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Old 04-09-2010, 04:18 AM   #1
Toxaris
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Angry Geo restriction protest to Tor

Just send the following mail to Tor. I do not expect to get a reply from them, but at least I got some frustration of my back.

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L.S.,

I have some questions and I hope I can get a satisfactory answer to them. Let me first elaborate a little about the background, so the questions can be viewed in the correct context.

I am a big fan of books. Ever since a little boy. When I started to read, I read everything I could lay my hands on. Very quickly I found out that some genres were more on my read list than others. The genres I really love are SF and Fantasy. As I live in the Netherlands, most books are translated to dutch. This limits the availability of course, since not all books are translated. For me that is not a problem, I started to read books in the English language since I was 12 (I am 37 now). I am also a firm believer that books should be read, whenever possible, in the original language since in the translation always things are lost.

Availability of the books always were a problem. Few books were imported, so it was struggling. However, I count myself lucky that I got access to Internet quite early in the early 90's. Availability of the books became much better. Stores like Amazon really opened the world for me. I could just order away and the postman would deliver it for me, always. No issues what so ever.

Things start to change. I am a family man now and storage of the books became a problem. Fortunately things evolved and e-books came around the corner. This really seems the solution for me, all the books but no longer a lot of physical storage. Sounds ideal, right?

But now the trouble starts.... Suddenly I am no longer able to buy the books I like and love to read. This due to something called geographical restriction. All the stores which sells the e-books are telling me that they cannot sell it to me since I do not live in the US. Strange, that is no problem when I buy a physical book. If I understand correctly, it has something to do with distribution rights. Fine, I find it strange that somehow this rights do not apply to physical books. But now there is no way for me to legally buy the books that I want. I stress, no legal way.

See the problem? I want to put money in your pockets, but you deny me the possibility to. I want to buy for example the e-books from Robert Jordan (yes, I want the US version and not the crappy UK version), but you won't let me.

Here I am, wanting to spend money to buy books, with nowhere to spent it. I still want those books, so how can I get them? Any ideas from your side? Please do not tell me the answer is to retrieve the books from other places, a pirated copy via OCR for example...

Here is my plea. Stop this geographical restriction nonsense. It is not from this time and actually sets things back to before the internet days. It is archaic and drives people to piracy. Please make the books available to anyone who wants them and reasonably priced. It cannot be that a paperback costs less than an e-book. No paper, no printing, no distribution.... just a server humming in the basement.

I assume that I will hear nothing of this and that this mail will end up in the trash bin, but still I wanted to let you know. I am not alone in this, there are a lot of people who can and want to read e-books in English.
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Old 04-09-2010, 04:26 AM   #2
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See the problem? I want to put money in your pockets, but you deny me the possibility to. I want to buy for example the e-books from Robert Jordan (yes, I want the US version and not the crappy UK version), but you won't let me.
Where did you found the books ? Only sony seams to have it, but it a US-only place. Books on Board don't have it anymore, even for US peaple.
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Old 04-09-2010, 04:31 AM   #3
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That's the problem, Sony has them but not for me. I was fortunate enough to buy most of them at BoB just before April 1st. I believe that I bought DR at Kobo at the time. However, it seems that they are tightening the restrictions. So soon the usual tricks will no longer work, even if they will become available at the other shops again.

Please don't tell me you missed out on some books?
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Old 04-09-2010, 05:26 AM   #4
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But now there is no way for me to legally buy the books that I want. I stress, no legal way.

See the problem? I want to put money in your pockets, but you deny me the possibility to.
Well written.

I do not understand the logic of why GR even exists and why they continue to keep such a archaic and restrictive practice in place full well knowing that people, frustrated at not being able to buy books they want to buy, turn to another means to obtain the ebook.

But they obviously live on a different plane of existence or something....
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Old 04-09-2010, 05:57 AM   #5
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I do not understand the logic of why GR even exists and why they continue to keep such a archaic and restrictive practice in place full well knowing that people, frustrated at not being able to buy books they want to buy, turn to another means to obtain the ebook.
Publishing contracts. They don't have any choice in the matter; they can't just tear up their existing contracts and pretend that they don't exist. You don't really think that they don't want to sell you books, do you?
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Old 04-09-2010, 06:12 AM   #6
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Publishing contracts. They don't have any choice in the matter; they can't just tear up their existing contracts and pretend that they don't exist. You don't really think that they don't want to sell you books, do you?
Absolutely. It's not the publishers (much), and it's not the authors (much). It's not even the agents really.

Even the agents are good guys - they're trying to get the most money they can out of publishers for their authors (& for their 15%).

The problem is that the whole lot of them haven't fully understood what ebooks require.

Exclusive regional contracts make sense for paper books, because paper is bulky and heavy, and expensive to ship around. So publishers in a certain area get an exclusive right to produce print versions of particular books. They're paying authors for that exclusive right, to be sure that they don't get stuck with a warehouse of expensive books, which could happen if the author could also give another publisher in the same country the right to print (say) a cheap paperback edition.

But this doesn't apply to ebooks. There's no natural barrier to sales, except language. For ebooks, non-exclusive world-wide rights make a lot more sense. Or exclusive world-wide rights for a particular language, although the former seems a better idea to me.

The problem at the moment is that publishers want to pay less for non-exclusive world-wide rights than they do for the current exclusive regional rights. And agents (& authors) want more for exclusive world-wide rights than for exclusive regional rights.

