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Last update on November 13, 2019

Blogger Sine Thieme shares these tips for buying a Kindle, or if you already have one, getting it set up for South Africa.

I’ve written already about how to make your Kindle work in South Africa, but today I came across an interesting twist that I wanted to share with you. I also thought I’d write more extensively about what to do if you already own a Kindle and are travelling or moving to South Africa, as well as how to purchase one if you don’t.

Subscription costs

Let’s say you already own a Kindle and that you purchased it from Amazon.com. Let’s also say you have a subscription on it, like I do for the New York Times. If you now take this Kindle with you when travelling outside of the U.S. — say on your look-see trip to South Africa — then it will continue to work just fine. You will automatically be connected through the local networks without needing a new SIM card or anything. However, you will receive a notice on your Kindle informing you that if you stay abroad for more than 7 days, you will incur an additional subscription delivery fee of USD 4.99/week. Book purchases of Kindle eBooks from Amazon.com are still at no charge (other than the cost of the eBook).

Let’s say you’ve now decided to move to South Africa. Obviously, you don’t really want to pay USD 4.99 per week on top of your subscription cost, and you don’t have to. What you need to do is visit Amazon.com, click on “Kindle” on the left, then “Manage your Kindle” at the bottom of the next menu. Select “South Africa” in the country box, and another box will pop up where you can choose one of your existing Amazon addresses or enter a new one.

Making money on Amazon

So far so good, but this is where I ran into my interesting twist this week. I had gotten an email from Amazon, informing me that I had generated some revenue — yes, dear readers, some of you actually must have bought a book that I reviewed and linked to Amazon from my blog, so thank you! — and to please let them know where to send the check. Not one to refuse an unexpected check, I clicked on the link they provided to their merchant services center, or whatever it is called, and changed my address to our U.S. billing address, as I figured they wouldn’t send any checks to South Africa, not that I wanted to after our Postal Service fraud incident.

This had nothing to do with my Kindle, or so I thought, but around the same time I received one of those notes to foreign subscribers I mentioned above. At first I didn’t connect the two, but then it dawned on me, and I went to check in at “Manage your Kindle” as described above, and sure enough my country settings had now changed to USA.

For some reason, Amazon seems to use the same address for your Kindle as well as your merchant services, although in my mind the two have nothing to do with each other. Plus you’re allowed a million addresses in your Amazon account, so why exactly those two have to be the same is beyond me. Needless to say, I changed my Kindle country back to South Africa so that I won’t have to pay that additional subscription fee, and all is fine again.

By the way, my advertising revenue with Amazon turned out to be about USD 2, so my excitement about the “royalty check” has since subsided somewhat and I don’t really care where in the world they decide to send it.

Buying a Kindle in South Africa

Now, let’s say you live in South Africa WITHOUT a Kindle but would like to have one. Where do you get it?

I’ve done some research on this question. Originally I would have told you to never dream of buying it online at Amazon.com and having it shipped here, because the risk of it “disappearing” in the South African Postal Service is just too big. I would have told you your best bet is to order before you move, or have it shipped to a US address and brought it here by the many visitors you’re bound to have once living here (everyone wants to travel to South Africa, just wait!). I even found a local website selling them, called Want It All , where the lowest price ZAR 1730 or USD 250.


However, after reading up on what other South Africans have said about purchasing a Kindle, I tend to think that your best bet might be to order from Amazon.com and have it shipped here. The fact that Amazon IS shipping to South Africa (they didn’t, for a while) must mean that it is somewhat safe, or maybe they’ve found a different shipping method. In any case, you’ll have to pay shipping costs of USD 20 or so, plus an “import fee deposit” of a USD 40 or so, some of which you might get back if it’s not needed for import duties. But even if you don’t get anything back, your Kindle will be a fairly good deal, plus from what I’ve read you’ll get it really fast.

All in all, I think I’d take the risk, given my positive experience with Amazon — if your Kindle were to disappear, I’m sure you’d have some kind of recourse. If you’re not from the U.S., from what I understand you should still order from Amazon.com (unless you live in the U.K., then you would order from Amazon.co.uk). The only thing to bear in mind is that you won’t have a warranty for your Kindle, or at least no way to ship it back to be exchanged. But you’ll have that problem whether you order locally or from the U.S. As far as the voltage for your charges is concerned, the Kindle charger is dual voltage, mine works fine with one of the many adapter plugs we purchased before moving here.

Can you access the same books?

One thing that is actually not clear to me is the question of content: Now that I’m registered abroad, do I have access to less content in terms of eBooks than if I were in the US?

It always seems like what’s actually available for download isn’t that great of a selection, especially when it comes to kids’ books. I’m not sure if that’s just the way it is, that many books are still not available as Kindle editions, or if being in South Africa gives me less choice. There doesn’t seem to be a place where you can see which titles are available where in the world. If anyone knows, I’d like to hear about it.

I also found articles such as this one complaining that international users would have to pay up to 40 percent more for eBooks. I have not found this to be true, but maybe I get U.S. prices because I use a U.S. billing address (a different address yet again than the Kindle country address or the merchant services one)? Or maybe Amazon has since then dropped this plan.

In any case, I find the availability of cheap books one of the main reasons of having a Kindle when living in South Africa. The public library system is antiquated, books are considerably more expensive than elsewhere, and you can’t get a decent newspaper (sorry my South African friends!), so a Kindle is a must when living in South Africa.

Useful links:

Traveling with your Kindle
Using Kindle if you live outside the U.S.

Tips to buy a Kindle in South Africa
The Amazon Kindle comes to South Africa

How to buy a Kindle in South Africa

When it became clear that her family of six would have to relocate to Johannesburg, South Africa in 2010, Sine immediately knew that she would have to start a blog about their trials and tribulations.  Read her often-humorous, always informative observations on life as an expat in South Africa at joburgexpat.blogspot.com.

Text photo: Flickr/Bryan Alexander