Amazon Opens Kindle Stores In Spain & Italy, Abolishes Surcharge

Amazon opened Kindle Stores in Spain and Italy this morning, to add to the existing stores in the US, the UK, Germany, and France.

The basic Kindle model is on sale in both countries for 99 Euro – the price difference with the US arising from 15% VAT (EU sales tax), and the lack of a subsidized, ad-supported model.

In both stores, the Kindle is being marketed heavily as a Christmas gift item, with its launch taking over the home page of both Amazon Spain and Amazon Italy.

As with the launch of the French Kindle Store last month, the new Kindle Touch and Kindle Fire models are not available for purchase at this time. Indeed, given the amount of content deals that have to be in place for newspapers, magazines, movies, and television, I wouldn’t expect that to change any time soon.

Spanish and Italian customers will be able to purchase most of the items in the US Kindle Store (excepting those titles where the publisher doesn’t own the rights for Spain/Italy), as well as new, local-language content (some of which will also be available in the US, again, depending on rights).

In the case of Spain, there are over 22,000 Spanish language titles, around 1,500 titles in Basque, Catalan, and Galician, and approximately 1,000 free classics in Spanish. Amazon’s press release claims that they have around two-thirds of the local bestselling titles, indicating that some content deals are yet to be closed out. As for Italy, there are 16,000 local-language titles.

There is more welcome news for Spanish and Italian readers. As with the launch of the UK, German, and French Kindle Stores, the $2 surcharge that Amazon levies on e-book purchases from most international countries has been abolished.

This means that Spanish and Italian customers will have widespread access to very cheap e-books for the first time. Most of these, however, will be coming from self-publishers. E-books from the major Spanish publishers are generally priced between $10 and $14, with some higher profile releases costing up to $22. Italian prices are slightly lower.

Under Spanish law, print book prices are fixed by the publisher for the first two years, with Amazon only able to discount by a maximum of 5%. As with Germany, there is some dispute as to whether this law applies to Spanish digital content, but, for now at least, Amazon have agreed with local publishers that e-books will be priced at 30% less than the print editions.

Local competition

While the markets are small in both countries, Amazon faces significant local competition.

Casa del Libro – the leading Spanish bookstore chain – is estimated to have around 45% of the e-book market. They were purchased by Grupo Planeta – one of Spain’s Big Three – in 1996 and have a well established e-bookstore.

The rest of the digital market there is largely divided between FNAC (who have recently signed a partnership in their home country of France with Kobo) and the retail giant El Corte Inglés.

But there will also be competition from players outside the book trade – huge companies such as Telefonica.

The limited information I have on the Italian market seems to suggest that the market there is more splintered, with publisher-owned e-bookstores taking up a significant share.

In both Spain and Italy, Amazon won’t have as much freedom to compete on price (because of the above-mentioned restrictions). Cheap devices, however, which tie readers to their store, should see them make up ground quickly.


For self-publishers, it’s two new markets where Amazon’s 70% royalty rate will apply. Previously, in both countries, Amazon applied the $2 surcharge – which had a dampening effect on growth (along with the lack of availability and high relative cost of devices).

Also, for sales in these markets, Amazon only paid self-publishers 35% on the pre-surcharge price, meaning that a book priced at $2.99 would retail for $5.74, but only earn $1.05 in royalties.

From today (as with France and Germany), the minimum price for the 70% royalty is 2.99 Euro (inclusive of VAT), earning self-publishers roughly 1.50 Euro (approx $2) per sale. In short, you will earn double the money per book – and you will be twice as likely to sell, as your book will be considerably cheaper.

Most self-publishers won’t see significant Spanish or Italian sales any time soon. Both markets are well behind the German market, which is itself at least a year behind the UK market. Happily, Amazon seem to be rolling all the Euro currency markets together in terms of meeting minimums and paying royalties.

As English-language reading is low in both countries, the greatest potential is limited to those who can arrange translations of their work. While the Italian and Spanish book markets are similarly sized, any translation efforts will probably remain focused on Spanish, given the huge potential markets in Latin America and amongst US-based Spanish speakers.