As I said, I hope that all parties concerned see that non-exclusive world-wide rights make the most sense. Publishers don't like it, as it means that they'll be competing against other publishers in their 'home' market.

Personally, I'd like to have the choice between the US and UK versions of (say) Harry Potter or Sookie Stackhouse. And competition would be good for consumers - not necessarily on price, but certainly on quality.

I suspect it'll be some years before it all gets sorted. I don't see regional restrictions on ebooks lasting in the long term (10 years) though.
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Old 04-09-2010, 08:04 AM   #7
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Publishing contracts. They don't have any choice in the matter; they can't just tear up their existing contracts and pretend that they don't exist. You don't really think that they don't want to sell you books, do you?
Somehow, that does not compute. I can understand that there are regional contracts. I can understand that if there are more countries that speak the same language that this would be a method. However, I have no alternative. Probably there is isn't a regional contract for my country. And, if there is one it is probably the UK region. However, that is not the same product. The UK versions are not equal to the US versions. If it not the same product, how can they restrict me due to a regional contract about the product?

So yes, it seems they don't want to sell people books.
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Old 04-09-2010, 08:12 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by Toxaris View Post
Somehow, that does not compute. I can understand that there are regional contracts. I can understand that if there are more countries that speak the same language that this would be a method. However, I have no alternative. Probably there is isn't a regional contract for my country. And, if there is one it is probably the UK region. However, that is not the same product. The UK versions are not equal to the US versions. If it not the same product, how can they restrict me due to a regional contract about the product?

So yes, it seems they don't want to sell people books.
It doesn't have to make sense - it's legal stuff. As far as regional variations go, I totally agree with you, but you might just as well ask the same thing about DVDs - why are there region 1 DVDs which only work in the US, and region 2 DVD which only work in Europe, when often they are not the same thing?

If TOR only have the publishing rights to sell an eBook in the USA, then they can't sell it to you if you live elsewhere. I'm sure they'd love to, but their contract doesn't permit it.
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Old 04-09-2010, 10:35 AM   #9
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And who decided to make contract that way at first, if not the publishers ?
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Old 04-09-2010, 10:47 AM   #10
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And who decided to make contract that way at first, if not the publishers ?
The authors, originally.

Mr. Author writes a book, and sells the publications rights to Kewlbooks USA Inc. Kewlbooks prints 10,000 copies and sells them; Mr. Author is happy. However, Mr. Author's book gets noticed in another country. Kewlbooks doesn't have any factories or distributors in the other country; it could make them in the US and ship them over there, but the costs would be high and profits low.

So Mr. Author talks to Megabooks UK. Megabooks would love to carry Mr. Author's book--but not if Kewlbooks is going to open a print-and-distribute factory there next month. So Mr. Author arranges the contracts such that Kewlbooks can only sell in the US, and Megabooks can sell in the UK. Maybe Megabooks distributes to Europe, and maybe he makes a third deal, with Continental Books, for that.

This works fine for print books. Customers visiting the US can buy the Kewlbooks version; they can even order it & have it shipped to them.

The problem with digital is that the "point of sale" is considered to be the *customer's* location, not the seller's location. Or rather, the location of the server the customer is identified as connected to, with a secondary check of the location of the bank issuing the credit card involved. (Not sure who decided this--don't know if it's a matter of legal precedent, author-publisher contracts, or agreement between publishers/ebookstores.)

The way to fix geo restrictions is to consider the location of the sale as "location of the servers where the bookstore resides," rather than location of the customers. (And this would mean nationally-limited stores would be selling internationally, and competing with publishers who own the rights in their countries. I'm sure the publishers' and distributors' economists would get all up in arms over the idea; I'm not sure it'd make any notable difference in actual ebook sales from the publishers' perspective--except that it'd become apparent how many customers *want* ebooks enough to deal with money conversion issues to get them.)
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Old 04-09-2010, 11:02 AM   #11
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The absolutely most stupid thing about geographical restrictions is the fact that the "place of sale" is the country where the purchaser resides (or wher he has some valid address, plus bank account, plus credit card...)

Different contracts for selling in different countries is OK, exclusive contracts for selling in different countries is OK, being able to buy something in some country and not in another country is expected... But being unable to buy an electronic file just because I live (or don't live) in some country is plain absurd. The "place of sale" should be the country where the shop is located, just as with physical goods, I would even be fine with paying an additional VAT, if needed. I can choose to buy American editions (of paper books) from amazon.com or British editions from amazon.co.uk, it should be the same with ebooks.
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Old 04-09-2010, 11:46 AM   #12
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You don't really think that they don't want to sell you books, do you?
By looking their behaviour, that is a perfectly logical and reasonable conclusion, yes.

They are not working to fix this, and indeed are trying to make it worse in many ways.
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Old 04-09-2010, 03:28 PM   #13
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So, if the authors decided on regional contracts (somehow I doubt that though), who's idea was it that the 'place of sale' is the buyers location instead of the shops? Why is this different than in the physical world? Somehow I doubt that this was also decided by the authors.

In other words, who do we need to harass to solve this issue? Is it legal anyway, not only in the country of the shop but also in the country of the wannabee buyer?
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Old 04-09-2010, 03:42 PM   #14
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So, if the authors decided on regional contracts (somehow I doubt that though), who's idea was it that the 'place of sale' is the buyers location instead of the shops?
It's "eCommerce" tax law, as I understand it - a matter of deciding whether or not taxes are payable on the purchased item.
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