If I buy a US Kindle from amazon.com, will it work in the UK?

As you may recall, I have a shedload of Amazon.com store credit that is no use to me at all.  I can’t buy MP3s with it, I can’t give it to friends in the form of gift certificates (I’ve not blogged about that, it was too painful), and of course I can’t transfer it to my Amazon.co.uk account.

Why not?

I just can’t, that’s all.  That’s how the monumentally stupid music industry wants it to be.  It’s also apparently how Amazon wants it to be — I can only assume they want a cut of all the Monumentally Stupid that’s going on out there.

So since the only thing Amazon.com will do is ship physical objects across the Atlantic to me, I find myself thinking that maybe the time is right to get a Kindle.

I don’t know much — anything, really — about e-books.  So my question is: are these things region-locked or something equally stupid?  If I buy a Kindle from Amazon.com and have them ship it to me here in England, and I going to find that it won’t run here?

And does anyone know whether the power supply will be robust to our manly 240V mains supply?  (I know I can charge it by USB from a handy computer, so that’s not a deal breaker, but it would be nice to know.)

Thanks in advance for any advice.

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66 responses to “If I buy a US Kindle from amazon.com, will it work in the UK?

  1. I was considering buying a Kindle a while back, but the Amazon store won’t allow me to buy one since I live in Australia, and won’t sell me ebooks either. So I bought a kobo from my local book store. As far as I know, though, the Kindle just reads ordinary epubs. There are ways to lock them with DRM, but there’s more than one source of ebooks in the world.

  2. First, don’t get the 3G version (from the US website) because that will only be free in the country you get it.
    Purchasing the Kindle and linking it to an Amazon account are separate operations. So I am pretty sure that you could get it from the .com site and link it to the .co.uk site or the other way around. I don’t think you could have it connected to both though, at least not at the same time.
    On the other hand, I haven’t heard of any problems with getting books in different regions.

    I’ll take a look at my charger at home, I think it handles 240V.

  3. From http://www.amazon.com/dp/B002Y27P3M/?tag=googhydr-20&hvadid=6911915016&ref=pd_sl_1aem4eussc_b

    Included in the box
    Kindle wireless reader
    U.S. power adapter
    (supports 100V-240V)
    USB 2.0 cable
    (for connection to the Kindle power adapter or to connect to a computer.)

    Elsewhere on the same page:
    Live Outside the U.S.?
    To ship Kindle outside the U.S., view information specific to your country.

  4. Positive on the 240V.

  5. The Kindle wall wart is supposedly multi-voltage safe, but Amazon US only supplies them with US pin layouts and won’t include the wall wart in the box if you’re ordering from outside the US. Given that I’ve definitely got the advertised 3-4 week battery life out of my Kindle 3, charging with USB is a complete and total non-issue.

    Books are complicated, especially because things are mostly still oriented around 3G models, and virtually none of the availability policies reflect the realities of Wi-Fi, especially Wi-Fi only models. If you have an amazon.com billing address outside the US, for a Kindle registered to your account:
    - The blog-reading feature of the Kindle simply doesn’t exist, even if it’s Wi-Fi only.
    - Magazine availability is close to nil, and what few magazines exist in non-US regions generally don’t carry images (3G data charges).
    - For the vast majority of countries, there’s a US$2 surcharge invisibly added to the shown price. This hidden fee is in principle levied for 3G data delivery if you don’t have a US billing address (although it’s excessively large for that) , but although it existed for the old pre-WiFi models, Amazon’s US store still happily applies this surcharge to customers with Wi-Fi-only models for all but a very few countries, and indeed even apply the surcharge to pricing for PC downloads (although this isn’t apparent until you have a Kindle registered to your Amazon store account). Especially for 3G+WiFi models, there’s almost no way of telling what price you’ll be charged once you buy a Kindle. What you see in the Kindle store – what ASINs you’re shown in search results and the list prices – change once you have a device actually registered on your account.

