Using e-readers or tablets overseas

Hi there, I don't know if this is the right place to ask this, but I've been searching all over. I am a US citizen and have a US credit card and amazon account etc., but currently living in the Netherlands and want to purchase an e-reader or tablet (such as Kindle Fire HD, Google Nexus). However, I've been reading that some content will not work outside of the US. Does anyone have any tips, suggestions or direct experience using a tablet/e-reader outside of the United States? Which is the best option? Also, if I buy it here instead of in the US, does that inhibit me in any way when I go back? Thanks ahead of time.

Posted by Paul
Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, USA
42 posts

Kristin: Think about the transaction you are making. You are purchasing the product in the Netherlands from the U.S. source with a U.S. credit card. This does not give the Netherlands an opportunity to impose a tax on the transaction. I suspect that if you purchased the tablet from a Netherlands source the transaction would go through and you would be paying the applicable Netherlands taxes. If you buy the tablet in the U.S. you should have no problem. However, buying ebooks on your tablet in the Netherlands will be a problem for the same reason. The online merchant recognizes from what country you're making the purchase and does not wish to expose itself to that country's taxes. So, if you are making an online purchase in the Netherlands make sure you are purchasing it from the Netherlands web site.

Posted by Kathy
Germany, Germany
800 posts

Use a VPN such as unblockme.com or viscosity/witopia. You can choose the country/location where your computer looks like it is logging in from. You can watch hulu, buy from US locations, etc.

Posted by Suz
Denver, USA
223 posts

I don't know the details, but I believe that it's more than taxes that can complicate international ('cross-border') sales/purchases of electronic media (books, magazines. There are also intellectual property (copyright, licensing) issues. I haven't had to deal with Kristin's situation but as a long-time Kindle owner I've made sure to acquire and download my desired reading material to the device, before leaving the US. I hope you can figure it out, Kristin. I haven't looked there lately, but you may find some help on the TripAdvisor's Travel Gadgets and Gear forum, which as I recall has seen some fairly exhaustive discussions of e-readers, etc.

Posted by JER
Seattle, USA
981 posts

Downloading content on Kindles from outside the US is expensive, since free Whispernet is not activated there. Also, I've been in some places where the free 3G access for the Kindle Keyboard is unavailable (China for example).

Posted by Bets
Bloomington
1970 posts

I have never had a problem buying and downloading content, but I have only done it from my husband's family house in France, not while traveling outside of France or in a hotel. I have only wifi on my Kindle, no 3G. My Kindle was bought in the States.

Posted by James
Frisco
1799 posts

When i bought my Kindle there was some informatin on using it overseas but i dont remember the details.

Posted by Jim
Bern, Switzerland
341 posts

I've never had any problem buying ebooks from Amazon (de/fr/co.uk/com) and I have done the downloading from various places around Europe without an issues. The Apple shop has one restriction - you can only use the shop that maps to the country where your card was issued. So if you got a US issued card, then you can only buy via the US shop, but you can actually connect and download from anywhere. This will change in the near future and the EU have required Apple to move to the Amazon style selling... I've no real experience of other vendors, so I can't comment on the rest.

Posted by Dina
Fontainebleau, France
893 posts

Lots of responses from people who aren't in the situation and can only guess. We are a 3 Kindle family of ex-pats so I know how this works. I maintain a US address and US credit card as well, but Amazon has flagged me as being in Europe, so I am not able to purchase any electronic content (ie Kindle books or .mp3 songs) from Amazon.com - I must purchase these from my home country's Amazon website. Unless you are always going to use a VPN when connecte to any type of Amazon website, and never order from your local Amazon website, this will happen. I have, however, successfully registered 3 Kindles that were all bought in the US. The only problem I had was with my Kindle Keyboard. It was given to me as a CHristmas gift. That particular model was never sold in Europe, and I had some problems with the registration process, but got through it. I tried registering it with my Amazon.com account info (and it worked), but then it blocked me from buying anything. I was able to transfer my registration to Amazon.fr eventually. Since they're now selling most of the Kindle models in Europe, I don't think this will be a problem anymore. I suspect I might have some difficulties when moving back and trying to re-establish myself as a US resident, but given what I went through to register the KK originally, I can see that it should be possible. The ion of English language books is large, without the shipping times for a lot of hard copy books, and prices are actually relatively close to what you'd pay on Amazon.com so I have no complaints in that department. Because we maintain a US address, I am able to keep my library card from that address and check out Kindle books via the Internet. No VPN needed. I LOVE being able to do this.

