A rant on ebooks and geo-restrictions


To whom it may concern:

I have an ebook reader (the bebook mini), and I find it comfortable and convenient. I embrace the digital revolution, and would gladly buy most of my books in eformat and save myself bookshelf space.


Have I mentioned the term “geo-restrictions” yet? The little thing that means places like WHSmith, Waterstone, the Sony Store or Amazon won’t sell me anything but their “authorised” catalog (ie, appropriate to the country I’m in)?

The official argument is something like “wait for the publisher to release the book in your country”. Well, guess what. My country is France. The ebook I want is in English (or Spanish. Or Vietnamese. Or whatever). Chances of the ebook being released in my country in that language? Close to nil, the market is too small for most SF/F books.

So, I have two choices. I can fake a US/UK IP address and a US/UK credit card to buy where I want; or I can pirate the book. None of them are really legal; and one of them involves way too much hassle for what should be a legit purchase (while actually leaving me still open to prosecution for fraud). I’ll leave you to contemplate what I’m most likely to do on the day I lose patience with the system…

In the meantime, I buy legit books at Baen’s webscriptions; I admire my publisher at Angry Robot, who sell DRM-free worldwide books for a reasonable price.

PS: and yes, as a writer, I know it’s a rights problem. But, quite frankly, as a customer, I still think it borders on the insane. Cracking down on people who buy English books from non-English countries is tantamount to pushing people into the arms of pirates, as far as I’m concerned.
PPS: if there’s a source of non-geo-restricted legit SF/F books I’ve missed, I’d be glad to be pointed in the right direction.


  1. Hi Aliette 🙂
    The restrictions & DRM are why I haven’t purchased an e-reader yet.
    I’ve bought & downloaded pdf books though.
    Thank you for sharing,
    All the best,

  2. Interesting… A search for “Alistair Reynolds ebooks” (and no doubt others too)returns a list of pirate sites. A search for “Aliette de Bodard ebooks” returns your blog, a list of publishers and places where you can buy books.
    Also Apple using a different DRM scheme for epub to the Adobe one so a book bought from WHSmiths can’t be read on yr own ipad and a book bought through the apple store can’t be read on a different reader.
    Thought we went through all this already with music and decided it was a bad idea?

  3. I think that’s because his name is spelled “Alastair Reynolds”, not “Alistair”.

  4. Rob: I started out with PDFs on my ipod, but the small screen was hurting my eyes, so I switched to the bebook (very happy with it so far, but I have to admit I’m living on freebies and those books I bought off Waterstone’s before they changed their geo-restriction policy).
    grazulis and Molly: even spelling Alastair Reynolds correctly nets you abour 50-50% legit, 50% torrent…
    The publishing industry is undergoing the same thing as the music industry, but I haven’t seen them more proactive than the majors so far (except in some rare cases such as my editor).

  5. I live in Canada and can’t buy mp3s from the Amazon.com store. I am literally half an hour from the border. How is that for insanity?

Sorry. Comments are closed on this entry.