Virtual ATM for Amazon: Piles On Kindle Fees, Increases Book Costs Outside U.S.

The international Kindle is starting to look like a virtual ATM for Amazon (NSDQ: AMZN). Not only will U.S. Whispernet users have to pay $5 a week for accessing their subscriptions, as we reported yesterday, and $2 per book download, downloads of single issues run $2. The fee for the international version of the Personal Document Service is $1 per megabyte, nearly seven times the 15 cent per megabyte cost in the U.S. At the same time, non-U.S. Kindle buyers will pay more for the same books — something that may make some sense when translation. printing and shipping are involved but very little when it’s all about transferring the same digits in the same language.

Amazon UK admitted to The Guardian‘s Bobbie Johnson that “foreign” customers will pay $13.99 (£8.75) per book instead of the usual $9.99 (£6.25) in the U.S. — a 40 percent premium for the same title. Add in the $2 surcharge and buying a book on Whispernet in London would still be less than a UK owner would pay. Amazon initially said there would be no additional fees but told The Guardian that operating costs were higher outside the U.S. and that VAT is higher for e-books than print. Printed newspapers and books are exempt from VAT but electronic devices aren’t, so that could account for nearly 16 percent of the higher cost.

Workaround: In most cases, users should be able to avoid access charges by using Wi-Fi or another connection to download to a PC and then transfer purchases or subscriptions to the Kindle via USB. That removes much of the advantage Kindle has over other devices, though — it’s the Whispernet that made it stand out for this traveler, at least — and makes the fees a “convenience” charge instead of having delivery be part of the service. Fees for the Personal Document Service also can be avoided by e-mailing documents to the free version of a user’s personal kindle address for USB transfer. Kindle purchases already have some Whispernet fees baked in but no discounts for downloading without Amazon’s wireless service.