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On this blog we will track down the latest Amazon Kindle news. We will keep you up to date with whats hot in the bestsellers section, including books, ebooks and blogs... and we will also bring you great Kindle3 tips and tricks along with reviews for the latest KindleDX accessories.

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October 2009
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Amazon may be blocking non-US customers from buying Kindle books

The method to trick Amazon into selling you a Kindle if you live outside of US was long known. There hundreds if not thousands non-US people using Amazon Kindle nowdays. However, recently, according to this thread on mobileread.com forums, please using this method started getting the following message when trying to buy a Kindle book:
We are sorry…
We could not process your order because of geographical restrictions on the product which you were attempting to purchase. Please refer to the terms of use for this product to determine the geographical restrictions.
We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused you.

We are sorry…

We could not process your order because of geographical restrictions on the product which you were attempting to purchase. Please refer to the terms of use for this product to determine the geographical restrictions.

We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused you.

There could be several things that are going on:

  • Software bug. Several users have reported Amazon.com website having some glitches recently.
  • Amazon did this unintentionally. It could be that they’ve rolled out a general system for geographically targeting or restricting certain products (not just Kindle books) and this message is one of the effects of this system. Perhaps it’s related to upcoming Kindle UK release… If that were the case, based on my own experience with software industry I would estimate that UK launch to be within weeks from now since it doesn’t make sense to make changes to production website that makes millions of dollars worth of sales per day long before you plan to release something. It can be Amazons major move for this holiday season and it would totally make sense. Though this is 100% my speculation.
  • Amazon specifically targeted Kindle books. Most likely this is because one of the non-US copyright holders found out that their intellectual property is sold in their country (ex: France) and they are not getting their rightful share of profits. Then they demanded action from Amazon and Amazon blocked Kindle books for non-US IP addresses. Let’s explore this possibility in detail…

The last scenario is yet another manifestation of how complex international copyright system is. Usually different publishers have rights to the same book in different countries. This worked well for paper book publishing since few people would like to purchase foreign edition of the book due because they would rather read it in their native language. It didn’t make sense to transport books internationally since they are heavy and it’s cheaper to print them close to where they will be sold. However when books went digital this legacy system started causing a lot of grief to publishers, book sellers and most of all to the customers. This was recently demonstrated by events surrounding Orwell’s 1984. Perhaps in the future publishing industry will adapt and embrace the global economy…

In this particular matter I doubt that Amazon would go do great pains to strictly enforce geographical restrictions on Kindle books. Mostly it’s because relatively few people used this loophole and amount of money involved is not significant. If Amazon were to press the issue, it would generate bad publicity just as Orwellioan deletion did. So they’ll only do what is needed to get the particular publisher happy. So I’m sure in time people will find a workaround for this problem.

One good way to try would be to have a separate browser that uses US pusroxy for all interactions with Amazon.com website from the day you create your new account. I’d recommend using real HTTP proxy that you configure in your browser rather than anonymizer websites that load destination websites in a frame as these are prone to bugs. The following proxy list would be a good place to start.

If you are affected by this issue or can add valuable information about the topic – please post a comment.

Update:

“Many thanks to Caroline Wong from the amazon forums for giving a hint to the solution. Amazon is now checking the IP address for those without a valid one-click payment option – generally those purchasing with gift certificates. You need to do a VPN to a US ip address – just do a google on “VPN to US” and download the software. Just run the software before any amazon session. Just bought 3 kindle books of amazon using gift certificates.”

So it looks like it is IP-related. Using public US proxy or VPN should solve the problem. I’ll look into the UltraSurf software and will post a review once I’ve tested it myself.

Amazon specifically doing the check for people without one click buying option would explain why most US residents travelling abroad like me will not be affected by this change.

Update 2:

I’ve just received the following email:

Hello.

I’m the guy who started the “Am I Screwed?” post on mobileread.com.

I update the thread. The problem is now over. People can buy books normally again, without needing to use a US IP. Amazon says it was a temporary glitch.

I myself (in Canada) just bought a book normally and successfully.

So it looks like this might be a side effect of upcoming international release or a simple bug.

Thanks to everyone who helped contribute information on the issue.