For self-publishers who want to maximize their footprint in Spain, they should note that they can get distributed to Casa del Libro through Xinxii (ISBN required).

On a personal level, I was gratified to see that the early Kindle bestseller list in Spain had five historical fiction titles in the Top 10 (the rest were three thrillers and two non-fiction titles). While the market is too small – and the store too new – to draw any conclusions, that’s something I would never expect to see in the US.

Finally, Spanish self-publishers are already getting in on the act. Award-winning journalist and author Rosa Montero has signed an exclusivity deal with Amazon for several titles she self-published through KDP. In addition, leading newspapers El Pais & La Canguardia have also brought out their own short-form titles – cutting out local publishers.

Cheap, local content, allied with much cheaper devices should help both markets grow dramatically over the next few years.

Where’s next?

Amazon opened the first ex-US Kindle Store in the UK in 2010. This year has seen the opening of four more in France & Germany, and now Spain & Italy.

The latter two had been flagged for some time. When the latest generation of Kindle models were launched, new foreign language options were included for UK English, German, French, Spanish, Italian, and Brazilian Portuguese.

Speculation will now turn to Brazil – which is unsurprising, given it’s a booming economy of almost 200 million people. It also has a severely underdeveloped bookstore infrastructure (many books are sold door-to-door – which has proved surprisingly effective). And while the digital market is tiny at present, it is leading the way in the region.

A big disappointment in today’s announcement, for me at least, is that Spain’s Kindle Store will not serve hundreds of millions of Spanish speakers in Latin America, especially considering that there are less territorial issues as Latin American rights tend to be bundled with Spanish rights. There are widespread reports that Argentine, Chilean, and Brazilian Kindle Stores will open in 2013.

However, I think it could be sooner than that. The above speculation comes from an Amazon executive’s comments at the recent Santiago Book Fair, where he flagged the opening of those stores within eighteen months, suggesting 2013 is the outer limit.

All the signs seem to point to Brazil being first. The government there has recently abolished the massive import duties on electronic devices – such as the Kindle – which made such purchases largely prohibitive.

In addition, The Digital Reader reported yesterday that the hiring process has commenced for the Brazilian Store. The article also notes that the French Kindle Store opened approximately eight months after the hiring process commenced (and if I remember correctly, that’s a similar time-frame to the Italian Kindle Store).

There have also been rumors of future Kindle Stores in China, Japan, and India. Although, while each of those markets has huge potential, they also present difficult and diverse logistical challenges.

David Gaughran

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

57 Replies to “Amazon Opens Kindle Stores In Spain & Italy, Abolishes Surcharge”

  1. As an Italian customer, I am still a bit confused. It’s still not clear what ebooks can be purchased by merging an Amazon US account with (only Italian titles? only English titles from the US store? both?), and how (will my Kindle 3 be able to list Italian titles?). I’m also a bit perplexed by price correspndence for US store English titles listed at (e.g. from $2.99 to €2.99, which dampens a bit the elimination of the $2 surcharge). But all in all I’m satisfied.

    1. Paolo, my understanding is that Amazon decide which titles you can purchase based on geo-location. Italian customers will be able to purchase around 900,000 items in the Kindle Store – only about 10% will be unavailable (mostly where publishers don’t have the rights to sell them in Italy).

      It’s a little more complex if you have a US account linked to a US credit card and US postal address. In that case the Amazon system will think you are in the US, and you will probably get the same selection as a US customer. However, if you have an account with Amazon US which is attached to an Italian card and postal address, you will see the same selection (I think) as someone opening an account with Amazon Italy today.

      That’s for e-books. It’s different again for print books, where the listings are a little different in every country and there seem to be different restrictions on who can buy what.

      Does that make sense?

  2. So, David, they’ve dropped the surcharge from all the countries where they have a store now? That’s fantastic news for writers and readers both.

    1. Sorry, maybe I wasn’t clear. The surcharge was abolished in Spain and Italy. The surcharge has always been abolished when a Kindle Store opened somewhere. So the French surcharge was abolished when the French store opened last month, etc. etc.