    In terms of region locking, it’s 99% based on your billing address (overlaid by some GeoIP to make prices jump around less, but it’s the billing address that ultimately determines availability etc). The majority of the Amazon Kindle store is only available to customers with US billing addresses, but this is 99% driven by publishing contracts (as Charles Stross has extensively written about). Books published in the last year or two will generally have specific global e-book rights assignments written into the publishing contract and so are available world-wide, books older than that generally rely on territory-limited rights assignments in the print publishing contracts and so you simply can’t buy them (and you can’t be gifted them either, unlike download services such as Steam – no Gifting of e-books on Kindle, just store credit). Again, it’s not really possible to determine from browsing the store which items are affected by this until you have a Kindle on your account, and even then Amazon’s store will happily “recommend” you an item which isn’t available in your region (although the store won’t return that item in a search result if it’s available, the filtering process used by the store isn’t consistently applied). Even more confusingly, although some items have a single ASINs which is either globally available or isn’t, others have multiple regional ASINs with different prices: searching or browsing usually shows you the right ASIN and your regional price, but external hyperlinks *into* the Amazon store often take you to a US-only ASIN (so you need to browse around a bit to discover if a regional ASIN exists for the product which Amazon will allow you to buy it with).

    amazon.co.uk Kindles have full features (blogs, magazines, etc) and full title availability, but having a New Zealand billing address I can’t use the .co.uk store for anything Kindle-related at all (if I could it would solve many of the regional availability problems, but I can’t). However, since you’re a UK resident you do have that option, and supposedly you can flip your Kindle registration between the two stores: see this help page for the official policy.

  6. There are no “region locks” per se, but… it’s fairly common for books not to be available from amazon.com unless your billing address is in the US. I have no idea how good the Kindle store from amazon.co.uk is, but to avoid frustration I would suggest making sure that some of the books you might want are actually available to you.

    It’s not *as bad* as the first commenter mentions (Amazon will sell you ebooks if you are in Australia – just not *all* ebooks), but it’s nowhere near what it should be.

  7. Unfortunately the UK is a special case for the Kindle, or so it seems from this:

    http://tinyurl.com/2cwp2es

    So my guess is that you could buy a Kindle from the US and, in the UK, buy US books from the US Kindle store, charged to your US account. You would ideally want just the wifi Kindle, since the 3G will work in the UK but you will be hit with bandwidth charges for the downloads (I believe). In essence you would be operating as a US Kindle owner on a very long vacation in the UK.

  8. I have the Kindle software on my iPod. I bought one book without an American release (yet) at the amazon.co.uk site (thanks to a proxy). It works just fine.

  9. It occurs to me that your question was very Kindle hardware-specific, whereas I was talking about the software. Oh well, hope I helped anyway.

  10. It’s not the music industry stopping Amazon transferring the credit between Amazon accounts, they’re just stopping you ‘importing’ the digital goods. Not transferring the credit is just Amazon’s stupidity.

    As for the Kindle – the two big disadvantages to me are (a) the lack of support for ePub (b) the level of DRM involved (effectively books are locked to one account, which makes them worse than paper books from a work point of view, which would be my main reason for getting an e-reader).

    The disadvantage of all the other e-readers, on the other hand, is the limited support for ePub/non-DRM formats by mainstream publishers, particularly fiction.

    Lastly, I think you’d still have the same problem – to get the credit out of the US store, you’d need to link your Kindle account to the US store, forevermore, which feels a bit like swallowing a £109 spider to catch the fly.

    Maybe the solution is Kindle as software, and downloading some US tech books you wouldn’t mind reading on your computer? Although I get the impression you’re a Linux guy, in which case you may be out of luck (will run under Wine with some effort).

    Lastly, I’ve linked to Charles Stross interesting, if possibly dated, piece on Amazon selling US Kindle in the UK.

