I frequent BoingBoing when I have some spare time, because they post articles that interest me. One of the last times I was there, they had Cory Doctorow‘s review of Heather Brooke‘s The Revolution will be Digitised.
His review intrigued me, so I followed the link to her site for the book. Where I realized that this is a book I should probably read because of its connection to my scholarly interests. So I take the next logical step to buy the book; I follow the link.
This sends me to Amazon’s UK store where they have print copies for a reasonable price, along with a Kindle version. (The UK store completely makes sense as both the author and reviewer reside in the UK.) I don’t particularly want to pay for UK shipping, so I check the US store. They only have copies from authorized sellers, and they are more expensive than the UK edition.
So I head back to the UK store, because I have the Kindle App on my phone, and decide to try a sample of the e-book, just to be sure I want to go through the exchange rate to ultimately purchase said edition.
And that’s where I hit the Catch-22 circular logic of frustration.
I get the screen posted above. Because Amazon can tell, based on my account information or IP address, I’m not sure, that I am not currently in the UK. Which is true. But somehow, this fact means that I can’t buy a digital edition of a book. Which makes no sense.
I want to pay the company and the publisher and the author money for this book. But they won’t take it because I’m on the wrong side of the Atlantic Ocean. (I’m sure the author would, but she doesn’t have her book available on her website)
I suppose this would make more sense if the company and the publisher didn’t want to cover shipping costs. But I want to buy a digital version of the book! Bytes don’t particularly care where in the world they zoom through the Internet to. They don’t move slower because of the distance. And it’s not like Amazon would lose the ability to track the book’s use. The license is basically a lease. If they thought I was pirating the book, and sharing it with all of my friends, thereby cutting the rightful parties out of their money, they would suspend my account.
They aren’t the only company that does this. I think most multinational corporations with online storefronts segregate them by region or country. But that does not diminish the annoyance or short-sightedness.
The international connectivity is one of my favorite features of the internet. The fact that I can read a blog, edited by a collection of people who live all around the world, to find a book that will help further my education in the US written by some in the UK, who I’ve somehow missed, epitomizes the purpose of the internet. Why would a company have a digital copy of a book, if it isn’t available to everyone? I still want to read the book. But now I either have to pay more money than strictly necessary for a paper copy, or find a pirated version of the e-book. Either way, I’m not particularly favorably impressed with the publishing company, which means I’m less likely to purchase a book published by them. (Yes I care about how the publishers treat readers and will make judgements about which to buy with that as a contributing factor)
And I know US companies are notorious for doing this exact same thing to the world. I’ve thought it pointless to have the walls between the areas preventing people from paying money, or using a channel where the company still gets money, before now. This post comes from having a ridiculous screen capture to illustrate the rant. Because it’s even sillier for US companies to prevent people from buying their products. And the negative backlash means that the laws I live under change to reflect the perceived piracy of their products.
If companies made it easier for me to buy their products, regardless of where my computer connected to the internet, I would spend more money on them. If they make it difficult, then I have some tougher decisions to make, with one choice always being not to consume their product at all.