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Old 03-15-2011, 09:15 PM   #1
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Can egift cards be used to get around Agency pricing at Kobo?

Answered: Yes they can! What works for sure is to buy yourself an e-Gift card, then create a new account from another country (use a proxy if required) and redeem the gift card to that account. A credit card is not required if there is sufficient store credit to make a purchase, but Kobo will ask for contact details when making the purchase, and a non-U.S. address is required.

It's not clear if there are any other specific country of origin limitations when doing this. Thus far users from Canada and Malaysia have reported success. Some books may not be available in the non U.S. catalogs. It's also unclear whether the requests must physically come from a non-U.S. location, there are some indications Kobo may only check the country the user types in rather than the physical location.


-------- Original Post --------
I live overseas, but my Kobo billing address is a U.S. address. It seems like Kobo only keeps you logged in for a short time, and it seems they must be doing some IP lookup when they offer books to users who aren't logged in.

When I go to Kobo without logging in I see lots of books (probably all of them?) that don't use Agency pricing. Discount codes seem to be allowed generally (not sure if country specific limitations come into play in some cases)

As soon as I try to actually buy one of those books by logging in so I can use my credit card the transaction fails in some way - the way it fails seems to change from week to week as they adjust their app. Apparently once they see my U.S. address they're blocking it at some level. I can only buy the book at that point buy starting over and choosing the Agency priced version which is all that shows up when I re-locate the book at that point.

I was thinking that I should be able to buy an egift card with my U.S. account, and then create a second non-U.S. account and use the egift card credit with full coupon support/normal pricing there.

Has anyone tried this? Any evidence that Kobo is doing aggressive per country geo IP lookup, or just U.S. vs. Overseas? Is there any country of origin limitation to the gift card?

Last edited by ldolse; 03-17-2011 at 05:16 AM.
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Old 03-15-2011, 09:27 PM   #2
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I think you'd need at least a non-US VPN IP proxy to do this, and I don't know whether Kobo still requires that you have a valid credit card on file before it'll process even transactions paid for via gift card amount.

Speaking as a Canadian, I am often barred from even looking at pages for books that seem to be available only from the US, whether I'm logged in or not. Be sure to create your second account and use it entirely from your non-US IP.

As an experiment, I once tried using a secondary address I'd submitted for one of their contests to create a second non-Canadian account. Apparently that was seemingly perma-flagged in their database as Canadian despite my use of the IP proxy while doing the browsing and I had to try once again with a 3rd.

And books from certain publishers/imprints are no-discount even up here. Forget buying anything from Hachette or Grand Central Publishing or Little Brown. Plus you'd have to pay tax on top of it all (12% for much of Canada; pretend to be from Alberta to take it down to %5).

Though if you do manage to get a really good discount coupon, that might balance things out. I just bought 8 assorted Tor & Random House MMPB-equivalent books for 3.53 each after tax (regularly around 6.99 to 7.99 @ Amazon US as far as I can tell).

Hope this helps.
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Old 03-15-2011, 09:35 PM   #3
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In my case a non-U.S. proxy wouldn't be required, but if this does turn out to be a valid workaround people physically in the states would need to use one, true. I just noticed that a credit card was a required field to set up a new account - I was wondering whether they would require a valid one. I'll probably give it a shot regardless and let everyone know.
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Old 03-15-2011, 09:43 PM   #4
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Sorry, just noticed your location field. I think perhaps you might run into that other geo-restriction problem, of half the catalogue of stuff you want just plain disappearing entirely.

But yeah, it will be interesting to find out. Perhaps you could ask your CC company to add your Malaysian address as a secondary billing address for your credit card and have it be valid that way if it turns out Kobo does check?
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Old 03-15-2011, 09:51 PM   #5
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It's possible - I've been wondering whether the books that show up when not logged in are just 'international', and providing a Malaysian address will also kill the availability. I could potentially create the address from any country depending on the level of IP correlation they're doing, but the valid credit card could still be a stickler.
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Old 03-16-2011, 12:00 PM   #6
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As far as I could tell, they don't compare the address to the credit card unless you are making a purchase that requires payment......

so, if you just changed your address, a little birdie told me that it should work (if there is a gift card balance on your account). At least, the little birdie managed to snag an australian giveaway, once upon a time....
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Old 03-16-2011, 01:09 PM   #7
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you're right. I just bought a gift card using my US account and had it emailed to a second email address. I switched my browser to a Canadian Proxy Server, and went to Kobo and set up a second account using a Canadian address and bought a book using Canadian prices and the 50% off code. I never even entered a credit card on the Canadian Account, I just applied the gift card to the account as a store credit.