Posted by Sarah
Stuttgart, Germany
2012 posts

Dina's advice is right on. I'm an expat overseas, and things are a little easier for me than Dina wrt to purchasing kindle books on Amazon, because my main address is a US PO box here (military benefit). So I've never had a problem purchasing a book using my Kindle (bought in the US)

Posted by Sarah
Canada, eh
58 posts

I've had a Kindle while living in both Mexico and Canada and have not had a problem with Amazon flagging my account for living overseas for about 3 years now. It did stop me from buying a Kindle book in Amazon's Canada site since my account was a U.S. account with a U.S. credit card, billing address, shipping address, etc. I've also never had Amazon ship anything to me outside of the U.S. and have never created Amazon accounts in other countries, so maybe that's why my account was never flagged. I've just ordered electronic stuff like Mp3s and Kindle books, and had any packages I ordered delivered to family in the U.S. for me to pick up when home on vacation or for them to bring to me when visiting. I usually have my VPN service on when ordering, but not always. I bought both of my Kindles in the U.S. and registered them there as well, so I don't know whether buying one in the Netherlands would cause any issues. It might flag your account as not being in the U.S., but it might not, since someone could buy a Kindle on vacation. My guess is that any content bought through another country's Amazon store might be lost when you switch the Kindle to a new Amazon store, but I'm not sure. Mine have always been on a U.S. store. I will also say that iTunes only seems to care where the credit card billing address is. I've had no problems buying movies with a U.S. iTunes account while overseas and not using a VPN.

Posted by Dina
Fontainebleau, France
893 posts

Sarah - my guess is that you haven't had problems because you're staying within North America. A lot of electronic products are granted "North American" broadcasting, or distribution rights. We get error messages on things in Europe and occassionally one will tell me "XX isn't available to users outside of North America" or something similar.

Posted by Sarah
Canada, eh
58 posts

Dina, did you buy things from Amazon.fr, have things delivered to you in France, or use Whispernet in France to receive your Kindle books before they flagged your account? I tend to think that it's actually buying things from Amazon.fr, using Whispernet in France repeatedly, or having packages repeatedly delivered to you in France that would get your account flagged. I say that because coworkers of mine posted all over the world have not had issues with their accounts being flagged. We also have U.S. mailing addresses we can use (like Sarah in Stuttgart) through my employer as well. Intellectual property laws, taxes, etc vary from country to country and just because it's Canada and Mexico doesn't mean that the rules don't apply. I still can't watch most streaming episodes from U.S. networks or U.S. Netflix without a VPN. I can't buy certain books for my Kindle from the Amazon.ca website, because they're not available in the U.S. and I have a U.S. Kindle. So, I would guess that Amazon figured out that you were living in France through your Amazon.fr account, especially if you used the same credit card for them or something, through using Whispernet in France a lot, or multiple Amazon.com deliveries to France.

Posted by Jim
Bern, Switzerland
341 posts

Well it seems very hard to get a definitive answer on this one! Apple seems to be clear - it is driven by credit card details. Amazon on the other hand is very confusing... As I've already said, I've had no problem in getting ebooks from com/de/fr/co.uk and I've had physical stuff delivered to me in Switzerland, the UK and Germany. My account is on the .co.uk site and my credit card was issued in Switzerland. Now the only thing I can see that sets me apart is that there is no .ch site to be matched up to my credit card.

Posted by Dina
Fontainebleau, France
893 posts

I think Jim might have the key for the problem in Europe. France was one of the first countries - if not the first - in Europe to offer the Amazon Kindle. I'm guessing that to do it, Amazon had to do some work regarding rights to selling, etc. I'm on an ex-pat discussion group and we had a discussion regarding this well over a year ago (probably closer to two years ago). I was clearly not alone in being shut out from buying off of Amazon.com. (And one woman has reported more recently that she's been shut out of Amazon.de buying in France.) Actually, the first time I was flagged was an .mp3 purchase - and I'm almost 100% certain I had never used Amazon.fr before that point because we hadn't been in France that long. It was not my first .mp3 purchase off Amazon.com while in France. Perhaps it's the repeated purchasing with a French IP address that flagged me? We've had no problems with iTunes. We maintain several iTunes accounts - US, France and more recently had to open a UK account to get a "free digital download" that came with a movie sold by Amazon.fr!

Posted by Sarah
Canada, eh
58 posts

Very interesting. It seems like Amazon's reasoning for flagging accounts is not completely straightforward. Here's hoping mine doesn't get flagged now that I'm living somewhere that Amazon has a separate store. I'm going to be a bit more vigilant about doing everything on Amazon via VPN.

Posted by David
Florence, AL, USA
1972 posts

As long as you can use WIFI, your U.S. spec. laptop-tablet should work fine. If it's a 3G unit, I'd cut the 3G off. You don't want some very expensive surprises. I'm still using a laptop at home, and prefer the keyboard and ease of operation. But it sure gets heavy in a backpack. You can also use a cheap wired telephone handset and a MagicJack Plus to make free telephone calls home thru the hotel's fast internet. I personally prefer not having a telephone available, and I don't carry any cell phone. If I wanted to talk to all our children, I wouldn't have gone on vacation.