Reports: Amazon Launching In Spain Next Week; Kindle On The Way

Amazon (NSDQ: AMZN) is launching in Spain on September 15, according to Spanish newspapers El Pais and El Mundo, with a Kindle store to arrive by the end of the year.

The article says that will only sell physical goods–books, music, DVDs and electronics–at launch, but will expand its digital offerings by the end of the year. Amazon has been buying electronic rights from Spanish publishers like Roca Editorial, Random House Mondadori, Santillana and Asteroid Books.

Spain’s book prices–like those in many other European countries–are fixed, meaning that Amazon won’t be able to offer the discounted prices it does in the U.S. Once begin selling e-books, their prices will be about 30 percent lower than the prices of print books–something stipulated by Amazon’s publisher contract, according to this piece. That has already been fairly standard in Spain. Last year, the three largest Spanish publishers–Planeta, Random House Mondadori, and Santillana–and several smaller publishers jointly launched digital distributor Libranda to distribute their e-books to retailers. According to Publishing Perspectives, Libranda’s average e-book prices are 20 to 30 percent cheaper than print book prices.

Libranda has made deals with over 60 stores (including Barnes & Noble in the U.S.) Amazon is not currently mentioned as a partner, and the El Pais article makes it sound as though Amazon is working directly with individual publishers rather than with Libranda, but something may simply be lost in the (Google) translation.

El Mundo says that Amazon reps have not confirmed the launch, but Greg Greeley, Amazon VP of European Retail, is reportedly holding a press conference in Madrid on September 14, with to launch the next day. I’ve also reached out to Amazon for comment and will update this post if I hear back. At least one blogger–Ben Curtis, who writes at Notes from Spain–is ready for Amazon to arrive: “This is hardly surprising — all over Madrid you see MRW vans delivering Amazon packages every day, and it isn’t just expats like me buying English books. Many Spanish people have been turning to Amazon for some time to ship better priced electronics to Spain with the minimum of fuss and good guarantees: cameras etc are generally cheaper on Amazon than from major retailers here.” The launch of a native store could foster more trust of e-commerce, he writes:

First of all e-commerce is way behind in Spain, and one of the reasons I’ve always posited for this is that Spain never had Amazon. I believe that has had a huge role in fostering trust in e-commerce in those countries. Buying on-line in the US or the UK is largely considered normal, safe, and reliable thanks to Amazon, whereas here in Spain it is still not considered a normal way to shop amongst large sectors of the population.

Spain sits about 3 times behind the UK in terms of e-commerce. Online sales accounted for only 3 percent of all retail sales in Spain in 2010, whereas in the UK online sales accounted for 10 percent of all sales in the same year.

First quarter online retail sales in Spain were up 23.1 percent this year with respect to 2010 first quarter sales, but Spain still lags a long way behind. Amazon opening in Spain could change that in the same way it helped develop e-commerce in countries like the UK — by doing things well, efficiently, and offering generally great customer service.

Amazon currently has stores in the UK, France, Germany, Italy, China, Japan and Canada. It opened the UK Kindle Store in August 2010, and the German Kindle Store this past April. Meanwhile, Sony (NYSE: SNE) is planning its e-bookstore’s European launch for October, and Kobo said previously that it would open its Spanish language e-bookstore by the end of the summer.