April 4, 2011

Your Kindle in South Africa

I've written already about how to make your Kindle work in South Africa, but today I came across an interesting twist that I wanted to share with you. I also thought I’d write more extensively about what to do if you already own a Kindle and are travelling or moving to South Africa, as well as how to purchase one if you don’t.

Let's say you already own a Kindle and that you purchased it from Amazon.com. Let's also say you have a subscription on it, like I do for the New York Times. If you now take this Kindle with your when travelling outside of the U.S. - say on your look-see trip to South Africa - then it will continue to work just fine. You will automatically be connected through the local networks without needing a new SIM card or anything. However, you will receive a notice on your Kindle informing you that if you stay abroad for more than 7 days, you will incur an additional subscription delivery fee of $4.99/week. Book purchases of Kindle eBooks from Amazon.com are still at no charge (other than the cost of the eBook).

Let's say you've now decided to move to South Africa. Obviously, you don't really want to pay $4.99 per week on top of your subscription cost, and you don't have to. What you need to do is visit Amazon.com, click on "Kindle" on the left, then "Manage your Kindle" at the bottom of the next menu. Select "South Africa" in the country box, and another box will pop up where you can choose one of your existing Amazon addresses or enter a new one. So far so good, but this is where I ran into my interesting twist this week.
I had gotten an email from Amazon, informing me that I had generated some revenue - yes, dear readers, some of you actually must have bought a book that I reviewed and linked to Amazon from my blog, so thank you! - and to please let them know where to send the check to. Not one to refuse an unexpected check, I clicked on the link they provided to their merchant services center, or whatever it is called, and changed my address to our U.S. billing address, as I figured they wouldn't send any checks to South Africa, not that I wanted to after our Postal Service fraud incident. This had nothing to do with my Kindle, or so I thought, but around the same time I received one of those notes to foreign subscribers I mentioned above. At first I didn’t connect the two, but then it dawned on me, and I went to check in at “Manage your Kindle” as described above, and sure enough my country settings had now changed to USA. For some reason, Amazon seems to use the same address for your Kindle as well as your merchant services, although in my mind the two have nothing to do with each other. Plus you’re allowed a million addresses in your Amazon account, so why exactly those two have to be the same is beyond me. Needless to say, I changed my Kindle country back to South Africa so that I won’t have to pay that additional subscription fee, and all is fine again.

By the way, my advertising revenue with Amazon turned out to be about $2, so my excitement about the "royalty check" has since subsided somewhat and I don’t really care where in the world they decide to send it.

Now, let’s say you live in South Africa WITHOUT a Kindle but would like to have one. Where do you get it? I’ve done some research on this question. Originally I would have told you to never dream of buying it online at Amazon.com and having it shipped here, because the risk of it “disappearing” in the South African Postal Service is just too big. I would have told you your best bet is to order before you move, or have it shipped to a US address and brought it here by the many visitors you’re bound to have once living here (everyone wants to travel to South Africa, just wait!). I even found a local website selling them, called Want It All, where the lowest price ZAR1730 or $250.

However, after reading up on what other South Africans have said about purchasing a Kindle, I tend to think that your best bet might be to order from Amazon.com and have it shipped here. The fact that Amazon IS shipping to South Africa (they didn’t, for a while) must mean that it is somewhat safe, or maybe they’ve found a different shipping method. In any case, you’ll have to pay shipping costs of $20 or so, plus a $40 or so “import fee deposit,” some of which you might get back if it’s not needed for import duties. But even if you don’t get anything back, your Kindle will be a fairly good deal, plus from what I’ve read you’ll get it really fast. All in all, I think I’d take the risk, given my positive experience with Amazon – if your Kindle were to disappear, I’m sure you’d have some kind of recourse. If you’re not from the U.S., from what I understand you should still order from Amazon.com (unless you live in the U.K., then you would order from Amazon.co.uk). The only thing to bear in mind is that you won’t have a warranty for your Kindle, or at least no way to ship it back to be exchanged. But you’ll have that problem whether you order locally or from the U.S. As far as the voltage for your charges is concerned, the Kindle charger is dual voltage, mine works fine with one of the many adapter plugs we purchased before moving here.

