Dear Jane: Is there any way around the whispersync charges on Amazon?
Dear Jane is a column wherein you write in questions about ebooks and I try to find an answer. If you have a question, send it to jane at dearauthor dot com.
I’m a fairly new e-book convert. I first bought my Kindle to use when I travel, but now I find myself using it all the time. I love it! And no little thanks to the great info you’ve been putting up on e-books and e-readers over the years. Thanks!
However, as my e-book purchases become more and more, I’m becoming increasingly frustrated with the additional fees Amazon imposes on all international customers. Supposedly it’s for their costs of 3G outside the US, but I have a WiFi only kindle, so that makes no sense. Even people using the kindle apps for PC etc have to pay these fees. 2$ may not seem like a lot per book, but it really accumulates, and I find it annoying to think that it all goes straight into Amazon’s pocket, with no money for the authors. For cheaper e-books or novellas that in the US cost 0.99$, we end up paying more than three times as much (the e-book VAT is also higher in Europe).
Do you have any suggestions for us international e-book lovers? Should we abandon the kindle? Can Amazon be made to see reason?
Your short answer is not to use WhisperSync which is obviously ridiculous because Amazon should not be selling a device with wifi that makes virtually all downloads have a $2.00 tax. In some cases, like for those $.99 books, that tax is 200% the price of the book.
But the best way to incur no additional charges is to turn your wifi off and download and install your books via the USB. Select “Transfer via computer” before clicking on the “Send to device” command. Many books include the VAT and free international wireless delivery. (Screenshot while I pretend to be from Sweden)
But, again, what is the point of having a wifi device if you can’t use it? The next easiest thing to do appears to be to change your Country Settings. Under Manage Your Kindle, look for “Country Settings”
Enter a new country of residence.
You don’t have to have a credit card associated with your account. Instead, buy yourself giftcards and use the Amazon gift cards to fund your Kindle Account. You may have to have a separate account just for your Kindle if you buy a number of things from Amazon other than ebooks. One way to get yourself US bookcards is to get a US friend to send you the giftcard. (You can pay them via Paypal). One person on Dear Author once stated that gift cards were a good way to limit spending on the account as well.
Amazon can check where you come from based on your IP address, but others report that this has been successful for them. A person in this thread, however, was only able to download 7 books before Amazon caught on.
Here’s a website where you can check what level of Amazon support you have depending on the country you live in. For example, New Zealand allows you to use the 3G Whispernet service for free and has no $2 surcharge.
Whereas Sweden offers free 3G service, but also has the $2 surcharge.
According to posters at Mobileread, the $2 surcharge is slowly disappearing for residents of various countries. They surmise this is due to deals Amazon is making with local telecoms.
This applies only to books purchased at Amazon, though. For use of the personal document delivery service, Amazon is charge$.99 USD per megabyte. (See e.g., the account of this Indonesian Reader)
In answer to your last question about whether you should drop the Kindle altogether, it’s a good one. One of the biggest advantages of the Kindle is its ability to move you away from the personal computer altogether. You can load your books onto your device using the personal document delivery service (emailing books to yourself) and you can wirelessly sync your books. But if it costs you $2.00 per book, then the whispernet is more annoyance than advantage.
The Kobo Touch Reader is international. It’s store is international. It doesn’t have a $2 surcharge and does have syncing capabilities between mobile devices like an Android or iPhone and the Kobo itself. You can buy books directly from the Kobo and download them to your device at no charge. The drawbacks for the Kobo is that you can’t take notes on books that you don’t purchase from Kobo (or use a dictionary for those non Kobo store books).
The Sony Reader is a tethered device (meaning you can’t get books onto the device without a cord) but it’s got one of the best organizational setups on an ebook reader, not to mention it’s a gorgeous looking device.
Without Whispersync, the other touch screen devices might suit you better, but you’ll probably be just as tethered to your computer with other devices as you are with your Kindle.
