Amazon Prime: Not that useful if you don’t live in the USA

Amazon offered me a free 1-month trial of their Prime subscription program. After that month, I would pay US$79 per year to continue accessing all kinds of awesome services. The auto-subscribe option is on by default.

Problem is, Amazon doesn’t inform you of what you can’t do if you live outside the US. Basically, if you don’t live in the US you’ll pay for services you can’t use.

The Prime Program

Here’s a list of Amazon Prime membership benefits, including:

  • Free two-day shipping
  • Instant streaming of movies & TV shows
  • Instant access to thousands of Kindle Books in the Owners’ Lending Library

I was excited to try these things out, but encountered the same old restrictions errors as I was going through each service.

Things I can’t do

So even if I pay relatively cheap US$79/year fee, I can’t do any of the following:

1) I can’t play any of the free videos, neither purchase video if I’m a non-Prime customer

2) I can’t play free music, nor purchase music

3) I can’t benefit from free paper book shipping (or free shipping of any products, for that matter)

4) I can’t partake in the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library

Amazon does offer great services overall; I’m a Kindle customer and have had many products shipped to me by them. Prime membership, however, offers few real advantages to customers outside of the US.

I had hoped that Amazon wouldn’t charge you for services you can’t get – i.e., that they’d start charging you once they rolled out their services to other countries. Guess again.

Kindle Fire and Prime

Amazon is using their Fire tablet as a way to promote Prime membership. I keep being asked about the Kindle Fire as an alternative to other media tablets. The Fire is an amazing product, but you should know what you’re buying into: Amazon’s platform, large parts of which are still being denied to non-US customers.

Further reading

Amazon’s a great company, but it is a US-based company first and foremost:


Smashwords conversion and word autoshapes

The epub and mobi versions of my Smashwords-grinded manuscript I’m working on showed unwanted vertical lines in what seemed to be random places.

The Word version:

The PDF version has no such issues.

Here are instances in the manuscript where the vertical lines formed in epub/mobi. It seemed that this may be related to hyperlinking, but there weren’t hyperlinks involved in instance 2, 8 and 9.

I also had a look at the html of the epub version; each time this error occurred, I noticed the following:

<img src="tmp_1800a049df4ec0c5ec49b2be8d618c4d_ghEFSE_html_m56530bf7.gif" alt="tmp_1800a049df4ec0c5ec49b2be8d618c4d_ghEFSE_html_m56530bf7.gif" class="calibre17"/>

So it seemed like Meatgrinder was generating empty, vertical gif images and placing them in places I didn’t want them to be.

Here’s another example:

<span class="c16">D</span></a><img src="tmp_1800a049df4ec0c5ec49b2be8d618c4d_ghEFSE_html_m5a19aeda.gif" alt="tmp_1800a049df4ec0c5ec49b2be8d618c4d_ghEFSE_html_m5a19aeda.gif" class="calibre17"/><a href="">r<span class="c16">. Louw Alberts</span></a><b class="calibre18">:
Scientist, Philosopher, Astronomer and Chief Executive

Wish I could edit the epub and mobi files myself.

Update [and hence why this post is now in the past tense]:

After some tinkering, I discovered that these gifs were generated from auto shapes. These only appear in Web view, as far as I can tell. That’s why I missed them. I just deleted each of them and the problem was solved!