Amazon Charges Kindle eBook Delivery Fees & Other Non-News Stories

You have probably read the Amazon-bashing story that's going around today, but I think there's a few details that some of the retellings have missed. (I'm expecting to see this story show up on the major tech blogs any moment now.) Once you get a little into it, the story isn't what you think.

A travel writer by the name of Andrew Hyde was shocked - shocked, i tell you - to discover that Amazon charges a delivery fee for his Kindle ebook. He'd recently released a new ebook in Kindle, Epub, and PDF. Much to his surprise the Kindle edition earned the least per sale.

This was largely due to the fact that Amazon, as part of the 70% royalty rate, also charges to deliver the ebooks over 3G. Mr Hyde's ebook, which was 18MB in size, cost him over $2.50 in fees each time he sold a copy in the Kindle Store.

Again, his ebook was 18MB in size, while most are well under 1MB.

He's understandably shocked by the situation and he posted a rant on his blog. (Sidenote: Go read it. The other details are fascinating.)

I, for one, am not surprised.

Amazon has charged delivery fees for as long as they've offered the 70% royalty rate. It's not at all a secret, and in fact you'd have to work really hard to not know about the fees. To be honest I do not see how you couldn't know about the delivery charge after having chosen the higher royalty rate; all the info is on the same page. Nor is it hard to find.

As I see it, the real story here was that this author was surprised by the fees. That's not quite so newsworthy, is it? (If not for the fact that Amazon is involved, I doubt that any blog would bother to post about this story.)

I rather admire the fellow for having the guts to post about his mistake, but it is his mistake. As bad as the fees might be in this particular case, Amazon does post the price schedule where anyone can read it. It's not the fault of Amazon if he didn't find the info.

Lots of other authors did know about it, and you can tell that from the many responses to a post on this story over on  The Passive Voice:

--Wow… I’ve never heard of costs this high. My books are always less than a few cents. It sounds like his image compression is not as standard as he thinks. He’s also making a big thing of whispernet fees. Fees that don’t apply in all areas. I would say the actual make up is .58 cents. The $2 is an additional fee charged occassionally depending on location.

--Agreed. Why should my lean, trim, de-bloated ebooks subsidize someone else’s fatsos? If this guy doesn’t want to do what it takes to get his delivery costs down, then he shouldn’t complain about paying the price for that.

--I had to comment here because I’ve seen so few authors mention this issue, and it’s something I deal with. I write illustrated books. In addition to other projects, I have a 5-book illustrated fantasy series for adults. My adult books have gorgeous watercolors and inks. There are usually about 18 full-page illustrations + character portraits and maps. These books are 50 – 60K words.

I sell most of my illustrated books for $4.99. Deliver costs average about 30 cents – not inconsequential, but manageable. As a point of reference, my text-only 300K omnibus also ends up costing about 30 cents per download in deliver fees. 50K words with illustrations vs 300K words without = same deliver costs for my books.

--

That being said, I want to highlight Hyde's other response to the fees; other authors might want to0 copy it.

He's now selling the Kindle edition of his ebook alongside the PDF. Both are sold DRM-free via an ecommerce site called Gumroad, and that's a good thing. He's found a way to avoid the fees while still supporting his readers, but his new alternative also stands as an example of why you might want to stay with ebookstores.

This site only charges credit card fees, not the 30% plus commission of any of the major ebookstores. But the site also doesn't offer anything in terms of marketing, suggested selling, or even listing pages (not that I can see). All it does is process the payment and forward the file.

It's effectively a DIY option for someone who wants to do their own marketing on Twitter, Facebook and an author website, and that might be a reason that some would choose not use it. But given that self-pub authors often do their own marketing, perhaps not.

19 thoughts on “Amazon Charges Kindle eBook Delivery Fees & Other Non-News Stories

  1. Well, the Gumroad option might work for authors with an established readership and a website (or at least a Twitter feed).
    It’s actually nice to know the New Publishing spectrum goes that low.

  2. Gumroad looks like a good project, and I endorse it.

    I use ejunkie +paypal. I pay 5 cents + 5% for paypal and a flat $5 for digital delivery for 50 mb of digital content via ejunkie.

