image[3] The Bookseller reports that UK bookseller Waterstone’s has halted all e-book sales to customers outside of the UK in order to comply with territorial restrictions held by publishers.

A letter sent out to customers said: "We regret that as of 20th October 2010, we are no longer able to sell e-books to customers placing an order from anywhere outside of the UK and Ireland. We have had to take this action to comply with the legal demands of publishers regarding the territories into which we can sell e-books."

While I’m disappointed to see territorial restrictions draw a little tighter, I’m kind of surprised that they had been continuing those sales this long; Fictionwise/eReader stopped doing it a couple of years ago.

And shouldn’t they continue to be able to sell the English language books in the rest of Europe given that, as Mike Shatzkin pointed out, UK publishers license European English-language rights for all of Europe now? Perhaps it’s just too much effort for Waterstone’s to audit its catalog to find out which titles have European English rights and which do not.

In a way, this is a good thing, as it brings added attention to the issue of territorial rights. If Europeans are clamoring for English-language titles but cannot buy them, perhaps it will put more pressure on publishers to come up with a solution. There are certainly other avenues by which consumers can acquire these books, which will not earn publishers any royalties at all.


  1. when will this geo-restriction nonsense end. it really is intolerable. as a canadian, waterstones was somewhere i could get some books that i couldn’t anywhere else. i guess i’ll have to become conversant with those “other avenues” mentioned above. i am hopeful they will prove to be less bothersome.

  2. I had this mail from Waterstone yesterday. I am french and bougth there books I can’t find in other ebooks shops. I am fed up with georestrictions. I buy used books when I really want a book, so the editors don’t make money on it. And I am thinking “other avenues”. They obviously don’t want my money so…

  3. I got this mail.
    It’s, frankly, a scandal.
    I’m an English guy who lives in France. You will be amazed to learn (not) that French people in general (Michelle, I think you’re in a minority 🙂 ) want to read books in French. And so French outlets tend to offer… books in French and not in English. So, overnight, my ereader has become a useful tool for fixing wobbly tables and not much else.
    hey ho. I’ll be laughing at the publishing industry when they start whining about people pirating their content, they so remind me of the music industry it’s amazing.
    I’m not even sure this restraint of trade is legal in europe. let alone the insanity of being able to buy a hardcopy paperback and have it shipped to France but not the electronic version.

  4. Talks must have been going on when I bought my E Reader in the UK, if there was uncertainty about selling E books to those abroad Waterstones should have stopped selling E Readers, or asked the simple question where do you intend to use this device. Now I have spent £200 and get get the books I want Do Watertstones buy back?

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