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Why eBooks on Amazon can feel like a Ripoff

Dollar Injustice

R. Alex Jenkins has multiple equivalent domain names around the world.

I live in Brazil and although I can visit US and other Amazon websites at will, I cannot purchase ebooks on these sites. I am redirected back to the .br domain and my purchases are refused.

It seems a bit strange if you have a valid credit card and simply want to make online purchases in another country, so why is this? It’s to make as much profit as possible for Amazon, let me explain.

Let's say a book costs USD 10 on (USA). The equivalent price on (Brazil) in relative earnings should be about BRL 20 or 30 maybe - two to three times the USD price. This is NEVER the case. The actual price is multiplied by the exchange rate plus a little surcharge on top. If the exchange rate is 5, that's USD 10 * 5 = BRL 50, plus extra on top, so around BRL 55. Always!

This is quite expensive for people in Brazil.

It's even MORE expensive in regions with even lower exchange rates such as Africa or Asia, not that it matters if you live in a first-world country, right?

Why does Amazon do this, besides the desire to make more profits? If eBooks are too expensive, people won't buy them, surely, so why the massive price hike?

Because of Virtual Private Networks (VPNs).

For a monthly cost, a VPN enables you to mask your IP address and appear like you live in another country. People use VPNs to play in foreign casinos, access country-exclusive streaming networks, and especially for online gaming.

A VPN would allow you to log in to as though you’re a resident of the United States to potentially purchase ebooks. More to the point, if eBooks were more fairly priced in poorer countries, people from first-world countries would log on and buy eBooks for a fraction of the amount they cost at home. Abusing the VPN.

Obviously, there’s no point actually doing that because prices are always multiplied by the foreign exchange rates to make sure there is no exchange-rate trickery.

The upshot of this is that prices are much more expensive for anyone living in third-world or emerging countries.

As a corporation, Amazon doesn't care too much about this because third-world countries are not core markets for them anyway, and people who read eBooks in these countries tend to be in higher earning brackets and can afford the extra costs.

Everyone else in poorer countries has to take promotional ‘bargains of the day’ with a pinch of salt and are also more selective about what they buy. It also means there is a lot more eBook piracy in comparison to the USA. Blowing USD 100+ a month on eBooks might be a regular occurrence in the US, but not so much in poorer countries because of the exchange-rate injustice.

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