    Here’s the problem with Gumroad– no discount codes. Authors when they submit stuff are obligated to let Amazon match any price sold elsewhere, so from the customer’s point of view, Amazon will always be the better deal — because it’s the same price, plus more reliability (I won’t talk about drm lock in for now).

    If you can convince your fans to buy directly from you because it’s better for the writer, great. But that sell is not an easy one. In addition to discounting, I bundle products together for a discount. That is really only the way to go head to head with amazon.

      1. Right, Nate. Since its long been 15c /MB, and the average text novel is about 800k, 15c is the cost to most. His book being 18 MB, that’s $2.70 already.

        Looking at his numbers, it may not be wise for him to encourage people to buy elsewhere since he loses higher Amazon sales ranking (and therefore exposure for his book) that he’d get if the book were bought at Amazon.

  3. Amazon delivery fees infuriate me.
    They take 30% cut. No extra work involved for that particular book. Just a bit (OK, a few kilobytes ;-) ) of server space and a few records in their databases. And of course you pay for access to their customers inside their walled garden.

    PLUS they charge me – customer outside USA – outrageous delivery fee, even when I do not have 3G equipped Kindle. I do not have Kindle at all, just Kindle for PC installed so I can download an occasional book. I say outrageous fee, because they tack on fee of at least $2 even on free books.
    Why should I sponsor 3G Kindle owners in my country, so they can use their “free” 3G net to look up Wikipedia articles and text-based web sites?

    PLUS they charge the author *the same* delivery fee they took from me in the point above.

    1. Not to be offensive, Name (less) but 2 points:
      1. You’re telling unthruths
      2. You’re an idiot

      Amazon takes their cut from the author, true, and charges the author for delivery, true. In no way is this different to taking it to a publishing house and having them print up a hundred thousand copies and distribute them around the globe. The publishing house takes it’s cut also.

      Where you come unstuck is claiming that Amazon is also charging you fee’s for delivery. I’ll say it up front – you,sir, are a liar.

      I too live outside the USA, Australia to be exact. I have a 3G Kindle. I also have Kindle for PC on a separate Amazon account and have downloaded several of the free books to my PC as well as some paid ones. The cost is exactly what is shown on the Amazon site. No extras. If the book is free, then no cost. No delivery charge. Zip. Nada. Nil. Getting the picture yet?

      Whatever it is that Amazon has done to you to give you a hardon for them (some imagined injustice no doubt), at least take the effort to make up something that might seem to have basis in reality.

      1. Dear Shogun.

        Sorry, but you ARE offensive.
        Calling someone an Idiot is highly offensive.
        By the way, please look up “hardon” in dictionary.
        Hardon is:
        – an erected penis
        – a like of
        – an attraction towards

        The fact that you do not pay delivery fee in Australia doesn’t mean that there aren’t OTHER countries where that ridiculous delivery surcharge is still tacked to the price. See the comment below made by Norway resident.

  4. I too live outside the US – in Norway. Here to buy books from Amazon we have to use the .com site. An ebook priced at $2.99 in the US will cost us $5.74. The only time it costs $2.99 is if the book is also available via another seller such as B&N or Smashwords when Amazon price match.

    The author gets 35% for books bought in Norway as Norway is not one of the countries eligible for the 70% royalty level. The 35% is based on the $2.99 price even though the customer has paid $5.74.

    The reason I know this is because my partner is an author and her book is priced at $2.99. Many copies have been bought in the US at this price or in the UK for £1.92 – in both cases she gets 70% of this less a few cents delivery. Copies bought by people here in Norway have been at the higher price of $5.74 for which she gets 35% of $2.99

    Books that are $0.99 in the US are priced at $3.44 in Norway.

    These higher prices are the prices shown on the .com site but are clearly not the same across the world.

    Alan

  5. Well I agree it would be more ‘fair’ if Amazon only charged the delivery fee if the book was actually delivered via 3G (and they know that info). But the fees, 30% +del fee are no doubt co-mingled to also support bandwidth and cloud storage for all customers as well.

    To mix metaphors, “if you want to play ball with a 4000 lbs gorilla, then you play by the gorilla’s rules”. My publishing data clearly shows that paying the additional fees on Amazon sales if far outweighed by it greater sales volumes vs. Apple/B&N/anyone else. YMMV.

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