Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Are Waterstones as Mad as a Hatter?

Today I received a terse email from Waterstones:

“We see from our records that you have previously purchased an eBook from Waterstones.com whilst having a registered address outside of the UK and Ireland.”

Eight, actually. Oh, dear! What have I done? Broken some ancient ritualistic more? Driven sheep up the high street at Mickelmas? Sold a virgin a coloured headscarf? It gets worse.

“We regret that with immediate effect, we are no longer able to sell eBooks to customers placing an order from anywhere outside of the UK and Ireland.”

It’s a bank raid alert! Are granite-faced villains smuggling Bank of England layout plans hidden in downloaded Harry Potters? Is Alice’s Mad Hatter really crazy? Put that teapot down and raise your paws, rabbit!

Maybe Kathleen Winsor’s classic novel has been re-titled “Forever Amber Alert.”

But no. It’s just dear old Waterstones getting fusty again without thinking it through.

Let me explain: I live in Spain. One million expat Brits live in Spain. All read books in, wait for it, English. Now not all of them have an e-reader, but who’s to say they won’t in the future. It’s a safe bet a lot will if current trends continue.

They buy goods from a thousand UK companies from Lakeland to Marks & Sparks. Christmas will see the internet humming with goods to loved ones in Blighty. Millions of pounds worth, coming and going both ways.

But not from Waterstones, oh, no. They mince around with mealy mouthed phrases about ‘territories into which we can sell ebooks.’

Here comes a new technology product and immediately some Adolf wants total control. On the Internet, for heaven’s sake. Don’t they know those spooky airwaves travel over oceans and mountains? So the million English speaking Brits in the Iberian Peninsular must get their future downloads in their mother tongue from where, exactly?

Well, we’re already doing it. If I tell you where, these greedbags will try to stop it. I’ll give you a clue. It’s where you get all those aggravating spam messages for Viagra and the like. Now the e-book trade wants to drive book downloading underground, too.

Isn’t progress wonderful.

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