Buying Kindle from abroad (checklist)

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Kindle International / Photo: Amazon.com

Kindle devices are officially shipping abroad since October 2009. Many people consider buying them, as in many countries they are the cheapest ereaders available, even when shipping costs and import duties are added.

Buying Kindle from abroad is not only about calculating extra costs. It’s not only about the device, but also about content you’ll be reading.

This list of questions will help you get a wider view of what the international customer can expect from the Kindle.

Updated on 29.03.2012

Which models are available abroad?

Kindles ship to over 170 countries and destinations. Not all Kindle devices officially ship to international locations.

To have a clear preview of which models ship internationally and how much they cost, check this comparison chart: Kindle Devices: Availability and Prices for International Users.

When you order the international Kindle, you will be able to customize the device with the language – not only English (US and UK), but also German, French, Spanish, Italian, or Brazilian Portuguese.

Surely, you can still order US-only Kindle to the US address, if you have someone who could deliver or send it to your country. I did so with my Kindle Touch. Be aware that the user interface of the device you’ll receive will be only in English.

Should I buy in Kindle Store US?

In 2011 Kindle Stores launched in a few countries and the US store is not the only one which sells Kindle devices. You can buy Kindle devices in:
Kindle Store UK
Kindle Store Germany
Kindle Store France
Kindle Store Spain
Kindle Store Italy

It’s also good to check country-specific information in Kindle Store US – when you select country in Important Information box (picture below) you may learn that you can buy Kindle device in another location – even if you don’t live in a country with a local Kindle Store.

For instance, if you live in Austria or Luxembourg, you can buy Kindle from Amazon Germany.

Shipping costs from US to Europe are around $20, so for instance for $109 Kindle the price is similar if you buy a device in your local store.

The decision to be made is whether you want to register a new account at your local Amazon store or rather stay with the US one.

Question to ask yourself is where you will be buying content. If you want to buy books in your native language, stick to your local store. I’ve made a short analysis of Kindle Store in Italy. Prices are the same as in US, but my Italian friend confirmed that there are lots of bestsellers in Kindle Store Italy. On the contrary, first titles you’ll discover in US are Italian public domain books.

Are there enough books for me in Kindle Store?

This is a big question. The fact that Kindle ships to 177 countries doesn’t mean there are books in your language in Kindle Store.

If you speak German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese or French, you are lucky. You can find books easily, not only in your local Kindle Store, buy also in the US, where there is a special Foreign Language Books on Kindle page.

This is not easy to find books in other languages, though. In this post I’ve explained how to do it, but don’t expect too much. In fact you’d be rather disappointed. If you compare the offer to ebookstores in your country, good chances are that there are much more interesting books there than in Kindle Store.

Do I want to add books from other sources?

If you plan to buy Kindle to add books from other sources (because there are not enough of them at Kindle Store), be ready for pain.

What you have to know is that Kindle is using Amazon’s own format, mobi, and Amazon’s own DRM system. That means that if you want to add your own books, and do it relatively easy, buy/download the ones in unprotected mobi format. Here is a list of sources of non-English books for Kindle in mobi.

It’s very probable that ebookstores in your country don’t use mobi, but epub format, and use DRM (which is different from Amazon’s). If you buy a book there, you won’t be able to add it to Kindle until you start using file conversion tools like Calibre.

If you want to read and buy books in a convenient way, and you can’t find them at Kindle Store, think of picking up an alternative ereader – sold by your local ebookstore.

How much more will I pay for books?

Customers who purchase Kindle books from outside US pay more. There is an international fee (and also taxes) which add extra dollars to a final price. You can check how much more you’ll pay if you log out of your account, change the location to US and check the price at the book’s page. Here is a detailed post on how to do it.

Some time ago I’ve compared international prices and availability of Kindle bestsellers. Usually 2 to 4 dollars have to be added. Also, there are different prices in different locations, so it’s generally good to spend some time to browse for books and check their prices, if you don’t want to get disappointed after your Kindle arrives.

Which model suits my needs best?

First, decide if you need a large 9.7-inch screen (Kindle DX). It’s good for pdf files, which are not reflowable (have fixed layout). It’s reasonable to take a bigger screen into consideration if you have a lot of such pdf books and you plan to read them.

For books bought in Kindle Store or the ones in mobi format, 6-inch size should be fine.

Next question: 3G. There is $189 Kindle Keyboard available with 3G. Ask yourself if you want to pay extra $50 for freedom of connecting to your account or Kindle Store any time you want.

I have a Wi-Fi router at home and I also have a iPhone with a hotspot feature, so I don’t really need 3G in a Kindle, especially that checking and syncing doesn’t happen very often.

How much will I pay in total for the device

Go to Kindle Store of your choice, select the Kindle model and add it to cart. The price will be calculated.

If you are buying in Kindle Store US, first thing to do is to select the country of use. Add item to cart, then proceed to checkout (picture below). Don’t worry, you won’t be automatically charged for purchase at this point.

A new window will appear where you’ll see details of the order, with a calculation of additional costs.

Shipping and handling to Poland, where I live, cost $20.98 for Kindle 4. There is a second position – import fees deposit ($29.90). The official explanation is here, but in practice it means that you shouldn’t pay any extra money for import fees even if they are higher than estimated by Amazon at the time of checkout.

In case the import fee is lower, the difference between the estimate and the real fee will be refunded to you:

In the event that the Import Fees Deposit exceeds the Actual Import Fees, Amazon Export or Merchant (as applicable) will refund the difference to you.

What you should also be aware of is VAT. You may be obliged to pay it, if you live in a country with VAT system. Import fees and VAT depend on a country you live in.

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There are users who buy Kindle to get content from other sources and they are prepared to deal with all the mess it creates. But if you want to have a convenient way to read books – think twice before you buy Kindle.

If you want to read books in your own language and are not tech-savvy enough – or just not eager to learn about conversion issues – choose an ereader integrated with the ebookstore which offers a good variety of books you’d like to buy.

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