Yesterday brought the exciting news that Amazon had launched the Indian Kindle Store.
However, some questions are already being asked about why this offering is so different from the international Kindle Stores launched in the UK, Germany, France, Spain, and Italy.
Clicking the link contained in press release – www.amazon.com/kindlestoreindia - will give you the first clue that something is different here.
While logged in to your Amazon account, you will just see the standard US storefront, with no mention of the Indian Kindle Store.
However, once logged out, you see what Indian customers are faced with.
Essentially, it’s an Indian storefront within the US site. Further perusal shows marked differences from Amazon’s previous international efforts.
- Indian sales are not broken out in KDP. Indian sales will be lumped in with US sales in KDP reports. As such, self-publishers will have no real idea how they are doing in India. A problem compounded by the fact that…
- There are no Indian Best Seller lists. All other international Kindle Stores have native Best Seller lists, but not India. Sales would appear to count toward US ranking (although this hasn’t been confirmed by KDP). What might particularly trouble Indian authors and publishers is that even if they are doing well in India, they won’t benefit from any exposure on Best Seller lists. Conversely, books that are hitting the US charts (with or without sales in India) will get that exposure instead.
- Amazon only pays 35% on Indian sales, regardless of list price. While self-publishers can set a separate price for India without affecting their 70% royalty rate elsewhere, no price will garner them 70% for those Indian sales. This is probably the least appealing aspect to self-publishers. Amazon hasn’t given any justification for this reduced royalty rate, but I would love to hear one.
The positives of this move are obvious. The Indian market has huge potential: a burgeoning middle class which speaks English and enjoys an increasing level of disposable income.
Skeptics might point to high levels of poverty and low levels of internet connectivity, but with a population of 1.2 billion, only a small percentage of the population needs to purchase devices (or read on existing devices like smartphones) before this is an extremely important market.
What we have here, essentially, is a Kindle Store-lite. Why didn’t Amazon follow the pattern of their successful launches in the UK and Europe and give the Indian Kindle Store its own domain and all the features of the other stores? I see two potential theories (but please feel free to advance your own in the comments).
1. It was a rush job
Two of Amazon’s biggest competitors have announced big moves in the international arena recently – Nook (finally) expanding to the UK, and Kobo launching in Japan (although that seems to have been bungled). Perhaps Amazon felt a little pressure to announce something themselves and moved this launch forward before everything was quite ready.
This is the first time Amazon have launched a Kindle Store without first opening a physical store in that country. Their first Indian venture – Junglee.com – is more of a comparison site that connects buyers with third-party sellers and not a true “Amazon India.”
I don’t think Junglee’s performance has been stellar – possibly due to, according to Hindi-speaking friends, “junglee” literally meaning “from the jungle” but having connotations which mean wild/uncultured/illiterate. Amazon’s recent real estate purchases in India suggest that a full-on Amazon India is in the works, and perhaps we will see a proper Kindle Store launch after that.
Both theories could be true, of course, but there is a third potential theory – one that is a little more troubling.
Perhaps this is a new approach Amazon are taking towards relatively less developed markets. I truly hope this isn’t the case and that similar storefronts won’t pop up to serve the rest of Europe, Asia, and South America.
That, of course, would mean sales in whole swathes of the world only garnering 35% royalties, and Amazon only providing very limited data with regard to performance (no Best Seller lists, no broken-out sales reports etc.).
It’s not all negative. Simply launching this store will spur e-reader adoption and e-book sales in India. And, this also means that the international surcharge has been abolished for Indian customers – which will mean cheaper e-books, which will also help the digital revolution gain a foothold.
I truly hope this Indian Kindle Store-lite is a stepping stone to the kind of Kindle Store we have seen in the UK and Europe, but, until then, I won’t be popping the virtual champagne.