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International Kindle users: change your country to avoid additional fees


Okay, so my earlier story about how Amazon is messing with International Kindle users made a bit of a splash. Quite a few things came up in my investigations before and after the story, but the basic fact remains: Amazon will add a fixed $2.00 surcharge to most items (which may or may not be a "roaming charge") if you're an international customer, even if you're using a WiFi-only device.

But I've now discovered something interesting enough to warrant a follow-up: It turns out that if you go to Amazon's Manage My Kindle page, you can simply set your country.

I think you must specify a valid address in your destination country (I supplied a valid one in Canada), but Amazon then simply takes your word for it.

As soon as I switched my country from Israel to Canada, the extra $2.00 per book simply disappeared. I could also suddenly subscribe to the NYT. I didn't actually try to do it, but it appears to be possible. Another side-effect was that Michael Pollan's Food Rules was suddenly unavailable, whereas before I was actually able to buy the title for $7.20 (when my location was listed as "Israel").

What's interesting is that in talking to four different Amazon reps, not a single one has mentioned this option. Also, Amazon can easily verify your actual location in two different ways – IP address or billing address. Yet, for some interesting reason, they choose to let you specify the address manually, and then take your word for it.

To me, this feels like a legal work-around they've had to take due to content restrictions and distributors insisting on various deals. Could it be that this shifts the legal responsibility to the customer rather than leave it with Amazon? Maybe I'm completely off-base here, but I think such weird complications are often lawyer-induced.

Note that I still don't have the device itself, so I can't fully guarantee that this works, and for all I know, they might plug this hole tomorrow. What I can tell you is that right now it does change the pricing and availability of many Kindle items.

Tags: amazon, business, international, kindle, lawyers, loopholes, money