What is the Problem with International Ebooks?

This is a bit of a rant from the non-US perspective of ebooks and ebook readers and how crazy it seems to be right now.

On Amazon.com

It is a fantastic development to finally have the International Kindle available. I bought one as soon as it was announced and eagerly await it. I have not even seen a real one yet, and the iPhone is just too small for full on book reading. Books are ridiculously expensive in Australia so I buy mostly from the US Amazon Store anyway (crazy world!). The ebooks are still expensive on the Kindle but a lot cheaper than the print stores.

One example is Socialnomics: How social media transforms the way we live and do business by Erik Qualman which I have been wanting to read. It is priced AU$42.50 (US$38) at a business bookstore for the print version. The Kindle version will be US$11.99 (AU$13) so I will be waiting to buy it there.

The Kindle Store is now segregated by the country associated with your account, which I understand has something to do with overseas rights. However, the Kindle publishing platform is still only available for those publishers/authors with US address, bank account and tax number. This basically excludes most publishers and authors in other countries. I currently publish on the Kindle through a friend, and the money goes into his bank account – not the best arrangement but all I can manage to be published on the platform.

This is a big criticism of the International Kindle, and one I hope is soon solved. Opening up to non-US publishers will explode the Kindle content and offer the chance for more sales for publishers, more opportunity to sell for authors and more money for Amazon. I would be fine with being paid by Paypal or even by Amazon store credit if the problem is the bank account.

I emailed Amazon Kindle and this was the response (Oct 28, 2009). It looks pretty positive but no date yet.

Thank you for contacting us regarding your interest in selling your title in the Amazon Kindle Store.

We are in the process of expanding our Digital Text Platform to accept international publishers. However, we are not yet accepting publishers through DTP without a U.S. address and bank account.

We will contact you once we have completed our transition. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.

Thank you, Amazon.com

On Scribd.com

Scribd is driving me totally nuts because they only allow US residents to actually sell AND BUY on the site, although anyone can load free content there (which I do here).

Firstly, I love Scribd. It’s a great platform but why can’t I sell my ebooks there? I own all the rights to my 3 books, there is no foreign rights problem. I have a Scribd account, I have a Paypal account. It has been in Beta for months now. What’s the problem Scribd? I’m still waiting for a response to my questions.

This is even stranger. I can’t even BUY ebooks on Scribd, despite the format being a downloadable file. This is not a foreign rights issue as I can’t buy self-published books either. I wanted to get “The God Patent” by Ransom Stephens (only $3.95) but get a message saying the store is still in Beta and therefore I can’t buy as a non-US resident. Crazy times.

Later addition after reply from Scribd.com

jgoure, Oct 21 11:00 am (PDT):

Hello Joanna,

Many of our international members have expressed interest in the Store. However, there are several important legal and logistical issues to work out first and unfortunately, I honestly cannot estimate when the Store will open to users connecting from outside the USA.

Jerry Goure, Scribd, Inc.
Customer Care Representative

On Smashwords.com

Go Smashwords! It seems to be the only site to allow truly international ebooks from any author globally. You can publish your books in multiple formats and be paid by Paypal. There is even a multi-language option coming I believe. Smashwords books are also sold on the iPhone through Stanza, as well as through Barnes & Noble ebook store and now Sony has also partnered with Smashwords.

I have written a post on how to publish your book on Smashwords here. It is pretty simple and they have many tools to help you publish, so if you want to get started with ebook publishing, definitely start there!

Can you publish on all of these platforms?

I had this question from a reader, and the answer is “Yes, if you have the digital rights to your books”. If you are a self-published author, or if you haven’t sold the digital rights, you can publish your book wherever you like. I currently sell my ebooks from this website as PDF, on Smashwords in multiple formats, and on the Kindle. I will get on Scribd as soon as I am able. You can do the same! This gets your ebook to as wide an audience as possible. Brilliant!

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  1. Graham Storrs says

    Joanna, I feel the same frustration with Amazon and Scribd and I agree, Smashwords is showing these parochial players the way. Less than 5% of the world’s population lives in the USA. Why shoot your business in the foot like this when there are quite easy solutions available?

    I’m a non-US author (replying to your tweet) with my first novel coming out as an e-book in February 2010. Fortunately, I’m being published through a New York publishing house and the book will be available in all the major e-book markets. I’ve looked at self-publishing options and the restrictions on sites like Amazon have been part of what has discouraged me from going that way.

  2. says

    Thanks Graham – so glad you feel the same way – I have been getting most frustrated about it all! I hope your books will be available on the International Kindle so we can buy here in Australia, since you are being published through NYC!

  3. says

    Smashwords is the only reasonable choice now. It’s the challenger here, the other two are leaders, which don’t feel obliged to do risky things like embracing international content they wouldn’t be able to control.
    Probably some non-US self-publishing services will start engines before Scribd or Amazon open to the world.

  4. says

    Joanna, there is an option for non-US authors and publishers who want to publish on Kindle. Red Hill Digital enables any publisher or author who hold the digital rights to their works to export their books into the leading online stores (Kindle, Soney eBook store, iPhone/Stanza, scribd.com etc). We set up our digital book distribution service precisely because of the limitations you describe – we wanted to give non-US authors a way to scale the e-barriers that are currently in place with Amazon etc.

  5. says


    Great post. Please let me know if you have any trouble getting an eBook version of Socialnomics and I will see what I can do.

    Best, Erik Qualman
    Author of Socialnomics

  6. says

    Hi Joanna,
    I’m tickled that you wanted to buy my novel, The God Patent and annoyed that you couldn’t! From the comments here, it sounds like I need to put it up on Smashwords. It is just now coming out in trade paperback from the Vox Novus imprint of Numina Press and there will be a Kindle version soon. I’ll ask the publisher if they mind having it on Smashwords and, they are so great, I’m sure they won’t mind.
    I hope you’re having fun!

  7. Tian Loebis says

    Hi Joanna, i know this post has been here for ages, but i’ve stumble upon it since currently i’m looking for information regarding e-books market that accept international author. Do u have any updates for such information..?


  8. Kate says

    As a book buyer, the authors are losing money with the restrictions on international sales. If I download illegally I can get it now, and read it. If the publishers don’t want to sell it, then they are losing NO money, so how is it a crime?

  9. Dee says

    Hi Joanna. The sites that you mentioned in your May 15, 2012 post, do all of them pay the author via PayPal? If not, how do international authors receive their funds?

    • Joanna Penn says

      As this industry moves so fast, I would generally say to ignore any technical advice that is over a year or two old!
      Here’s the up to date publishing page: http://www.thecreativepenn.com/publishing/
      and companies like Amazon, Kobo, Nook and iBooks pay by bank transfer to many countries and by check to others. You have to check their Help pages for which countries. All the best.


  1. […] didn’t even think about it until Joanna Penn blogged about it… There are some international issues concerning ebook […]

  2. […] Joanna Penn writing at The Creative Penn writes… This is a bit of a rant from the non-US perspective of ebooks and ebook readers and how crazy it seems to be right now … the Kindle publishing platform is still only available for those publishers/authors with US address, bank account and tax number. This basically excludes most publishers and authors in other countries. Read the full post over at The Creative Penn… […]

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