Australian Kindle users will have to pay at least 20 per cent more than Americans for books on the Amazon e-book readers and the local publishing industry has expressed serious reservations about supporting the gizmo.
International users already have to pay $US20 ($22) more for the device itself, which begins shipping on October 19 for $US279.
As I understand at this point in time, Amazon asks for a very, very big discount from publishers for their works to be included in Kindle so that the return coming back to the publisher is smaller and the return coming back to the author is smaller.
And despite promising on its website that there are "no additional charges" for delivering books to overseas users, an Amazon spokesman told The Guardian that the average e-book would cost $US13.99 for foreign customers, 40 per cent more than the American price of $US9.99.
(UPDATE - Amazon has clarified that while EU customers will pay $US13.99 for major book releases, Australians will be offered a lower $US11.99 price - a 20 per cent increase on the price Americans pay. Some books, however, will sell to Australians at a premium higher than this.)
"International customers do pay a higher price for their books than US customers due to higher operating costs outside of the US," the Amazon spokeswoman said.
It is understood that part of this additional cost is incurred because books are delivered wirelessly from AT&T's network in the US, meaning foreign users must effectively pay "international roaming" fees.
The Kindle has a six-inch screen and can store up to 1500 books at a time, out of a range of about 200,000 titles that will be available to Australians.
But few books written by Australian authors are likely to be available on the device initially due to ongoing rights negotiations between Amazon and the local book industry.
Jeremy Fisher, executive director of the Australian Society of Authors, said he was advising his 3000 members to resist publishing through the Kindle.
"As I understand at this point in time, Amazon asks for a very, very big discount from publishers for their works to be included in Kindle so that the return coming back to the publisher is smaller and the return coming back to the author is smaller," he said.
"The person making the most money is Amazon."
In addition to books, the Kindle is designed to download newspapers, magazine and blogs but Australia's two largest newspaper companies, Fairfax and News Corp, have said they were unlikely to deliver their papers to the device.
It is understood both companies are unhappy with the deal offered by Amazon, which would result in a 70-30 revenue split and force them to work exclusively with the Kindle for four years.
These terms are particularly draconian considering Sony, Apple and US retailer Barnes & Noble are all understood to be developing new e-book readers.
Amazon's website says blogs and an experimental web browser will not be available on the Australian Kindle.
Malcolm Neil, chief executive of the Australian Booksellers Association, said the book industry was going through the same digital pain points that the music industry found so challenging.
"There's still regional territorial lockouts, so for instance you won't be able to buy Dan Brown's The Lost Symbol until they work out those issues," he said.
"There are design issues and rights issues for them to solve and, while they're resolving them, someone else will be developing a competing model."
He acknowledged that the Kindle and its digital delivery mechanism was a serious threat to his members.
He noted that, while Kindle's market share in the US was less than 5 per cent, books with both Kindle and physical editions had an impressive 50-50 split in sales.
But he said the more important issue here was ensuring that competition was maintained in the local e-book market so that it was not completely dominated by Amazon.
Earlier attempts to sell e-books in Australia by Dymocks have largely failed, but industry figures are looking to major international players such as Amazon and Apple to open up the market here.
Neil questioned Amazon's claims that international users would have to pay more for books due to "higher operating costs outside the US".
"I find that a little surprising when Amazon don't operate here and that this is a virtual service that is run off these shores," he said.
Australian Publishers Association spokesman Jose Borghino said rights negotiations between publishers and Amazon were ongoing and it did not know how many Australian books would be offered through the device at launch. Publishers were negotiating their own deals individually.
Amazon did not respond to queries seeking further clarification of its pricing model for Australia.
This story was originally published in the Technology section.