It was a bit of work, but saved me about $5 on the book off of US Agency pricing.

The only drawback is the minimum gift card amount is $10 - so now I have a balance waiting to be used.
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Old 03-17-2011, 05:01 AM   #8
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Thanks for giving it a shot, I was going to do it yesterday but got sidetracked. I just tried it out and it worked quite nicely. I bought a gift card with my U.S. account/credit card, and then opened a new account in the process of redeeming the gift card. A credit card was never required (as long as there was sufficient store credit), but I did need to enter an address to check out - they did seem to do a GeoIP lookup and defaulted to Malaysia in the country field, but I'm not sure if that restricted me in any other way with regard to the catalog. The 50% off coupon worked great in addition to the fact that Kobo was already discounting the book - saved 8 bucks in my case.

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Old 03-17-2011, 07:38 AM   #9
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They have agency pricing in Canada as well--just not the same list of Publishers (yet).
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Old 03-17-2011, 08:52 AM   #10
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Can one obtain better prices by using gift cards? If you use one what price can you get on a mass market paperback, trade paperback, premium paperback?

With the advent of mobile electronic cards (MEC) this is looking real interesting. With one of the new MECs you download the card to you blackberry or other smart phone and take that to the store or simply enter the number on the web site. You can tell that I am really interested more advanced computer technology.
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Old 03-17-2011, 10:12 AM   #11
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Just be careful what country you choose for your "alternate identity" account. I had been buying quite happily from the "international list" at Kobo in US dollars when they suddenly changed the system so that all prices quoted to me are now in euros (and presumably include French VAT at 19.6%).

I have a US account and credit card I use for my "impulse purchases" in order to avoid exchange rate considerations but if I use it now, I get hit with the "foreign transaction fee" because the billing comes in in euros. The transaction fee isn't too bad, but the VAT added onto the euro pricing has made Kobo's prices for most books considerably higher than those in the Sony store in the US. (Yes, I buy from the Sony store in the US - but that's a whole different story...)

If I use my French credit card, I also will get hit with a "foreign transaction fee" (higher than the one on the US card) because the charge actually comes from outside the EU even if it is denominated in euros to begin with.

I suspect Kobo really has nothing to do with this and it's some part of the fine print in the Agency agreement, but some days it seems like you just can't get a break.
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Old 03-17-2011, 11:07 AM   #12
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@jbcohen, this only works to get around the semi-illegal Agency pricing scheme that gets applied to ebooks in some markets (primarily U.S.) right now. Outside of those markets Kobo can price as they please - and they do. Coupons can also be applied, which isn't true of Agency books. Doesn't apply to non-ebooks.

@bevdeforges, you may be able to use this technique to avoid VAT or foreign transaction fees, by buying yourself gift cards from one account, and then apply the balance to the gift card to the other account. That said, I don't know what Kobo will do if the gift card balance is a different currency from the account currency. Right now I'm still seeing all the books quoted in dollars in this part of the world.
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Old 03-17-2011, 11:44 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by taming View Post
They have agency pricing in Canada as well--just not the same list of Publishers (yet).
As of right now it looks like (using Canadian VPN)

Agency Priced
Hatchette

Non-Agency
St Martins
Harper Collins
Random House
Penguin
Simon and Schuster
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Old 03-17-2011, 01:56 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by abookreader View Post
As of right now it looks like (using Canadian VPN)

Agency Priced
Hatchette
Hatchette seems to be non-agency over here, it appears all the publishers are non-agency based on a quick perusal of the top books, which are all discounted.

Interestingly enough it also seems like there is a larger variety of ebooks available to me from overseas than there are when logged in via the U.S. account, which is different from ATDrake's experience. Maybe things are locked down a bit more heavily for Canadians.
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Old 03-17-2011, 09:52 PM   #15
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Last year, when Target sold Sony $25.00 gift cards for $15.00 I bought a bunch of them. So every book I've bought (so far) at the Sony star was 40% off.

Same with the Groupon deal that was posted hear a couple of months ago.

I wish these kinds of deal were available more often.
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