US, more than triple the 2005 figure. This includes all categories, both fiction and non-fiction, all formats (including digital and audio), and both traditional publishing channels and self-publishing (print-on-demand) channels (which actually account for most of the growth in new titles). Yet total book sales have barely moved, and in some categories, have declined.

    In the US, the average non-fiction sells fewer than 250 copies a year and fewer than 3,000 in its lifetime.

    Depending on the category, there are 100 to more than 1,000 titles competing for every inch of available shelf space in bookstores. For example, there are more than 250,000 business books in print, yet smaller stores may stock around 100 such titles, and even superstores stock only around 1,500.

    In fiction, sales of a few thousand books in print would be considered moderately successful. At that rate, most authors never see a royalty check. The only money they are likely to see is the initial advance, which might be a few grand. In self-publishing (POD), there have been a few successes where a title has sold in the thousands. I read of one that sold around 32,000. On average, though, sales range between 50-200 (that is, mostly the author’s family and friends). One of the leading POD publishers,, defines a bestseller as sales of 500 or more.

    As with any business, “power” rests with those who generate money. As you can see from these statistics, 99.99% of authors do not generate money, either for themselves or anyone else. Of course, there are a handful who do make money and lots of it, and they do wield tons of power. I read somewhere that in the US, fewer than 300 authors make enough money to do it as a full-time occupation.

    So the vast majority of authors have virtually no power. Yes, they have the power to refuse a contract, but they do not have the power to argue about terms.

  36. Hvitveis
    Mar 31, 2011 @ 08:04:34

    Thanks for this enlightening thread. After Connie Brockway announced her exciting news I have begun seriously considering an ereader, but as an european I get trapped by the geo restrictions. But with websites mentiones in the comments I will now have a way to check out what is awailable now, and also an idea about future availability. I suspect a lot of trad published authors, who now have their rights reverted on earlier books and putting them out “on their own” will be tempted to do so also with new stuff. Or maybe they are doing it already? Anyway, thanks again!

  37. Anon
    Oct 21, 2011 @ 09:36:30

    If you ever consider doing a follow up on this article I would be interested. particularly a few of the ways around suggested no longer work for amazon. Each time I see ” includes VAT & free international wireless delivery via Amazon Whispernet” I want to kill somebody – they detect Ip automatically, and the price I see always (except books priced 0) gets a couple of US dollars added to it. Free delivery indeed! If they even deign to sell to me in the first place, of course.

  38. Juan
    Nov 18, 2011 @ 10:46:39

    What about people who read several languages? I have spend many years learning foreign languages so that I can access the world’s culture, yet paradoxically the internet and digital books are making this harder than ever before. Regional restrictions are morally repugnant as they effectively create an apartheid where men and women are severely restricted in what culture they can experience. No one with a conscience should support any format that restricts users on a geographical basis. Until the kindle and the like abandon all restrictions nobody with an ounce of intelligence should purchase it.

  39. srkshaju
    Mar 19, 2012 @ 08:28:09

    nice things you put here.
    it is really helpful for us.
    thanks for sharing like this kind of post.

  40. Debbie
    Jul 03, 2012 @ 10:39:45

    Two of my favorite authors today have new books released, Christine Feehan and Alexis Morgan….and can I get hold of their books in e format…NO….these geographical restrictions are a pain in the backside. What I find truly frustrating, is I would quite happily pay for my e-book, ensuring that the author got the credit for the work, but sadly every time I attempt to purchase a eBook I get hit with geographical restrictions….Piracy is going to win on this one…how can these publishing companies not understand that they will lose money…because people will down load books illegally, not rocket science..

  41. Do You Even Want My Money? | Diary of an Aspiring Writer
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  42. SFReader
    Aug 10, 2013 @ 08:31:37

    Typically a paperback on the shelf in New Zealand is priced at $24 and up, but the price written on the back cover of that same book is $US7.99. Now you don’t have to be a genius to do the exchange rate calculation and figure out that $US7.99 is approximately $NZ10 and so you are being ripped off by approximately $14 per book.

    Why? Nobody really knows. The international publishing cartel seems to have just decided a long time ago for reasons that everyone has pretty much forgotten that New Zealanders and Australians would thereafter be rorted on book pricing. And it has been that way ever since. This situation has always made me very angry. I have purchased upwards of a thousand books over my lifetime and calculate that I have been rorted in excess of $14,000 or 1,400 books worth of reading value.

    The internet let us buy books at US prices. Now publishers are attempting to force us to pay extortionate discriminartory prices again. I’ve had enough. I will never again buy paper books at that kind of ridiculous price. And with regard to ebooks, I give a publisher just one chance to sell me a DRM free ebook at a global price (like for example Baen does). Else bittorrent.

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