29 comments to Amazon may be blocking non-US customers from buying Kindle books

  • Claude

    It started last night for me and I am rather upset, because they let me redeem a gift certificate and I don’t know what i am going to do with it. Thanks for the proxy list
    Just wondering what US citizens travelling abroad are going to do about buying their books

  • Devin

    One way of doing this, is to buy an Amazon gift card and mailing it to yourself. This way, you can purchase all books. Not sure if this is also being blocked.

  • For Windows users, I can recommend Ultrasurf 9.5. It is a small, free, download. No need to install anything, just unzip and run. It worked like a charm with Amazon.com from the Netherlands. Didn’t need to change anything and it doesn’t leave anything running afterwards.
    But I do hope that the old route using the gift vouchers gets restored again.

    p.s. I’m not affiliated with Ultrareach in any way.

  • Devin

    From the nerdgirl page comments:

    “Many thanks to Caroline Wong from the amazon forums for giving a hint to the solution. Amazon is now checking the IP address for those without a valid one-click payment option – generally those purchasing with gift certificates. You need to do a VPN to a US ip address – just do a google on “VPN to US” and download the software. Just run the software before any amazon session. Just bought 3 kindle books of amazon using gift certificates.”

  • Devin

    Ok, found a way around it, well atleast for the free Books: just use a program called Hotspot Shield.

    If you want to buy books, it should be as easy as buy an Amazon gift card and than buying the books, while using Hotspot shield, which basically hides your ip.

  • Devin

    So using these solutions I could continuing using the Amazon gift cards?

  • Claude

    Thanks for the info. Just bought a book with a gift certificate using hotspot shield
    I looked into the VPN stuff, but I must admit it’s totally obscure to me.
    Just one thing, I think that hotspot shield doesn’t like Mac Leopard. It works on my laptop but not on my Leopard Imac

  • milou

    thanks for this. i used Ultrasurf 9.5 and worked perfect.

  • Devin

    I just tried Ultra surf and I have to say, it’s much easier to use than Hotspot shield. Both work any ways with a gift certificate.

    Problem solved.

  • Claude

    Ultra surf is out for me as I am on a Mac. I was wrong about Leopard not working with Leopard. It worked flawlessly this morning.

  • Tracy

    I can verify that this is not solved by having a good 1-click info. I am a US citizen with a US address with US-based credit card, all of which are my 1-click settings. I am currently in Africa and cannot (suddenly this week) buy any Kindle books.

    Off to download Ultrasurf now.

  • robyn

    I’m a MAC user so Ultra Surf is out for me too and I can’t connect with Hotspot shield for some reason. Can someone tell me how to set up and use a US proxy or a VPN. So sad I can’t buy books anymore :(.

  • In reading the Amazon forum, where I pointed people to this blog article a couple of days ago, as of this morning, people who could download e-books before are still reporting problems.

    Included with those having problems are U.S. citizens with U.S. credit card and a U.S. address who are traveling. That’s as of 3:00am pacific time Tuesday morning.

    And, one gal in Europe asked her sister in the U.S. (with U.S. credit card and address of course) to use her account from her own IP# in the U.S. to try to download an e-book, and her sister wasn’t allowed to. The option was not showing up under the problem account at http://amazon.com/manageyourkindle page book listing.
    The option was showing up under the sister’s own U.S. account though. This was strange as her sister was accessing the other account under her own U.S. Internet host w/U.S. IP# and the problem acct overseas does have a registered U.S. address using gift certificates.

    Anyway, traveling U.S. folks are still having problems, dribbling in.

    – Andrys

  • John

    I had the same problem, too. Managed to go through a US ip-address and bought a book. After that: no problems. I can use my non-US ip and buy books. Maybe Amazon requires you to have at least one successful purchase from a US ip before they let you free? Or it might be that is was just a glitch as the op said

  • As of today, many abroad, rdering using their two-account method and gift certificates are once again able to order books from Amazon without the added IP# workarounds they had to use the day before. And there are even reports at the Amazon thread of non-boilerplate email from helpful Amazon Customer Service reps who are following up on people’s problems.

  • David Ferrington

    I still can’t purchase, with the original message as of the top of this thread, tried a number of times, last time a moment ago (00:10 Wed 7-Oct UK)

    I wonder if Amazon eng will help.

