David Gaughran, an Irish indie author living in Sweden, offers this must-read post about Amazon adding a two dollar surcharge for international e-book customers. This two dollar surcharge applies to e-books purchased in all countries except the USA, UK, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, Australia, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Luxembourg and Liechtenstein.
I knew that Amazon charges 15% VAT for e-books purchased in the EU, because I noticed that the prices for Pegasus Pulp books on the Amazon UK and Amazon Germany sites were higher than the prices I had set. How Amazon arrives at the 15% rate I don’t know, because it does not match the VAT rate either in Germany (7% on books as well as food, pet food, cut flowers* and hotel accommodation, 19% on everything else) or the UK (no VAT on print books, but 17,5% on e-books, because e-books are not considered books in the eyes of the British law). And if you live in the EU and believe that charging different VAT rates on print and e-books is unfair, here is a petition to the European Parliament you can sign.
However, while I knew that Amazon charges 15% VAT in the EU, I did not know about the two dollar surcharge Amazon demands from e-book customers outside the eleven countries listed above. Most people inside the “favoured eleven” don’t know this, because we only see the regular list price (plus VAT, where applicable).
Like David Gaughran, I believe that this two dollar surcharge for international customers is deeply unfair. Especially as the very same international customers are already hit disproportionately by shipping costs, a situation that will probably get even worse now Amazon has bought the Book Depository, the only online bookseller to offer free worldwide shipping. Never mind that unlike with physical shipping, there are no extra costs to delivering e-books overseas.
I also feel bad for people outside the favoured eleven countries that have bought Pegasus Pulp e-books. I know of at least one customer in Italy, there may be others.
As for the solution, at some point Pegasus Pulp e-books will be available at Smashwords, which does not charge customer two dollars for daring to live somewhere else than in certain favoured countries. I’ve held off from uploading my books to Smashwords so far, because Smashwords still only accepts Word files (formatted in a very specific way) rather than mobi or epub files, which means that after investing a lot of work into formatting my e-books to make them look as good as possible, I will have to reformat the stories once again to get a product that does not look nearly as good. Nonetheless, at the moment Smashwords is the only way to get into the smaller Diesel, Kobo, Sony, etc… stores as well as into the Barnes and Noble Nook store, because Barnes and Noble is still not open to international indie authors in another case of random regional limitation. I will see if I can get into the Apple iBookstore on my own – a distant relative and former translation client now works for Apple‘s marketing department, so I have an in.
In the long run, I will probably also offer my e-books for sale right here at the Pegasus Pulp site. However, this requires a bit of research regarding shopping cart functions, the terms of service of my ISP and how the VAT issue works when selling from my own site. I’d probably have to draft AGB, that is Allgemeine Geschäftsbedingungen or general business conditions in English, which are required for online stores.
Anyway, I would like to apologize to all international customers for the higher prices, but that is outside my control.
*Nobody really understands why cut flowers are considered so essential to the lives of the German people to merit a reduced VAT, but for some reason they are.