Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Bookish Tuesday | Where Have All the eBooks Gone?

By Iola Goulton @iolagoulton

If you're an international reader (i.e. not from the US), then you might have noticed something strange about the Amazon.com website over the last couple of days.

The books are disappearing.

Not all the books—only the Kindle versions. The paperbacks are still there (although if there isn't a paperback version, there is no book). A bit of investigation shows the ebooks are still there—it's just that international customers can't see them. Instead, we can only see them on our "local" Amazon site—for me, that's Amazon Australia.

This could be a result of Amazon trying to implement their new databases (they're apparently getting rid of Oracle). It could be part of Amazon's ongoing efforts to try and get customers to shop at their local site. It could be both.

But Amazon have botched the implementation. Customers haven't been emailed to say we are being moved to the "local" site. Instead, we're simply not seeing the books for sale. This contrasts with, say, Amazon UK. I can see Kindle books for sale on Amazon UK. I'm just given the message that they're not available to purchase, and directed to my "local" store.

What Should Readers Do?

At this stage, readers appear to have four options:
  1. Switch to the local Amazon store for Kindle purchases.
  2. Switch their default address to a US address (e.g. Amazon HQ).
  3. Do nothing.
  4. Buy from Kobo or iBooks.
None of these options are ideal, as I explain below:

Switch to the local Amazon store for Kindle purchases

My "local" store is Amazon Australia. There is no financial advantage to me in switching—my bank is still going to charge me an international currency fee whether I buy using USD on the US site, or AUD on the Australian site.

I can't even tell if Amazon Australia is giving me the AUD price or the NZD price—the exchange rates are currently similar, and there is no way to tell without buying.

I've heard many reasons why people shouldn't switch, and no good reason to switch.

Switch their default address to a US address (e.g. Amazon HQ)

This is the advice many authors have been given by Amazon customer service (once the CS reps understand the problem—it's hard to explain a problem when the CS rep is seeing something different than you on the exact same web address).

I tried this, but either I didn't do it properly, or Amazon is smart enough to know I don't live at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington DC 20500. Anyway, it didn't work for me.

However, it has worked for many fellow Kiwis (although one appears to now be living in Panama, not the US). And it did work for Irish author David Gaughran (like New Zealand, Ireland doesn't have their own Amazon store, so he also shops at Amazon.com).

But Gaughran highlights a major flaw in this recommendation.

By switching his location from Ireland to Seattle (Amazon HQ), he only had to pay 6.5% Washington state tax on his purchase, not Ireland's 23% sales tax. I can't imagine the Irish (or New Zealand) tax department being happy about Amazon getting out of paying sales tax by encouraging customers to lie about where they live. On this basis, we should all claim to live in Alaska or one of the other four US states that have no sales tax.

Do nothing

Do nothing is always an option. But doing nothing means international readers can't buy any Kindle books except those which mysteriously still show as for sale on the US store.

Of course, I could read some of the 1500+ books I already have on my Kindle instead of stalking the Kindle store for something new ...

Buy from Kobo or iBooks

There are places to buy ebooks other than Amazon. Kobo is big in Canada, and iBooks has a strong market prescence in Australia. Both sell epub books, which can be read on many apps and most ereaders other than the Kindle.

The disadvantage of this option is that many of the books which have disappeared from Amazon.com are Kindle books enrolled in KDP Select, which means they are exclusive to Amazon.

Are you affected by Amazon's new geoblocking? 

What's your  plan for dealing with it as a reader?

About Iola Goulton

Iola Goulton is a New Zealand book reviewer, freelance editor, and author, writing contemporary Christian romance with a Kiwi twist. She is a member of the Sisterhood of Unpronounceable Names (Iola is pronounced yo-la, not eye-ola and definitely not Lola).
Iola holds a degree in marketing, has a background in human resource consulting, works as a freelance editor, and has recently introduced an Website | Facebook | Instagram | Pinterest | Twitter


  1. Hi Iola, This morning I discovered the missing books have returned! Hopefully the issue is being resolved for all international readers.

  2. Thanks for sharing Iola. Sadly, the timing was wrong for me and has made a huge impact on my book launch. I am so pleased I did not enrol in KDP select. I am frustrated with their lack of communication and intend to sell my books everywhere else I can. I am currently in the process of resolving the complaint with Amazon.com, who deny there being any problem at all. I have also brought up the review problem. They explained that reviews only show up on the amazon website where the buyer bought the book. Maybe I'm behind the times, but I had never heard of this before as either an author or a buyer. Do other buyers realise this when they check out the number of reviews to help decide which book to buy? This feature could be easily fixed. At present, this rule does not declare the entire truth to the buyers, or help authors who need as many reviews as possible for certain promotions. Obviously, I need to do some more homework and read some more of your blogs. We live and learn.