One thing that is actually not clear to me is the question of content: Now that I’m registered abroad, do I have access to less content in terms of eBooks than if I were in the US? It always seems like what’s actually available for download isn’t that great of a selection, especially when it comes to kids’ books. I’m not sure if that’s just the way it is, that many books are still not available as Kindle editions, or if being in South Africa gives me less choice. There doesn’t seem to be a place where you can see which titles are available where in the world. If anyone knows, I’d like to hear about it.

I also read articles complaining that international users would have to pay up to 40% more for eBooks. I have not found this to be true, but maybe I get U.S. prices because I use a U.S. billing address (a different address yet again than the Kindle country address or the merchant services one)? Or maybe Amazon has since then dropped this plan. In any case, I find the availability of cheap books one of the main reasons of having a Kindle when living in South Africa. The public library system is antiquated, books are considerably more expensive than elsewhere, and you can't get a decent newspaper (sorry my South African friends!), so a Kindle is a must when living in Soutth Africa. 

Here are some useful links regarding this topic:

Will my Kindle Work in South Africa?
Travelling with your Kindle
Using Kindle if you live outside the U.S.

Looking for good Kindle books about Africa? Visit my Books tab at the top of the page, or check out the following selection here:


Krisstoffel said...

Great post, thanks. I want to take one over from the UK for my mate in Joburg, just wanted to make sure it'll work for him when I get there!

Sine said...

Good luck Krisstoffel! From all I've learned, it should work like a charm. I was also told they ship them to here for free from the UK, which sounds very nice. Although you'd probably still have to pay duties, so I'm sure it's better for you to bring it.

- Suzie - said...

Hallo Sine,

Wollte schon Lange mal sagen, dass du nicht nur gut schreibst sondern auch toll photos machst!

Ihr esst also auch in SA noch Muesli ?! ;-)

Sine said...

Danke!Das habe ich auch hier angefangen, das Fotografieren (mit einer super Fotosafari). Aber das Fotografiern kostet richtig viel Zeit, finde ich. Meine Posts sind immer schneller geschrieben als mit Fotos versehen...

Ja, immer noch Muesli. Ab und zu importieren wir immer noch Koelln Schokomuesli aus Deutschland:-)

W. A. Jeffrey said...

You can put other ebook formats on a kindle and there are some open source programs and a few inexpensive pay ones that help with it. Results vary depending on the source file.

Also, you can order from Amazon UK using the same username and password that you use for the USA site. Although you would still probably want to get your kindle from the USA as I am not sure Amazon UK would sell one to somebody with a USA billing address. I've never tried buying electronics from Amazon UK, just DVD's, Books, and CD's that aren't available in the USA or ones where the UK edition is substantially cheaper after the currency conversion and shipping is factored in.

The reason that the address for your kindle purchases is linked like that without the multitude of usual options is because of how kindle book purchases are tied to your default settings you used when purchasing the kindle and how one-click is automatically set up on kindle for you.

And you could send a kindle back under warranty but the shipping costs you would incur would likely make it a waste of time. Also, Amazon is using courier services rather than postal for orders sent to SA. From what I gather, standard shipping (the cheapest if offered when checking out) may still go through the post but if stolen they would replace stolen shipments. But, unless the item ordered is overly heavy, the expedited service is not that much higher. Of course there is always Stackry but I did some calculations and it seems to me that at least where Amazon is concerned, you get a better deal just dealing direct.

Sine said...

Glad you compared Stackry with Amazon, saves me the trouble I suspected that was true. And I agree - even if it gets shipped regular post, Amazon will replace it if stolen so nothing to worry about unless it's time critical. For a time they weren't shipping to SA at all due to the theft issue, but now that they do again, it's probably the easiest way. For electronics it may make sense to order from UK because of the voltage, same for DVDs and such although nowadays most players are multi-system.

W. A. Jeffrey said...

Wouldn't be great if every country in the world used the same voltage, same plug type, and there were no region codes or different tv formats? Usually as an American I would be expected to say it should be the USA standard but since we are actually the odd man out in some of these areas I would be willing to go along with an international standard that was based on a different country.

Sine said...

This is so funny, because in another post of mine, "Power Talk", I used almost the exact same words to say just that. I commend you for agreeing to adapt to other maybe even "better" standards - how about that metric system:-)