Amazon Opens Kindle Store In France, Basic Kindle For 99 Euro, Surcharge Abolished

Amazon opened the fourth Kindle Store in France this morning.

The site, previously restricted to physical books, will now give French customers access to 35,000 local language e-books from local publishers, as well as 825,000 e-books in other languages, mostly English.

In addition, the store will be selling the new entry-level Kindle for 99 Euro (with free shipping).

The price discrepancy with the US is largely down to there being no ad-supported device available in France, for now at least.

The total selection of e-books is slightly lower than the US due to territorial restrictions, meaning that some publishers in the US don’t own the rights to sell certain titles in France. For self-publishers, if you own the rights to publish your work in France (which you will unless you have sold them), your work will already be on sale there as of this morning.

It also means that many French language titles will be available to French Canadian readers through the US store (where appropriate rights were retained by the French publishers).

But the biggest effect will be on the digital market in France. Up until today, French customers were redirected to the US store if they wished to purchase e-books or e-readers.

For purchasing a Kindle, this meant high shipping costs, expensive import duties, delayed order fulfillment, and, up until very recently, instructions and menus only in English. Today’s move will radically reduce the price of Amazon e-readers in France and should stimulate the local market (which is just behind Germany in terms of development).

On top of that, e-books will be a lot cheaper too. France, like most of the rest of the world, was one of the countries where Amazon levied a $2 surcharge on all e-books, before adding sales tax, which effectively added $2.30 onto the cost of most e-books for French readers.

That has now been abolished and French readers can enjoy a range of books at prices starting at less than 1 Euro ($1.35). In addition, they will also have access to a huge range of free e-books for the first time, as these also attracted the $2 Amazon surcharge.

As with the launch of the Spanish site for physical books, Amazon face operating restrictions here which will affect their competitiveness. France has long-standing legislation which allows publishers to fix the price of print books.

The law is even more restrictive than Spain’s as Amazon will only be allowed to discount all books (including e-books) by 5%. This law will allow publishers to keep e-book prices artificially high, in an effort to protect print sales.

There is no doubt that while this law is in place, it will slow the uptake of e-books. It means that we will probably see a similar path of growth to Germany, rather than the quicker digital changeover happening in the UK (where no such law exists).

That law, however, could be under threat. The European authorities have all sorts of regulations against price-fixing. While they have turned a blind eye to agreements relating to print books, they appear to be cracking down on similar arrangements for e-books, and raided the offices of several French publishers earlier this year, and the investigation has since widened to several EU countries (including Germany and Spain).

It should also be noted that this law only applies to local publishers, and Amazon are free to discount foreign language titles.

As with Spain, this presents an opportunity to self-publishers who translate their work as the local language competition will be priced very high. For those worried about translation costs (which are significant), see this radical solution proposed by Scott Nicholson, where he is sharing royalties with translators, rather than paying up-front fees.

I have reached an agreement with a French translator on that same basis to prepare Let’s Get Digital for release, en français. I will keep you updated with that as it progresses.

A lot of speculation will now center on where Amazon will open the next Kindle Store.

Spain and Italy seem the most likely, given that Amazon has already struck deals with local publishers in both countries, Spanish newspapers are reporting that the Kindle will launch their before the year is out, and they have been hiring for an Italian Kindle team.

Either way, I don’t think we will be waiting another six months for the next international expansion.

EDIT: Don’t forget to update your Amazon France Author Central page.

David Gaughran

Born in Ireland, he now lives in a little fishing village in Portugal, although this hasn’t increased the time he spends outside. He writes fiction under another name, has helped thousands of authors build a readership, and has created marketing campaigns for some of the biggest self-publishers on the planet. Friend to all dogs.

51 Replies to “Amazon Opens Kindle Store In France, Basic Kindle For 99 Euro, Surcharge Abolished”

  1. Great summary.
    From my French POV, our “unique ebook price law” (Prix Unique du Livre Numérique) will have the same effect as the US “agency pricing” : augment the constrast between pure-players’s books and traditional publishing…

    1. Hey SF,

      You are right, but there is one important distinction. The Agency Agreement only applies to the six major publishing conglomerates. However, as far as I am aware, the French law applies to all books published in France. Do I have that right?