Jane, thank for talking about this matter. It is a pain for international Kindle users.
For gift card, it would be a good idea to separate an account for Kindle account. I meant totally separate using another email under different name. Buy a gift card as a gift to another person (your different account), try to distinguish from your Kindle account. And do not purchase anything using credit card from your Kindle account. They will catch you that way.
For me it is too much problem and frankly I really do not want to deceive anyone. I went to another store and purchase via my PC. And my Kindle is just a reading device.
The only reason I used Kindle because my books are in PRC format and I do not have time to convert into other format. But Jane’s advice is good that another device may be more suitable for international readers.
BTW, I am interested in Kobo. Any international Kobo users here? I need an advice.
I forgot to ask this.
I am interested in Kobo. Any international Kobo users here? I need an advice.
I can only speak from personal experience. I avoid the charges, but as a long-time e-book reader, I’m used to far worse inconveniences, so I’m guessing that I take in stride what others would find annoying. I live in the UK, so my experiences are based on that.
I bought my Kindle based on price. When I bought it last September, it was the cheapest I could get in the UK, so the extra couple of steps didn’t bother me. When I took it to the US earlier this year, I didn’t find a problem switching my main account from the UK to the US, so I could carry on downloading things if I wanted to.
I have also put the balance of my main Kindle account, the addy that all my stuff goes through, to £0. I can change that if I want to, and I can still buy books, as that is charged to my main Amazon addy, but I don’t get the extra charges.
I bought a Kobo and a Nook Color on my recent visit, and the Kobo works fine on wifi. The Nook won’t let me buy anything outside the US, and bases that on my UK IP address, but I’ve got around that because I have a very good friend in the US who lets me use her address. My credit card, her address. It’s a pain, but it does mean that I can sometimes buy the US release of a book if I’m desperate for it, and it isn’t released in the UK for a while, if at all. Or if there’s a significant price difference.
I strongly believe that geographical restrictions, with a few political exceptions like China, are artificial, and a way for agents to negotiate more dosh out of a publisher (and God knows they need to do that). So I don’t see an answer in the near future, more’s the pity. There are workarounds, but you do have to work at it.
I also buy books direct from the publisher, rather than through Amazon. If you use the wifi connection to go to the publisher url on your Kindle, you can do this reasonably well, and then you select the Amazon version or the Mobipocket version. They’ll both work on the Kindle.
thanks for the post. As I’m also dealing with the topic of international prices of Kindle books, I’ve found out that international delivery + VAT is not the only factor.
In this comparison of prices&availability ( http://ebookfriendly.com/2011/06/18/kindle-bestsellers-comparison-of-worldwide-prices-and-availability/ ) you’ll find out that many Kindle books are priced specifically for Europe.
Compared to US, the prices are:
– higher by 18.66% in Europe
– higher by 3.77% in Latin America
– higher by 1.29% in Asia&Pacific
One more thing about $0.99 books.
I self-publish all my books in Kindle Store for 99 cents. As I live in Poland, the price I see right after the book is published is $3.44 – exactly as for the “Unlocked”.
What really bothers me is that the price is changing. One day it’s already $0.99 another day it’s $3.44 again. All seen as for a registered user.
The only explanation I could give is that this price may be related to a number of downloads. The more downloads of a book (to a specific country?) the bigger chances to lower the charges.
Thanks for this, Jane. I have a birthday coming up and had planned to ask for a Kindle, but since I’m not in the US, I’m wondering now if maybe a Kobo might be the better choice for me. My dad is more than happy with his Kindle, but he reads different genres than I do and I’m not sure what he’s paying for individual titles/bundles. So I’ll second May’s request for advice re Kobo for international users.
BTW, I see Unlocked at 2.99 on Amazon; I’ll probably get it from somewhere else once I have an e-reader.
May, I’m using Kobo. They don’t charge any additional fees. My book published via Smashwords with a price $0.99 costs at Kobo $0.89 – and this is the price they bill.