  11. It should be safe to buy it; I would recommend using calibre to manage your ebooks since it handle quite well conversions & uploads to several devices:

    http://calibre-ebook.com/user_manual/faq.html#device-integration

  12. Pingback: Dammit, Amazon.com, will you please let me use my store credit? | The Reinvigorated Programmer

  13. Not sure how far you went with this, or how much the situation has changed since you mad this post, but I found that you blatantly lie to Amazon about your billing address, so that if you’re in, say, Zimbabwe, you can tell Amazon that your billing address is in the US, and you can purchase all the eBooks you like (I’m not sure if there are any that *aren’t* available to US customers?). This could depend on your bank, though. Amazon doesn’t *seem* to check with your bank that the billing address you’ve provided is correct, but hey.

    Of course, that probably violates all sorts of policies (Amazons. Your banks. etc.), so it’s up to you whether you consider the risk of being punished for giving Amazon money to be worth ‘doing the right thing’.

    And the DRM is trivially breakable, if you want to be able to backup/format-shift your eBooks once you’ve purchased them.

  14. ipsi, this while issue suddenly vanished for me — at least in the short term — a couple of weeks after I posted this, when my US-based employer gave me, along with all the other employees, a Kindle as a Christmas present. So a happy ending, though not the one I’d been working towards. (And I STILL have a bunch of useless Amazon.com store credit!)

    While I am mostly delighted with the Kindle, I’m immensely irritated that all the special offers my American Kindle-owning friends keep sending me won’t fire on my UK-registered Kindle. *sigh*. Silos live.

    I didn’t know that Amazon’s DRM is easily breakable. Oddly enough — although this story is told often enough that it shouldn’t really strike anyone as odd any more — this makes me feel much more inclined to buy e-books from Amazon. Knowing I can get them in a format where they won’t randomly evaporate, or die when my hardware does, makes me willing to spend the money.

  15. Ah, very nice :). Yeah, it’s a bit of a pain about the siloing, but I assure you, it could be worse. Outside of the US and Europe, your book selection gets quite limited unless you’re willing to lie to Amazon, as I mentioned above. Maybe that’ll change one day, but that’s a pretty big topic, and there’s a lot more to it than “stop spending money to lose money!” (which is almost entirely what Geographic Restrictions on eBooks amount to for Amazon!).

    The only tricky aspect about Amazon eBooks is that the file name doesn’t really bear an awful lot of relation of the book name. In fact, it bears no relation at all, and looks more like a hash or something. Annoying, but hardly fatal. The tools for DRM stripping shouldn’t be *too* hard to find, but I think posting a link on your blog would not be the best of ideas.

  16. Hi – this has been an interesting read for me – Mike when you say that your US company bought you all a kindle for Christmas – (this might sound daft) – was that a US supplied Kindle, which you have registered on your UK amazon account? My wife has a kindle which she loves, I have been using kindle app on my ipad2 so have some books on my UK amazon account – however, the kindle e-ink screen is much more pleasurable than the ipad to read from (the backlight does your eyes in after a bit!).
    with my mother-in-law heading to the states at the end of this month, might i be able to get her to bring me a $114 kindle back from the states which I could then fire up and add to my UK address? it would save me a few quid (albeit i’d lose the power adaptor which would only have two prongs – no big deal when it charges from USB though)
    any thoughts?

  17. Hi, Graham. Yes, I should have been clearer about the origin of my Kindle. It was bought in the USA, and given to me still sealed in its box. I registered it with Amazon.co.uk, no problems at all. So it seems that Kindle hardware doesn’t care where it was manufactured, only where it’s been registered to. (I can’t use mine to buy books from Amazon.com, but I think I could have registered it with Amazon.com instead if I’d wanted to, and then been unable to buy from Amazon.co.uk … Except they would probably have required me to make up a false address or something.)

    So, yes, go ahead and ask you MIL to bring you a cheap US Kindle. The only difference seems to be the number of prongs on the recharge-from-mains dongle, and a standard US-to-UK plug adaptor will fix that anyway.