      1. Yes, you’re of course right, but nonetheless, I think, With or without Amazon beeing able to set prices/discount, electronic-aware players will be able to play with prices way more than our own “Big5” publishers, who have much greater fixed costs.

        1. That’s fair – it could stratify could similar to the US – large publishers at high prices, smaller publishers in the middle, and self-publishers at the bottom

      2. In France, all prices directed to “final consumers” (as is the case for the Kindle) include VAT. The VAT-less price is often (but not always) also displayed.

      3. Absolutely. The only “missing” thing is the “Special Offer”, and it still may come next, when the first wave of customers will started spreading the word, and Amazon needs a cheap “punch” to enter into less reading homes.

        1. They haven’t sorted it out for the UK yet, but I would imagine it’s coming. And if I remember correctly, they pitched it as some kind of experiment when it was first launched. Well, I think that experiment was a success. Customer response seems to be that not only are the ads non-intrusive, they are actually useful and can save you a lot of money on things you actually want. Once that is tied up to AmazonLocal (their Groupon clone), it could become very popular (and useful to some).

    1. It’s certainly on the way, but I doubt it will be next. They need to open the physical store first (and they are making moves there), then the Kindle Store. And they need to get the content in place – they don’t move without it – and I’m not sure that process has even begun.

      Spain and Italy are reasonably advanced – I wouldn’t be surprised if both open before the year is out. Other European sites could, maybe, come before India: Scandinavia, Netherlands, Portugal would be my guesses. Although India is compelling for a lot of reasons too. China also. And Japan. But there are other issues there.

      1. Another big piece of the Indian puzzle fell into place this week with the announcement of a low cost android tablet that will be manufactured in Hyderabad. 100,000 units in the next six weeks for universities and eight to ten million more units before fiscal year end.
        I blogged about this very scenario a couple of months ago, right down to the educational angle.
        The price is now very close to 0.5% of per capita gdp.
        Dont even worry about translation; there is a massive English speaking population over there.
        When this takes off, it will be huge.

  2. Yes! I was hoping they’d do that soon. Now I’m curious to see how many French Canadian titles are available now. I was really looking forward to the French Amazon site opening. 🙂

  3. Maybe a little hint to know which countries will be kindleized next : the French Kindle offers several languages: English, French, German, Spanish, Italian and Portuguese (Brazil)

    1. Yes, I saw that. Spain and Italy are pretty certain to be next. Portugal is intriguing, with the 200m Brazilian speakers. There are issues with moving into the South American market but it has huge potential. I hope (and assume) the Spanish Store will also be accessible to the 400m Spanish speakers in Latin America.

      1. Dave,
        In the US, there’s supposedly an unusual statistic–the fastest and highest rate of adoption of tablets and e-readers is happening amongst Hispanics. I’ve got to think that the Hispanic market is even larger than Spain and Italy combined, given the population.

        Now, if somebody would invent a $10 e-ink e-reader, Central and South America would be awash in e-books. *That* is what could change the world for folks who can’t afford even a cheap Kindle now.

        1. I’ve heard that statistic too, but I have never heard any reasoning behind it. Have you?

          The price of e-readers will be an issue, doubly so in countries like Brazil and Argentina which have high import taxes on electronic goods. However, I don’t think an e-reader needs to be that cheap to be a hit. I’ve lived in Buenos Aires and all kinds of phones with much heftier price tags than that are widespread.

    2. Those are the only languages supported by the Kindle at the moment. Unless that’s expanded with new Kindles, it will not be possible to expand into Eastern Europe, Asia, India, and other places–the devices don’t support characters in those languages.

  4. Excellent post, David. As an American, I find it absolutely fascinating to watch the expansion of Amazon into these emerging markets. You’re right; a self-publisher is in a great position for jumping into these new markets. Those with foresight and patience are going to be big winners.


    1. I find it absolutely fascinating to watch the expansion of Amazon into these emerging markets.

      Except they’re not really “emerging markets” per se. Apple, for example, sells around 60,000 local language titles in France (I think). The number goes up daily. It’s wildly popular there, due to the popularity of the iPad.