I’m in the UK and I use a Kobo. To be honest, I don’t use it as often as I use my Kindle, because it’s not as customisable. With the Kindle, I’ve altered my margin so that there are only a couple of pixels between the print and the bevel (what is the point in those margins?) and I haven’t been able to do that as a universal setting on the Kobo. The Kobo’s battery also isn’t quite as good, but that’s a minor point because it’s still a long time. The Kobo also has a battery leak, even when it’s powered down. But it’s a nice little device.
I haven’t bought any books on the Kobo, but I can get to the store and when I went through a dummy run (everything except paying) it seemed to be fine.
I use Calibre, buy my books from the publisher, Amazon or somewhere else, and then load them from my computer. I have a Nook Color too, which, like the Kobo, takes epub, so Calibre will convert them for me.
I tried setting up a US account for my Kindle – US address, no credit card details etc etc. The first book I tried to buy, they picked up my location and send me a testy email about how I might have made a “mistake” about my location. (Although they didn’t take back the book.) At that point I decided it was more trouble than it was worth and moved back to my “home” account. I can buy UK editions of Kindle books if they’re available, but in all honesty, mostly I buy from Books on Board, who let me use a US address and PayPal. Then I strip the DRM, covert to mobi and sideload to my Kindle.
I chose the Kindle because I found it easiest to read on after trying a Kobo and Sony Reader (can’t easily get a Nook down here in NZ). I love reading on it and wouldn’t change it for that, but I actualy don’t buy a lot from Amazon.
I’m kind of sorry that I DRM strip since I’m not supposed to, but I’d rather buy the book in a technically illegal way so that the author and everyone else who worked on it gets their money than torrent it where no-one gets the money they deserve for their hard work. For both comfort and health reasons, ereading works best for me. (I’d be perfectly happy never to read another mass market paperback in my life, although trades and hardcovers are a little better.) So this is the compromise I’ve worked out that my conscience can live with.
Hmm, it seems I’ve been lucky so far (knock on wood). I have a US account for my Kindle, which I’ve used for close to a year now. I set it up using borderlinx.com and my Amazon credit card (issued by a German bank).
Amazon.com usually offers the cheapest prices for non-Agency books. I’ve thought about changing my account over to amazon.de, but some books cost the same amount in Euro as in $$ (the exchange rate is something like EUR 0.70 to US$ 1); also, some books are not available in Germany (mostly Hachette and St. Martin’s Press).
I also use Calibre (after liberating the books) to sideload them to my Kindle.
Kerry, I don’t think you have to feel bad about stripping the DRM; I do it too to make sure that I can access the books I’ve paid for if/when I change e-readers (the Kindle is my third reader after having an HP iPaq and a Pocketbook 360°).
I’ve been reading “e” exclusively for three years and because I *know* I can convert my books to any format I might need (like for reading on the iPad), I’m more likely to spend money on all kinds of books.
I’m in NZ and can see Unlocked at 0.99. I don’t actually use the whispersync other than for downloading books. What I did do though was go to the Personal Document Settings in Manage Your Kindle on amazon and set my maximum limit to zero. This ensures I’m not charged for any downloads.
I love my Kindle and find I am spending more on book purchase’s. The only issue I have is around GeoRestricitions and that’s not something amazon can fix. Did try the change of address as well but got picked up after one purchase. Need to find a way to hide my ip address.
Thanks for answering my question, Jane!
You said the fee can be avoided by transferring through the USB? How did you manage that? If I browse to amazon.com on my PC and look at Unlocked, I see a price of 3.44$, which is the same price as buying it through the Kindle Store. (I know Amazon writes that it’s free delivery, but they always write that. IMO they’re trying their best to hide the additional charges–the 2$ are never explicitly reported on the site. As far as I understand it, if I have an account with a Swedish address, I must pay the extra 2$ independent on what I do with the book–download it to my PC or to my Kindle.)
