Amazon has just announced the launch of an international version of their ebook device, the Kindle. Thus Australians will finally be able to get access to over 250,000 ebooks (including the vast majority of the current New York Times bestsellers) at the hugely discounted prices available, up until now, only to Americans.
For around A$340, including shipping, Australians can buy the hardware and subsequently purchase a huge variety of frontlist and backlist ebooks from between $12-$20 at current exchange rates. Nearly all major publishers are coming to the party and making their titles available.
Amazon has done a deal with AT&T to exploit their global wireless reach, and that service won't cost users anything. Up until now Australia has been denied the Kindle, as has every other country outside the US because Sprint, their wireless provider, was a US-only operation.
So suddenly, a very serious game changer! This development will really put the cat amongst the pigeons. It will have wide, structural ramifications for the Australian book trade, because consumers will be able to bypass high Australian prices for imported printed titles, and exploit the far lower prices for ebooks that Amazon is offering when compared to the printed edition.
It will be interesting to see how territorial copyright deals play out in Australia, ie, whether we get access to all US versions, or whether, in their particular agreements with Amazon, publishers have restricted them from making a range of titles available in various territories. While Amazon, like any retailer or wholesaler, has no obligation under law to honor any territorial rights agreements publishers may have entered into, the publishers themselves may have given Amazon only restricted distribution rights.
We'll just have to wait and see.