    Perviously worked via 2 accounts, gift cert etc.

  • David

    ok, hotspot shield lets me do this
    interesting, I consider myself pretty good with IT, but I can’t figure out how to turn it back off without killing the process (hotspot shield runs in the background)

    Claude, looks like you used this successfully, how did you turn it off?

  • bigdosh12

    I live in China but have a US registered kindle and valid 1-click info, but still have been unable to buy books. The Chinese government blocks most sites like hotspot and ultrasurf, so does anyone have any other ideas how I might be able to buy book, or even better, if amazon is going to fix this anytime soon?

  • bigdosh12
    You need to stay on top of Customer Service on this, daily. You have a valid 1-click info situation (meaning, a U.S. credit card, normallly).

    The other parameter is that your main address with Amazon (under My Account) must be a valid U.S. address on the account using gift certificates.

    There are several circumstances under which that is done but it must be a valid U.S. address.

    Check that. And make sure you have enough gift certificates to cover an e-books purchase you make as that’s another factor…

    Good luck!

  • bigdosh12

    Andrys,
    I have valid US addresses for my cc, billing, and purchase addresses, but still no luck. Amazon CS have been responding, politely, but essentially uselessly to my daily requests for assisstance with the standard boilerplate

    ‘I’m sorry for the trouble you had when purchasing Kindle content. I’ve reported this to our technical team, and they’re working on taking care of it.
    Please try again over the next few days. Errors like this are usually corrected shortly after they’re reported.’
    As they have now sent me five variations of this response I am starting to doubt their sincerity…Does anyone know what the problem really is?

  • Koala

    I’m in Australia and am having the same problem today. I’m not getting the “geographical restrictions” message, mine says that I’m attempting to purchase a book in a country outside the country set in my account. I’ve tried with US and with Australia and neither option works. It’s very irritating …

  • Elisabet

    I’m from Norway and I am experiencing the same thing here today. So I don’t think the problem is solved…. I have removed every trace connected to my Norwegian adress/VISA in my account (using giftcards to purcase books), but it dosen’t seem to work. I totaly agree with Koala from Australia – this is very irritating indeed….

  • David

    Amazon have just announced you can buy in UK, via .com site and download via USB – looks like a deal for GSM is close.
    They are osaying to buy the DX
    I’ll try with my VPN method again this evening, since I have $50 in a gift cert to use.

    I won’t switch country until I hear others have that working.

  • David

    Elisabet, if you even once had something outside of the US on your account, it’s tarnish and won’t work.
    I set a new account, with a valid US postal address and a .com email address that is not registered in the US.
    Using gift certificates from another Amazon.com account, but that on does have UK credit card (I couldn’t redeem a cert sent from the UK – go figure?).

    Up until I tried yesterday, this all worked. As of yesterday, I needed to pull the VPN trick (using Hotspot shield on a mac).
    Today I get asked if I want to change my country, but that was with using hotspot.
    I don’t trust the process yet and will try hotspot again this evening.
    Use up all the credit and then try switching accounts etc.

  • bigdosh12

    Amazon seems to have worked out the problems for US kindle users buying books abroad, and my friend in Canada also just got a book online. Hopefully this means that it works for everyone else too.

  • Adi Respati

    A blog by nerd girl (link below) is starting to get comments saying Kindle users outside US no longer able to purchase books from Kindle Store. there is a possibility they have not used HotspotShield or Ultrasurf.

    I’m thinking about to buy a Kindle3, but need to confirm this first: Does HotspotShield and/or Ultrasurf still works for non US purchase?

    Thankyou very much.
    These thread have been a tremendous help.

    http://www.nerdgirl.com/amazon-kindle-outside-of-the-us-0

  • admin

    Adi,

    This was rather old news. It’s resolved now – each country can buy books according to publishing rights

  • Amy Privett

    Hi guys

    I am in Australia, have a kindle fire. I can download books fine but when I try to download games for my son I am getting the below warning:

    Your payment method has a non-usa billing address. A US credit card is required

    Does anyone know what this means and how I can fix it? Very frustrating!

    Thanks :)

  • Roly

    I can buy books on my ‘kindle fire hd’ but not apps.

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