  18. Hi Mike – thanks for the clarification – very much appreciated!

    Thanks again,

    Graham

  19. i think the fact that are kindles are not compatiable with any other country not really too amazing as all their gadgets neer eer been compatiable with us brits but sure you all must have kindles of your own if not tough i love mine its my favorite along with my i pods and phones and the kindle is the king to me no more wrestling with heavy books and storing them me who reads a average of 4 or 5 books a week read or listen to my music than watch tv so good so lovely to sit reading while my next book being downloaded and also can send backones i dont want to keep so easy but then once registered i send em backby the same process and a tip to the lady who has cracked her case buy a cover pop it in LOVELY NO PROBLEM STAFF ARE GREAT SO I M SOOOOOOOOOOO PLEASED WITH MINE

  20. Paul, please punctuate next time.

  21. Stacy Slade

    Hi,

    Okay, I seem to have gathered from all that chat that a US bought wi-fi kindle will work if registered to amazon.co.uk, but what about the 3G version? I am going to Florida soon and will be buying one from a store (bestbuy or somewhere similar, so will not be handing over billing information or anything like that) will the 3G still work back in the UK, or will I need to purchase a UK sim, such as vodafone and place that into the kindle?

    Thanks if anyone can help.

  22. Sorry, Stacy, I have no idea on that score. I was never interested in 3G for myself.

  23. Stacy Slade

    Ah, not to worry. The more I look into it, the more I think the wi-fi seems good enough for me. Doubt i’d get the use out of 3G for the extra money they are charging. Thanks.

  24. sheila callaghan

    I am also going to USA soon and want to buy a3g Kindle. Have read all the above and deduced that I can use/download in the UK no problem, but I constantly travel and want to know if I can access the internet free from my hotel room around the world even if they dont supply free wifi. Help, anyone?

  25. Mike,

    I bought a Wi-Fi only version in the US and it works fine in the UK registered to amazon.co.uk – The advertising I now receive is US advertising though, is this the same for you?

    Cheers,
    Eoan

  26. Eoan, I don’t get any adverts at all on my Kindle.

  27. Now that Amazon have announced their new Kindle range, with the base model starting at $79, I’m tempted (especially as I have some Amazon.com credit I can’t use elsewhere, and as the same base model is priced at £89 on the .co.uk store)
    Before I commit, I’d like to know if the new Kindle will work in the UK – I have a US address to which I can ship (luckily!) and USB charging isn’t an issue for me. I’ll be checking online, but if anyone reading this comments thread knows for certain…

  28. I know for sure that the previous Kindle model, if bought in the US, works fine in the UK — that’s how I got mine, and also how I bought one for my mother-in-law.

    But I don’t know for certain whether they’ve changed this with the new model.

  29. Thanks Mike!

  30. bit off topic, but this is an interesting thread – what do people think of the new kindles? the omission of the keyboard is interesting to me as Amazon ‘had’ (it seems to me) been working hard to make the kindle more ‘social’. i mean the ability to share sections, to review on social sites etc etc – this all dries up with the removal of the keyboard. My wife says that she never uses her keyboard anyway (past the initial setup) so it probably doesnt make much odds, but for me it’s an interesting change of direction.
    Also interesting that the US market s getting three new models – the one without keyboard (at an AMAZING $79) and then two more ‘touch’ enabled devices, one with 3g. And what do people think of the $200 kindle fire!! – as an ipad owner and user I am very keen to get hold of a ‘fire’ – at that price (£130ish?) i’d love one for my school-age daughters if there is any sense of quality about it. Any thoughts?

  31. I don’t understand why we’re not getting all these new models in the UK. We feel very much the poor relations in Amazon’s eyes. But, yes, the touchscreen model and the colour screen are both very attractive propositions. I guess I am resigned to upgrading my Kindle at some point. *sigh*

  32. I am contemplating getting a UK or US 3G kindle. Just wondering what the customs costs will be if i get it shipped from the USA? Does it makes sense doing so or do I loose money in the long run?

  33. Sorry, I don’t know. My mother-in-law’s Kindle was delivered to the hotel in the US where I was staying on business, so I just bought it back in my luggage.

  34. James Lamont

    OK – but it definatly works fine in the UK yeah? If I set my Amazon.co.uk and amazon.com billing adresses to US ones?