  3. Good news for both writers and readers on the dropping of the surcharge. It’s horrible. And of course, if I ever sell a novel there, actually I know a couple of people in Catalan so I suppose it’s possible, the 70% royalty is really nice. Good news on all sides even though I doubt this will be large markets for most of us.

    1. Not for now, no, but in the future, certainly – especially when you consider them together. I sell a couple of books each month in Germany now. The market there is going to grow maybe fifty times in size. Imagine when you have 10 or 20 markets like that outside the US and the UK. It will all add up.

      And then if you can get anything translated…

    1. No indication. They never talk about the surcharge. They don’t really admit to its existence. And they don’t mention it when they drop it.

      The surcharge applies in every country where Amazon sells e-books except for: USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, UK, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Austria, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Liechtenstein, Belgium, and Monaco.

      1. I figured as much. I’ll leave my advice on my blog for those affected to consider alternative options such as Smashwords for any ebook they are looking at buying then

  4. The more international ebooks become the more it will demonstrate the wisdom of bypassing the bottleneck of old fashioned publishing, and the greater will be the restoration of the supremacy of writers, translators, designers etc. I have yet to publish or swim in these waters, so observation is perhaps naive. Today also brought news of a new ePub3 Azardi enabling all kinds of things previously impossible like interactive, embedded video, mathematical formulae, and direct links from books to websites. The more information on this whole exploding field, as in this blog, the more discerning the choices for all of us so thanks. Again! Philippa Rees

    1. Agreed. Even if you had publishers falling at your feet (which I don’t), a deal won’t necessarily give you great international exposure. Either the publisher will only purchase rights in their primary market – leaving you without a deal in the international markets until/unless your agent can rustle up one, which takes time (if it happens) – or they will buy World Rights, and then (probably) just sit on them and only publish in their primary market anyway – leaving you with no way to exploit those rights at all.

      Whereas, my self=published books were automatically listed in the Spanish and Italian Kindle Stores this morning.

      1. Very good point there, Dave, about a publisher taking world rights and then ignoring most of them. Anyone offered a world rights contract should seek some clarification of the publisher’s intentions. Most agency and publisher contracts demand world rights, but very few authors will see any publication beyond their own country, or countries with the same language.

        1. There are many, many writers who first found success in foreign markets. But that was back when publishers only tended to purchase rights in their local markets. Now, with international publishing conglomerates and the rise of e-books, World Rights and World English Rights are becoming a lot more common. Unfortunately, not all these rights are being exploited, with publishers often waiting to see how a writer does in their home market first before going to the time and expense of trying to sell somewhere else. When people talk about flat or negative growth in the average advance, they never mention that writers are being asked to sign over much more in terms of rights (World + digital + audio + anything else the publisher can get away with) for the same (or less) money.

    2. The other bummer is that the traditional publisher can basically ONLY sell your foreign rights on the amount of the advance paid in the US market. Yes, they sell the hype instead of the actual book. Otherwise, who cares?

      One other approach publishers use is to shove their whole catalog at a foreign publisher or foreign agent and hope for accidental bulk purchases based on the two-line description of each book. I am not sure anyone in the publishing industry actually reads books anymore.

      I have one Italian version out and I just published my first (Brazilian) Portuguese title this morning. It’s really nice to be able to make some luck. Of course, it’s still nearly impossible to market if you don’t know the language.

  5. David, you and I were on the same wavelength with this as the hot blog topic today. I see the benefits of European expansion with all its obvious benefits to authors. The exposure may not come right away, but like anything worth having, can take some time. I was shocked when you first talked about the surcharge and pleased to see it gone. Brazil? My money was on India.

    1. There is a lot of competition in India from very cheap pirated print books. There are lots of other aspects which make India not a very straight-forward proposition. Amazon are setting up a physical goods store there, which will be the first step. That should open next year. I’m not sure how long after that the Kindle Store will open, but I don’t think it will be as quick as we saw with Spain (2 months or so), as there are a number of extra issues with the Indian market which must be overcome.

