Publishing Perspectives has a good article on Spain’s three biggest publishers (and many smaller ones) that have agreed a plan to publish ebooks. They will, naturally, have digital rights management, but will be in a the ePub format which is reader neutral. They will also have region controls on them and you can only buy them in the big Spanish outlets and some smaller bookstores (El Corte Inglés, Fnac, Casa del Libro, Abacus, Cámara, Cervantes, La Central, Laie, Proteo, Machado, Popular, Ochentamundos, Hijos de Santiago Rodríguez, and Santos Ochoa). The article doesn’t make it clear if you could buy those books from the United States, which would be great because you could avoid shipping charges. I followed up with the author and one of her sources and they said, no. The publishers have to have the rights to sell in a market. I’m sure it that important for them to sell a few copies of a Spanish language book in the US, but it would certainly be handy (Yes, there are many Spanish speakers in the US, and one article doesn’t make a case, but according to Santillana USA, they don’t read too much).
In the age of globalization these cut up markets make little sense. I know how they happen, with companies divining up certain sectors, but they often lead to weird restraints of trade. If you look at how the music industry was during the late great age of the CD, often times you could buy an import from Europe or Japan that the record company in the US was just too lazy to bring out. Yes, if you had connections or were willing to pay extra you could get a copy, but it often left the artists who wanted to distribute without distribution. I will be able to buy things from Spain without any problems because I have connections, but it seems like this system doesn’t really benefit the artist or the public.