  35. Yes. I don’t think you can register an Amazon.com account in the UK, but you can link your US-bought Kindle to an Amazon.co.uk account and all will be well.

  36. Hi Mike

    Just reading through the posts and you have given more information than other sites have as I’m looking to get a Kindle Fire brought back to the UK when it’s released. The charging side of things won’t be a problem as I’ll use the USB to charge it, but just wanted to check that when I get it, just to register it to my .co.uk account and then I can purchase the books, games etc from the site? And you can’t register to 2 accounts (co.uk and a .com) account?

    Thanks for the help.
    Chris

  37. Chris, I don’t really know about the Kindle Fire — I don’t own one (and probably won’t get one, as it seems a bit neither-one-thing-nor-the-other). I know about the Kindle 3, which is what I have, and you would hope that things work the same way with the newer model, but I certainly don’t want to be the one to tell you it’s so! Sorry.

  38. So I have a daughter who lives in US. If I buy a Kindle with ads ($79) from Amazon.com and it is sent to her address can I then register it to my UK Amazon account when I am in the US and thru her computer put UK books on my Kindle?

  39. I don’t see why not. But I have never done this, so don’t rely on my word!

    But if you buy it in the USA and have it sent to her US address, then pick it up when you visit and bring it home, you can certainly register it to your amazon.co.uk account from home — this is exactly what I did to set up my mother-in-law’s Kindle. So Amazon would have to really go out of their way to prevent you from doing the same while in the USA.

  40. OK, thanks for that – needed someone to agree it should be able to be done! And if it doesn’t work out no doubt my daughter wil be happy to add it to her collection of Kindles, laptops, iphones, ipods etc !!
    Only problem now is wondering if the Kindle Touch ($99) is a better buy than the Kindle ($79) – I do only want to read books on it.
    Thanks for your assistance.
    Ian

  41. there was a feature in Wired recently (i saw a link on facebook) which seemed to indicate that the regular “button” model was the best kindle the author had used – i woudl doubt that the ‘touch’ is worth bothering with – if it’s sole use will be books, then the menu button to select and page-turn buttons on the side are going to see you well – i say save the money and go for the regular one.

  42. Whether you go for Touch or Buttons, I can tell you that I very rarely use the nasty little keyboard on mine. It just takes up space. I think you’d be better off with either of the newer models.

  43. can any one tell me if an US kindle bought from Amazon .com will work okay in the UK

  44. Read the previous comments. This has been discussed in details. (Short answer: yes.)

  45. Thanks everyone for the replies. I’ll be buying two, although I’ve got to wait until March 2012!! The regular, cheapie, no-keyboard one will do me as its only function will be as a book reader. The only thing I’m not clear about is if you get hit for roaming charges using a UK registered (Amazon.co.uk) Kindle bought in the US.

  46. Just found this on the AMAZON site…………”you simply download and read books anytime, anywhere in over 100 countries around the world. Amazon pays for the 3G connection so there’s no monthly fee or annual contract.”

    That answers that then! Looks like the new ones come out in November 2011 so should be OK for when I go Boston in March 2012. There’s quite a few AT & T stores in Boston and it looks like they sell them. Happy days.

  47. Mark: Am thinking of doing the same. The only unclear issue is what happens in the UK with 3G access for transferring PDFs (sent to your kindle address) and other content (e.g. wikipedia). Do roaming charges apply?

    Also, does anyone know when the new Touch models will be available in the UK stores?

  48. I am interested to know this aswell.My husband will be going to Boston in Feb.I asked him to get me the new Kindle touch with 3g…I think I’m understanding the basics of the Kindle will work..but what about the wi-fi and 3g??are there extra charges?? I live In rep.of Ireland by the way.

  49. Sorry, Elise, I don’t know.

  50. Hi,
    I have just received my Amazon US ordered Kindle 3 (wifi only with ads) – 20th Dec. I’ve downloaded free books along with purchased ones and all workng fine. I will be back in the UK 9th January and will let you know what works and what doesn’t work in the UK.
    I ordered the cheaper version (with ads) and they really do not interfere with reading at all – ie they do not show on a reading page.