      There are some with Brazil too, but it would be my bet for next.

  6. The citizens of San Marino & The Vatican City and Andorra will be delighted to hear that they now fall under the ambit of the Italian and Spanish Kindle Stores respectively, and that their surcharge is abolished too.

  7. Honestly, this is the first time I’ve really heard of the international prospects Amazon can bring. I have a friend in Germany who just self-published, and it’s really interesting to see the difference. I myself plan on self-publishing a collection of short stories in the next week or so, Kindle only (because I’m totally new to this and have no clue how to format epub, and Kindle site has some great step-by-step guidelines). If all these new markets are opening up, that’s a grand thing for self-publishers, isn’t it? I mean, sure, there might not be an instant sales difference, but shouldn’t it add in some extra revenue?

    1. Same question from me: can’t seem to find the way to set up an author page. When someone cracks that, I’d sure like to know.

      As to David on tablets v readers, I bought a Fire to be an “everything machine,” but have done little with it except read. It delivers books exceptionally well, though I do have to make allowances for glare and backlighting on occasion.

      1. When the French Kindle Store launched, I just added “.fr” to the normal Author Central address, and I was able to set up a page there. That doesn’t appear to work for the new Spanish and Italian stores, and they aren’t pulling across the information from the US. I’ll be keeping an eye on it.

  8. That’s interesting to hear about Brazil. The right’s directors conference at the Frankfurt bookfair was specifically focused on ebooks in Brazil, which left me with the feeling that they were a bit desperate for topics. However, it sounds like things are really churning there, and all the big players are moving in.

  9. Dave, you are the ultimate messenger for all self-pubbed authors! Thanks for that!
    The only thing I didn’t get – 70% of 2.99 is closer to two euros, or did you calculate tax??
    “2.99 Euro (inclusive of VAT), earning self-publishers roughly 1.50 Euro (approx $2)…”
    Argentina is going to be exciting. They have such a great book culture…
    Wish you all the success with your novel, ciao 4 now 🙂

  10. Dave

    As always thanks for the insight to the foreign markets. You mentioned working on translations? have you done a translation yet? I would be VERY interested in hearing about that process.

    And yes, us crazy Americans have our “Black Friday” and cyber monday. I was actually at a Wal Mart on Thursday at 10pm…saw a 4 foot high pallet of Kindle Fire’s roped off in a side aisle, were gone an hour later.

    I posted a report on their sales last weekend…4 times what they were last year with many being sales being multiples in the same households.

    Very exciting stuff.

    1. I have two translations under way, both for Let’s Get Digital – into French and Spanish. I explained the model I am using here (which is borrowed from Scott Nicholson):

      After I posted that blog, I was contacted by a bunch of interested translators. We talked for a bit, and I moved forward with two. I’m still looking for more. With the two I progressed with, there was a little back-and-forth over the contract, some changes were made to things they wanted put in, then we signed contracts.

      The Kindle Fire is certainly selling extremely strongly. I must admit though, I don’t pay as close attention to that as the sales of the e-readers. Tablet owners (to date) don’t seem to read a lot of e-books, they are more likely to use them to browse newspapers, websites, send email, or watch movies, streaming video, or television. Or play games. Reading e-books comes well after all that stuff. Maybe Fire owners will be different – but I’m skeptical as the Fire still has all the same drawbacks of existing tablets: heavy, backlit screen, no e-ink, short battery.

  11. Ah..missed that one back in Sept.

    Tablet vs. e-reader comparisons are interesting at this stage. Funny that e-readers are just now coming into their own with popularization and are already being listed on “Gadgets that won’t be around soon” lists. I’m used to e-reading on my ipad and (bigger screen) phone but agree with you to the point that most heavy readers (buyers) are still relying on e-ink devices.

    This may be old news (as it’s from April) but the folks at Apple are clearly hard at work on this very issue.


    1. Analysts have been writing off e-readers since the iPad first came out, and they started doing it again when the Fire came out – completely ignoring how people actually use the respective devices.

