A Brief Whine About E-Books, Digital Publishing, and International Nonsense


There’s nothing much going on today, and I have something to whine about. So you’re stuck with my whining today.

Or maybe, considering the subject, this is more like whinging. Anyway. Earlier this year, Charlie Stross published a a thoroughly revised version of his 6-part Merchant Princes series. It’s now three books and began shipping in April. I want to read it.

But I can’t, because it was only published in Great Britain. At the time, Stross explained that we Americans were SOL: “The Merchant Princes re-issue won’t be sold in the USA until Tor US decide to publish it. This will not happen in 2013 (because their 2013 schedule is full).”

Hmmph. I could buy the books from England, of course, but (a) it’s expensive, and (b) I don’t want three more dead-tree books in my library. I want to read them on my tablet. But I can’t do that either, because publishers these days are all hellbent on using digital technology to maintain more control over their products than they ever had in the physical world. I can buy the physical books and have them shipped to Irvine, but I can’t buy the Kindle version and download it to my American tablet. For contractual reasons, Tor UK does not permit that, and the region coding embedded in the Kindle app enforces their desire. So I’m screwed. As Stross points out, this is something the rest of the world has had to deal with for a long time:

If you’re based in the USA and want these books, well … welcome to what it’s like for those of us in the UK or rest of world who want new American titles! And (ahem) you might want to investigate the usual work-arounds. As these books are DRM-free, all you’ll need to do is set up a sock-puppet AMZN account that is tied to an address in some other country and fed by a supply of amazon.co.uk gift coupons bought via ebay, or something like that. (Note that amazon.com gift coupons will get you precisely nowhere on amazon.co.uk, and vice versa.)

I dunno. I suppose I could do this. Maybe. If I set up an Amazon.co.uk account and try to buy a Kindle book, will it work? Or will it know that my tablet is located in the United States and make threatening noises at me? Do I need a separate Kindle app for my surreptitious overseas purchases? Or what? Has anyone done this? Are detailed instructions available on some handy website somewhere?

I know this is trivial. First world problems and all that. But I’d like to read these books, and the various contractual restrictions on e-books are maddening.

End of whine. Or whinge. Thanks for listening.

UPDATE: As several people have pointed out, DRM has nothing to do with this particular case because Tor books are DRM-free. It’s mostly contractual restrictions that are at issue here. I’ve changed the headline to reflect this.

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