I really like my Kindle, and I’d be loath to abandon it, but if Amazon persists, I’m going to look into the Kobo. Thanks for the recommendation!
BTW, I see that several commenters are confusing the 2$ fee with the 3G download fee–it’s completely different. As I mentioned in my letter to Jane, I have a WiFi only kindle, which is always free to send stuff to. In fact, I never pay anything when sending it mobi books from Baen for example.
On the subject of the Kobo store, there is definitely a different one for UK users, so people outside the US might want to check which one they would have to use. If I click a Kobo book link from this blog, it recognises me as being in the UK and either brings up no results (because the book is not available here) or brings up the book but with the UK price. I checked a couple of those $1.99 deals that you listed last week and those that were available here were (a) not on sale and (b) priced at the usual £4 or £5.
If Kobo works like amazon, and international customers other than those in the UK (and now Germany for amazon) use the US store, then there might be bargains to be had. But if you’re going to have to pay UK prices, you might be better with the amazon.com prices and the $2 charge for international purchases.
I am in Sweden and have a Kobo I bought in the US. I used to buy a lot from the Kobo intl website, but they have started to add a sales tax to published prices at the end of the purchase process. As stated previously – USD 1-2 may not seem like much, but it adds up.
Now I mostly buy books from Amazon US, using an American credit card, and convert the books into epub so I can read them on my Kobo.
Thinking of buying a Kindle when we go to see my father-in-law next time. However, I am not keen on the fact that Amazon can (and have done so previously, was a big who-ha a year or so ago, if I recall correctly where they had erroneously sold classics and “called them back” and erased student notes in the process) delete books from my Kindle library while I am connected to the Kindle store.
@HellyBelly: It’s actually easy to pull a copy of a book file off the Kindle and save it on your computer as a backup (whether you choose to strip the DRM or not). Just plug the Kindle into the computer and check out its contents in your normal file system. Find the books you want to back up and copy them somewhere else. Make that your book backup. You can put them back on anytime by sideloading them back.
You can also save your notes once you’ve read a book. It’s a fiddly process, but all highlights and notes (and bookmarks) you make are saved in a file called My Clippings. You can copy that manually to your computer as well and save out your notes that way.
@Kerry: Thanks for the tips! I guess that is the routine for Kindle back-up I will set up if I do decide to get a Kindle. Am tempted, particularly because I would like to be able to arrange my books in collections, not possible on the Kobo.
I’m not sure how to avoid the higher price if the $2 fee is built into the price of the book. However to avoid charges for whispersync, set your personal delivery service charge at $0.00. This should force you to download the ebooks to your harddrive.
You will then need to copy over the azw files onto your Kindle using the USB cord.
US-based account, and when I live overseas I download to computer and load via USB. Although sometimes I miss the cool factor of buying a book while sitting in an airplain on the runway or in a cafe, keeping whispernet turned off all the time does majorly save on battery charge.
Ah OK, I thought you meant in your post that the “international 2$ fee” could be avoided in this way. I never pay anything for using whispersync. Basically, Amazon doesn’t charge for WiFi transfers. In fact, if you have a 3G kindle and set the limit to 0$, you can still send stuff wirelessly to the Kindle over WiFi, see e.g. this link: http://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html?nodeId=200505520&#fees
“You can set the maximum charge allowed for a single personal document sent wirelessly to your Kindle. […]We will also attempt to send the document to your Kindle for free via Wi-Fi.”.
At least this is the case for the Kindle 3, which is what I have…
@HellyBelly: Hi, you said that you convert ebooks bought from Amazon into epub format to read them in your Kobo. How do you manage that? I have a Sony ereader and bought ebooks in the past from Amazon and wasn’t able to convert them in epub format. I’ve tried various softwares, including Calibre but not much joy. Will be interested to see how you surpassed the DRM issues. Thank you