We are all aware of this problem, but it doesn’t hurt to underline it in the hopes that someday it will be changed. Here is an email I received from Michael Nahas in Australia:
… I would like to relate a frustrating experience I had recently. I suppose it could be tagged with the “DRM” label.
I have been a member of the Fictionwise site for several years and up to recently have been generally satisfied with their service. Since their takeover by Barnes and Noble, however, I have experienced problems buying ebooks from them because I do not live in the US or Canada (I am in Australia).
Just a few days ago, I tried to buy 2 Stephen Baxter books (science fiction) from Fictionwise, and proceeded all the way to the checkout to pay when I was informed that I could not buy them because I live outside the US. The site had 10 Baxter books in stock but ALL were restricted to customers in the US and Canada.
The website has the following information about geographic restrictions:
“The paper book business has always had the notion of being able to sell the rights of a particular book to different publishers by geographic region. Although we would tend to agree that this notion is outdated in the world of the Internet and eBooks, the fact is those contracts are still in force. ”
I never had this problem before the Barnes and Noble acquisition of Fictionwise, but I do not know if the acquisition has anything to do with the problem. I think that non-US customers is an issue that may have been swept under the carpet. I think publishers should be made aware that they are losing customers and money by these types of restrictions.
I am an avid ebook reader. I do not remember the last time I bought a paper book. I refuse to be coerced into buying one now by these types of legal restrictions. So I have decided that I will NOT buy paper versions of Baxter’s books. This seems to me a classic “lose – lose” situation. The author loses money because he/she has lost a reader. The publishing company loses money for the same reason and the website has lost money and a valued customer. I, the customer, have also lost out because I am unable to enjoy reading the author of my choice in the format of my choice.
I doubt that my experience is unique. There must be many others like me amongst the tens of millions of English speaking customers outside the US and Canada. I hope that this email raises the issue of geographic restrictions from the perspective of a non-US customer so that it can be at least discussed as one of the issues in the wider debate about DRM and geographic restrictions.