"Yay, Amazon.com.br is online!" I was happily celebrating the news this past week. Well, it's good that I didn't arrange for a fireworks show beforehand... Because it is total segregation!
Yes, the Brazilian version of the largest U.S. online store recognizes my existing account with Amazon.com, but despite promptly letting me in, I constantly felt as if I was outside looking in, with my nose pressed against the window. That's how European expatriates must feel when they browse through theItalian, German and Spanish versions of the site.
I can navigate the recently-opened Kindle store and drool over the large collection of books in Portuguese, whether they were originally written in my native language or translated from a foreign language. However, the site refuses to let me buy any title there.
Well, if the store is only selling Kindle books, how come there's a geographic restriction? There's no need to ship it by mail and titles are submitted through Whispernet, a service that delivers purchased contents directly to the ereader. So, what's up with that?
Here's a practical example: Let's suppose I wanted to buy a book that is 100% Brazilian, such as the biography that narrates what actor Reinaldo Gianecchini went through with his struggle with cancer, which is a title shown right there at the Kindle Store front page. When I click the book cover, this is what I see:
Did you notice that the "Buy" button doesn't even show up? This is the message I get instead:
[Kindle titles are available for US clients on Amazon.com. Continue buying at the Kindle Store on Amazon.com]
Well... I click the link and then I'm taken to the main page of the "Kindle Store" in the USA. Let's look for "Giane" then:
Your search "Giane" did not match any products in Kindle Store.
That's not really what I was looking for...
When it comes to Kindle, I thought the doors would be open to me. I would be able to read Brazilian books on my little "buddy" to my heart's content, but that's not quite what's happening. It's as if Amazon told me: "Are you in Brazil? Buy it in Brazil. Are you somewhere else? Pray for the book to be available; otherwise, don't even bring your hopes up, darling!"
Ah, so we'll have to find a way to trick the system! Do I need a bank account in Brazil and someone physically there to click the Buy button to make the site send the book to my Kindle over the internet?
No, I don't believe that would work either. Your Kindle needs a passport too, you know?! It can't come and go, crossing international borders as it pleases. When you buy the device, you must register its "permanent residency." If you update your country, then you'll be banned from other available site destinations, at least until you change your address again.
I've talked to many people this past week and came to the following conclusion: Amazon isn't 100% at fault here. Those in charge of making products available are decision makers.
For example, the self-published authors with whom I've worked have made the Portuguese version of their books available on Amazon.com and, without taking any action, their whole collection (regardless of language) appears instantly on Amazon.com.br.
Still, I'm not sure whether they have to set a price in Brazilian reais for Brazilian readers to be able to buy it locally. The site seems to have converted the currency, using the original price in dollars as reference, but the book page itself shows the following message:
Não há informações de preço disponíveis
[There's no information on price available]
As for publishers, I've talked to Noga Sklar, with KBR, who realized that yes, there is a territorial restriction, an option that publishers can turn on to make their book collection unavailable outside Brazil.
They are raining on my parade. You know, Mrs. Amazon, I don't want to steal; I want to buy books with my hard-earned money! Will this situation resolve itself in the upcoming weeks, after the site went live with a fright? We shall see...