7 Reasons You May Be Losing International Readers

The Global Ebook Marketplace…and four things you can do about it.

Technology in general and the Internet in particular has made the world seem much smaller, but in reality the world remains a large and very diverse place. This diversity directly affects sales of your ebooks internationally. There are differences in internet connectivity, in brands of ebook reader, and in the ease of making purchases online. Some indie authors may be surprised to discover how they are missing out on ebook sales around the world because potential readers cannot purchase – or have strong reasons not to purchase – their ebooks.

How about you? Have you been neglecting your international readers? Perhaps not deliberately, but if you’ve focused all of your efforts on one or two big ebook stores then you may be failing to reach some of your international readers.

Amazon is a good example. Because of their dominance as an ebook retailer it’s easy to think that if you have your ebooks in all the Kindle Stores then you are doing a good job of reaching your readers around the world. But you’d be wrong. Other major stores including Barnes & Noble have their failings in this area too. Here are seven reasons you might be losing your international readers:

1. Amazon doesn’t ship Kindle readers to some countries. It is less likely customers in those countries will purchase ebooks from Amazon. Sure, they could have a Kindle delivered to a U.S. address and then reship it to their country. But only a very small percentage of the reading population could be bothered with that!

2. Many international readers cannot even shop in Amazon’s Kindle Store. I believe some countries may still be blocked completely from shopping online at Amazon so people in those countries cannot purchase any Kindle books. I don’t know which countries exactly are affected by this block. If your country is currently blocked or you know where there is a list of these countries online, please leave a comment below this article.

3. Most readers outside North America cannot buy ebooks at B&N’s Nook Books although B&N do have plans for international expansion.

4. Some readers live in countries where paying for anything online is complicated, either with a credit card or even via PayPal.

5. Your Kindle books are more expensive in countries that add VAT or other sales taxes. Some countries in Europe add 15 % for VAT so your $0.99 ebook becomes $1.14.

6. Your readers in some countries are charged a $2 surcharge by Amazon. Amazon sells your $0.99 Kindle book to customers in certain countries for $2.99 (and you still get your 35% royalty i.e. $0.35). Regardless of the business reasons Amazon may have for imposing this surcharge it’s not particularly good for the indie author (they don’t share any of it with you) and it’s certainly not too attractive to your reader.  And it get’s worse. Your $0.99 book now costs $3.44 ($2.99 + 15%) for the poor readers who are getting hit with VAT as well. In the countries affected that two dollar difference is probably a considerable amount in terms of the customer’s income. Of course these customers will look for an alternative store to buy the ebook, one where they avoid the surcharge.

7. In many countries the Kindle and Nook e-readers are not the most popular e-reading devices. This is one of the biggest differences. As soon as you move outside United States you’ll see big differences in the market share of different e-readers. The Kobo reader has a strong following in Canada where the company is headquartered and also in several other countries where Amazon & Barnes & Noble were slow to enter. What about the Kindle Fire? If you’re publishing enhanced ebooks you should keep in mind that the Kindle Fire is not available in almost every country of the world. Once you start looking at devices in other countries you’ll find people using a variety of local brands of e-readers, smartphones and tablets.

So what is an independent author to do? Of course it makes sense to concentrate on major stores like Amazon. But it’s not too hard to help out your international readers by implementing some of the following measures. These measures apply to ebooks that are not in Amazon’s KDP Select program or any other store where you have agreed to exclusivity.

1. Offer your ebook through alternative outlets. Sell your ebooks in more than one of the major ebook stores. Consider making them available through a more “international” store such as Smashwords.

2. Consider making your ebooks DRM free. Removing the Digital Rights Management technology makes it easier for your international readers to move your ebooks between different formats and devices.

3. If you are doing a free promotion or special promotion offer downloads directly from your own site… in case the big stores are adding on surcharges to international readers.

4. On your web site offer an option to pay by mailing a check. This might not be a popular option for a single $0.99 ebook but for more expensive ebooks, or perhaps a bundled set of novels, it might make the difference between losing the sale and gaining a new reader.

Time and again we hear that one of the biggest obstacles for indie authors is overcoming obscurity, so for goodness’ sake don’t make it harder for international readers to buy your books.  Make it easier and those international readers might give your author platform the boost it needs.


Comments on Twitter:


  1. Comment from Julio

  2. Great post! Although the Kindle was great for generating interest in e-books as a whole it’s not the only device out there…

    And VAT in the UK is currently sitting at a whopping 20% :/ – provoking an online petition:


  3. I’m on your email list and have bought your ebook product. Enjoy the way you’re helping indie authors grow their business.

    Thanks for the knowledge you impart!


  4. Thank you, Gary, for this wonderful and useful information. Yes, my country Nigeria was also blocked from buying kindle books. You can imagine how sad I was when I found out about this, and that, after I had published my romance novel in KDP Select.

  5. Hi Gary. I realize it’s a long time since you wrote this. Just the same please add Malaysia and Singapore to the list of countries from which you cannot buy any Kindle eBooks or hardware, Kindle Fire included. However note that we can easily buy print books online from Amazon.

    I could have sworn that I saw, on the Amazon site itself, a list of the countries where Kindle eBooks are not available. But I just cannot find that list now.

  6. Dead Mics Ultd. says:

    Excellent observations concerning #DRM and #International consumer markets (though ALL of them are prudent observations). I’m constantly on myself to ensure fair consideration to foreign readers. Very relevant perspectives thank you.

  7. Dead Mics Ultd. says:

    Two years later. STILL relevant.

Leave a Reply