A few days ago Amazon presented the new Kindle and started taking pre-orders for the device. On the frontpage of both amazon.com and amazon.co.uk, Jeff Bezos, the founder and CEO of the company made the announcement in typical Amazon fashion.
I always liked the Kindle, but was — for a long time — convinced that the amount of money Amazon was asking was way too much. I also wanted the ability to load my own PDFs and other documents, so the early models were not particularly attractive; I always believed that the price of devices of this class would go down significantly as the world shifted to an e-book based economy (vs the old paper format). Indeed this happened, and the new Kindle seemed like a decent step forward for an already interesting device.
As a European, living in an EU country that doesn’t have its own ‘national’ Amazon store, I depend on Amazon.co.uk for most of my purchases; the reasons are twofold and pretty common sense: the shipping cost from the States is much higher and the Import Duty levied for any products shipped from countries outside of the EU makes any such purchase unattractive. This is currently the case for all customers in European countries; except for those having their own ‘national’ Amazon stores, namely Britain, France and Germany in which case they just order from their local stores.
With this in mind, I paid a visit to amazon.co.uk’s Kindle page looking for the pre-order button. And there is was, along with a sign telling international customers to visit the international page of Kindle at amazon.com.
And that’s the problem; I don’t want to use amazon.com to get my Kindle, but I really want to get one. It is available on amazon.co.uk, but that’s only open to customers ordering it from the UK. Which is a shame, as there’s several hundred million people in Spain, Portugal, Italy, Greece, Poland, Scandinavian countries, Belgium, the Netherlands, and the other EU27 countries that don’t have their own amazon stores that might want to get the Kindle but will not pay the premium cost (additional shipping from the US and import duty — sometimes as high as 20%) that ordering from the US mean.
On the same day I called Amazon (US) and talked to ‘Chad’ about this. He was very friendly and polite, he explained to me that this was a valid concern and that he understood it. He promised that he would take this up with whoever was responsible about Amazon’s policy regarding the sale of Kindle in the European market.
A few minutes after hanging up with Chad, I got an automated email from Amazon asking me whether Chad was helpful. Sadly such systems are more often than not totally incapable of reflecting the real issues with customer support. Chad was as helpful as he could’ve been; he was polite, friendly and competent. But no matter how nice and good he was he couldn’t help me, because that’s not his job. It’s the job of an executive that doesn’t get ‘rated’ by customers and whose parochial thinking in marketing the Kindle in Europe will probably cost the company a lot of money in the near future.
I hope Amazon realises this and allows Europeans to order Kindles from their EU stores. Sadly, while I am sure that Chad will forward my message and explain the situation to his supervisor, I seriously doubt whether those responsible will realise their mistake in time. Let’s see if they prove me wrong.