I've said this on other forums, but it has to do with the way that the publishing world works.
Say you are an author in the US. Say you get a book published by I dunno Tor.
Tor will definitely have the rights to publish said book in the US, will most likely have the digital distribution rights for said book in the US. They might have the rights for foreign distribution, of which there are four distinct subcategories, British Commonwealth (BC)(which includes all former colonies), Europe (which is a hodge-podge only starting to conglomerate as the EU forms), China, and Japan. All of these are seperate markets.
If your book does well, Tor, should it own the foreign distribution rights might decide to sell of these rights to publishers local in those areas, or the author might do so. The digital rights for foreign markets might end up being owned by three or four different companies. They might not actually ever get sold at all in the differing countries. The digital distribution rights for say, the BC might actually be sold off yet again by the foreign company to a third or fourth party.
This leaves companies like Sony and Amazon in a bind. Especially right now when the whole digital market is still somewhat in its infancy. Do they spend lots of money figuring out who owns what digital rights, implementing a system that tracks not only where the digital copies are purchased from, but to also track and ensure the owner of say, the digital rights for a book in the BC is paid when someone in the BC buys the book? Also the royalty rates in foreign markets might include different rates for the author, forex, in the UK authors get paid royalties on Library checkouts as well as direct sales, and the distributor is liable for tracking that. How is amazon/sony supposed to track it if a library buys a copy and then starts checking it out? Its a bloody mess it what it is, and it has only been lately (past 10-15 years) that publishers have even had to seriously start dealing with digital rights. Books older than that most likely have the rights owned by the author and/or his estate, or they might have had those rights sold to a company that saw profit in buying up digital rights on bestselling books 20 years ago, all of which requires the publisher to go back and negotiate new contracts with an author.
Compared to the international market, or even just the BC, in which you have to deal with changing exchange rates and a multiple currencies, dealing with *just* the US market, especially online is simple and cheap. You can pretty much guaruntee for a book written in the past 10 years that the digital rights are held by the original publisher. You can pretty much guaruntee that tracking royalties due back to the company and the author are going to be easy to track. By implementing a process where people only with cards and adresses in the US can buy content from your online store a company can give a 'best effort' defense if suit is brought against them for say, people in the UK or Germany somehow getting access to content which is liscensed only for sale in the US.
In an emerging market (which ebooks are), simple, cheap and easy is the best way to go until you have proven that your marketing plan makes money.
Now I know someone is going to ask "what about itunes?" Well unlike the publishing industry the music industry is pretty darn straightforward. They already had agreements that could be used as guidelines to cover online distribution, mainly those that covered radio broadcast, and singles. The music industry is also dominated by giants. Sony, BMG etc are international companies. They don't sell off rights to an artist's music to other companies, they distribute directly (or through a wholly owned subsidiary) in all the markets. Thus apple did not have to wade through a multitude of contracts and differing royalty payments. They could just go to the big guys and say "we'll give you X of Y". Anyone that was distributed through an indy house, probably *didn't* have international distribution so once again Apple was able to approach it in the same manner. Simple, easy, no messy legal contracts to wade through.
Yet other people are going to say "well what about the mobipocket store?". I think if you go through the mobipocket/fictionwise catelogue you'll find that they only have books in it which the digital distribution rights worldwide are owned by the original publisher. Either because they were never sold, or because they were negotiated for after digital distribution became big. Forex, look at the catalogues for Asimov and Heinlein. Both popular authors in their genre. Notice that none of the online distributors have all of either's works, nor do they necessarily even have the most popular works in some cases.
Originally Posted by M0zza
5. Best stock up on cards then. And forge a relationship with Leaping Gnome.
Overall. Bugger! Do Sony and Amazon only think people in the US read.