      1. I think you could classify them as “emerging” in terms of e-reader penetration. But your point holds.

        I doubt, however, that Apple sell many books in France, considering they don’t sell many at all overall. My hope is that Amazon’s entrance to the market, combined with a marketing push for the now much cheaper Kindle, more local language content, and much cheaper e-books will give those e-reader penetration numbers a boost. Kindle owners buy a lot more e-books than iPad owners.

      2. It’s also possible with Steve Jobs’ passing, and his belief that people don’t read, will lead to new Apple leadership that decides to aggressively plumb the gold mine of ebooks…

  5. Fascinating. So France’s laws, intended to help publishers keep locks on print distribution, might now have the reverse impact instead. Amazon can’t discount ebook prices, but they *can* offer indie books for 0.99EU – and are. My 99 cent ebook is there for 0.99EU, and my $2.99 novel is there for 2.99EU. Which is pretty cool, if you think about it…

    Anyone know a good translator for French? =) I think this could be an enormously profitable time to engage in some of that translation partnership David’s been chatting up!

    1. Hi Kevin – that’s it exactly. In fact, in my estimation, the larger European publishers (despite having more time to prepare than the Americans) are doubling down on all the same mistakes. We can dramatically undercut them on price, but we will only be able to fully capitalize on that pricing advantage with a translated work.

    2. There is no conflict here, because according to the fixed price laws in many European countries (I can’t speak for France, but Germany’s works that way) the publisher sets the price for a book and a bookseller is not allowed to discount a book below the price set by the publisher. So if an indie author offers his books for 99 cents or 2.99 dollars/euros, the author is the publisher who sets the price and Amazon or any other bookseller is not allowed to discount below the price point set by the author/publisher. It’s the same mechanism in action, only that indie authors sell their books a lot cheaper than traditional publishers.

  6. I guess it will take close to forever before Amazon opens a Kindle store in South Africa. So that surcharge thing is something that we will just have to get used to. Amazon fired the South African postal service a while ago, pushing up delivery costs out of a viable range. The trade negotiations will most probably end in a protracted and convoluted process because the Department of Trade and Industry is in a similar fix as the post office.

    Oh what fun it is to be an African!

  7. I got a quote on translating one of my books into German last week. $3000.
    There’s no way I can afford that.
    I have 17 books on Amazon. If I had to translate each one into French, German, Hindi, Spanish and every other European language, I could buy a huge house–if I had the money.

  8. According to the e-mail I got from Amazon today, the new French Kindle store also supplies Belgium and Monaco. So that’s two more countries where the surcharge is gone, though not exactly the ones who need it most.

  9. Pingback: » Amazon Kindle Store Opens In France
  10. It’s also possible with Steve Jobs’ passing, and his belief that people don’t read, will lead to new Apple leadership that decides to aggressively plumb the gold mine of ebooks…

    Scott, that snarky comment tells me something of what you’re about. Jobs was right, actually, and honest, informed writers know it’s true. It’s the worst kept secret in publishing, and the true reason for publishing’s problems in the last 20-30 years. Sales do not equal readers.

    Of course, you’ve got a vested interest, and like many others might want to conflate “buyers” with “readers”. I think a writer who cared about their work would care a helluva lot about the difference between those two.

    That is, unless your main goal as a writer is to sell books. If it is, I’d venture to say you’ve missed the entire point of writing. It’s not a nuance–it’s all the difference in the world. For writers who are trying to create careers on sales forecasts, I’d give you Kurt Vonnegut’s words: “The practice of art isn’t to make a living. It’s to make your soul grow.” No, that doesn’t mean writers shouldn’t try to sell their work.

    Are we self-publishers honestly trying to practice an art, or are we obsessively checking “Kindle Sales” and wondering (like Joanna Penn, for example) how to carefully strategize and monetize a seven-book series in a carefully chosen genre relying on (like John Locke) the most hackish methods possible? To “write a lot of books so writers will buy a lot of your books) like Konrath? Seriously? For those thinking “I can do both!”, you’re wrong.

    To put it another way: if that’s your goal, and you fail, then what are you left with?

    Over and out, last blog comment here.

    1. James,

      I would prefer if you kept the insults out of your comments. You can say what you like on your blog, but I don’t allow people to sling mud here – which you are doing in several directions.


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