      A Pew survey pegged US tablet ownership in November 2010 at 7% and e-reader ownership at 6%. They conducted the same survey in May this year and the results were interesting. Tablet ownership only increased to 8% but e-reader ownership (on the back of the launch of new Nooks and Kindles especially) rocketed to 12%.

      Clearly, the e-reader is not dead – it’s growing faster than tablet ownership.

      There are obvious reasons for this. E-readers are cheaper, lighter, more portable, and use way less battery. On top of that, e-ink displays mean they can be read in direct sunlight, and are far less wearing on the eyes – especially for reading. Until tablets can solve ALL of those issues (and not just the color e-ink, which Amazon are also working on), then e-readers will continue to grab a significant portion of the device market.

      Tablet owners just don’t buy books in the same numbers. If they do, it’s because they ALSO own a Kindle or Nook or read on their phones. Some do, but they are in the minority, as is confirmed by survey after survey of tablet owners.

      There is one final reason why a tablet is not as attractive as a dedicated e-reader for heavy readers. When I finally get a device this Christmas, it will be a dedicated e-reader. The primary reason is that I don’t want a device that can multi-task. I don’t want to be able to do anything else with this device. If I had a device that could play games or surf the web, I wouldn’t be able to immerse myself in reading without checking my email. I don’t want that distraction – and many readers I have spoken to feel the same way.

  12. Oh, personally I’m not writing off any stand alone device, cept maybe the car phone just works better. I still prefer my ipod nano over putting music on my phone and do want a dedicated reader as well. I just wont be comfortable with my whole Kindle library (especially when it eventually gets big) on the same device the kids are always fighting over. We’re actually on our second ipad for that same reason…good thing we had the protection plan.

    The technical advantages of the stand alone device are strong selling points as well. The Kindle Fire sales article caught my attention but I haven’t seen any solid numbers on the myriad of other devices yet. Should make for a good comparison post after X-mas.

    If tablet’s sucessfully become hybrids…if E-readers stay strong…if more people here in the US (know it’s popularity in China for example) start reading more on their phones as newer smartphones are leaning towards larger touch screens.

    All cool with me,,,long as there’s more e-reading.


  13. I excitedly told my grandma this Christmas that now that Amazon had launched in Spain, that surely meant that more new and recent books in Spanish would be available at home (in Peru). Alas, it was not to be, as the selection for books in Spanish in Latin America remains inadequate for the time being 🙁

    My grandma will be sticking with DTBs for the moment.

  14. Hello to all 🙂 I am still a bit unclear. I live in Spain and have spanish and US account and prefer my books in English. If I purchase Kindle from, then, in the future, I can only purchase books from or can also purchase from Your help is appreciated. Maja

    1. Ola Maja,

      You can buy a huge selection of English language books from the Spanish Kindle store. For example, all of mine are here:

      And you can see the full selection here:

      If you click on “English” at the top, you will see there are over 1.3 million English books available in the Spanish Kindle Store, broken down into all the normal categories.


  15. Hola David: thanks for this. Yes, I understand there is a large selection. However, if my kindle is purchased from amazon.ES can I ALSO purchase books from, not just will I be restricted only to… lets say when I am in states?

    does that make sense?

    1. Hey Maja, you might not be able to purchase from the US store in either case as Amazon’s system will detect your location and attempt to tie you to the Spanish Kindle Store. I have heard that this happened to UK users when the Kindle Store opened there. The only way it might work for you is if you bought the Kindle outside of Spain (and didn’t get it delivered to a Spanish address – i.e. bought it in a store in the US or UK) and then had a bank account with a credit card outside of Spain too. I’m not sure though. There’s probably another way around it all, but Amazon are keen to detect your true location and tie you to the appropriate store for a few reasons (in part, because of territorial rights of books).

  16. How do I buy the book “USAF Air Commando Secret Wars from Laos to Latin America? I want to buy it in Madrid for my friends. How do I do it? Can I pay foR it on may American Express credit Card and can my fiends come to the Madrid store and pick it up?

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