  51. This was a really helpful comments thread – I can head off and buy a US kindle touch feeling totally confident that it will work with my amazon.co.uk account. Thanks for all the info above!

  52. Well, I hope so. I wouldn’t say totally confident, because this article was written and the comments contributed well before the Touch was released. What was true for the then-current model may not be true for the new one. Let us know how it goes.

  53. Hmmmm…..good point! I might investigate a little further so :)

  54. hmmm.. i’m in florida right now and am still wondering on this – the basic “with ads” model (I only want the basic model) is a bargain at $79 – but obviously only a bargain if it works. I wonder if the “ads” part makes it less likely to work as it includes amazon.com deals (rather than the amazon.co.uk deals) the one without ads is $109 and so, not such a bargain really. actually, still a decent saving – £74 vs the £89 in the uk, but the ads model is £55 at current rates.

  55. I got a ‘with ads’ basic Kindle $79.00 from US in January – absolutely works with no problem – I hooked up to wi-fi, downloaded books in the US to my Kindle account, and my Kindle picked them up – came back here and have downloaded books – hardly notice the ads, they DON’T show when you’re reading a book. If necessary sign up to a US Amazon account.

  56. Sorry, should have mentioned ‘back here’ is Scotland UK.

  57. Hi Ian – thanks for the clarification really helps. One thing though – did you use it with an amazon.co.uk account or was your account a “.com” account? I think this makes quite a difference. As I have a uk account and have bought kindle books to use on the kindle app on the ipad (which is ok, but not as pleasant a read as the e-ink screen on the kindle) – so I do want to use it with my .co.uk account when I take it home.

  58. Just to follow up, I haven’t bought one yet (as I haven’t found a store with any $79 units in stock!) but I did ‘chat’ with an amazon customer services person who confirmed that the $79 basic and the $99 touch models will both register on a uk account no problem.

  59. And to conclude…. I got one today from a BestBuy store – the $79 “with offers” model and it works great with my uk amazon account. Very happy.

  60. Ian / Graham. How often do the ads pop-up? If not when reading a book then presumably just at start up or if downloading books?. Presume by switching off wi-fi you wouldnt get any ads at all?

  61. Ian Jenkins

    Had to go and check! Full page ad shows when NOT switched on (even with wireless off). Switch ON and there is a 15-18mm ad across the foot of the screen when I’m looking at my list of downloaded books. When I am reading a book there is NO ad showing at all. I’ve had my Kindle 6 months now – I’ve seen more of ads in the last 6 minutes!! I bought a Poetic cover (cheapest on Amazon I think) for my Kindle and it does exactly what I wanted it to do – protect my Kindle. So, I unfasten the clip, flick back the cover (and now I see an ad), switch on, and continue reading from where I left off – brilliant. In fact if I switch on before flicking the Poetic cover I wouldn’t see an ad until I go and look for a new book to read. What I’m trying to say is – don’t get hung up about the ads – they are so so easy to ignore.

  62. Exactly what ian said, they don’t intrude in the slightest. Only on the “off” screen and a little banner at the bottom of the “book selection” screen. Nowhere else though. Not sure if they are able to turn the wifi on momentarily to update, may test that when I get home. With wifi “off” they just seem to stay the same.

  63. Buying a Kindle is useless outside the US as much of what you would want to buy thru Amazon, you’re not allowed to. Same with computer games. Can’t buy downloadable computer games on Amazon if you’re outside the US, which is why, among other European companies, I now shop at GamersGate. Amazon must lose millions of dollars because of their stupidity but, hey, no worries. I’ll just shop at European online sites. Better for Europe anyway :)

  64. No, buying a US Kindle for us outside of the US works just fine. You can link it to an Amazon.co.uk account for purchases, and of course there is loads of free material — the Gutenberg Project is a good place to start.

  65. For some reason, spambots keep posting to this article, and I have to keep moderating them. So I’m closing comments on this post. If for any reason someone really, really needs to comment here, just drop it onto the most recent post, and I’ll move it across.