The Indian Kindle Store Isn’t The Real Deal… Yet

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.

2. Junglee.com

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.

About David Gaughran

David Gaughran is Irish, living in Prague, and the author of Mercenary, A Storm Hits Valparaiso, Let's Get Digital, Let's Get Visible, and this here blog.
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46 Responses to The Indian Kindle Store Isn’t The Real Deal… Yet

  1. Carmen Grau says:

    Very interesting, David, but… Wasn’t this already happening with Australia and many other countries, for example in South America? I live in Australia and buy my books through amazon.com. I’m not sure but I think authors whose books are bought in Australia get only 35%. I am also an author and write in Spanish. The royalties I get from amazon.com are sometimes 70% and sometimes 35%. I’ve worked out that the 70% are from books sold in the United States, and the 35% from books sold in South and Central American countries. I get more of the latter, obviously, because my books are in Spanish.

    Like

    • Indeed, Carmen, and perhaps I should have made that clearer.

      For clarity: many countries around the world are currently served by the US Kindle Store (pretty much all those not served by their own store, minus the medium-sized handful that Amazon don’t serve at all in Asia, the Middle East, and Africa). Authors can only get 70% on US Kindle Store sales to customers in Canada and the US. So, for example, if someone in Ireland, Australia, or Sweden buys your book, you only get 35%.

      So the royalty rate hasn’t changed for Indian sales. What has changed is that when Kindle Stores were launched in, say, France and Spain, the royalty rate (for qualifying sales) got raised to 70%.

      That hasn’t happened with the Indian Kindle Store. All sales will only pay 35%.

      Like

    • Not exactly the same, since we aren’t allowed to set prices for those countries but are for India.

      Like

  2. Thanks for the interesting posts.

    Amazon’s strategy for smaller markets seems a bit hard to follow at times.

    For example, Amazon Canada seems to be thriving but they don’t sell Kindle Editions and apparently have no plans to. One of my books, Ontario’s Old Mills, does small but steady sales at their U.S. store but, of course, a search related to it on the Canadian version produces no results.
    Harold Stiver

    Like

    • Here’s another for you: Ireland. We are sent to the UK store to buy print books, but can’t buy ebooks there. We are supposed to buy from the US Kindle Store, but as soon as we go there, we are plagued with banners telling us to return to the UK site (where we can’t buy ebooks!).

      Compounding all this is that Irish rights are traditionally (usually) bundled with UK rights. So if the author has a different US and UK publisher (which is very common), we can’t buy the book at all.

      Like

  3. yoga-adan says:

    Much of all this is an in-progress experientation, so much of the unknowns bother me much, yet😉

    More concern to me is the 35% royalty.

    This could have very negative ramifications for authors. I’m very open to official Amazon assurances.😉

    ( sent via iphone )

    Like

  4. David, why is it I think of you every time I see news like this? But I thought you were out of town and didn’t expect a post so quickly! 🙂

    When you have a moment, could you try to wrap your brain around my “Barnes & Noble Nook eBook Sales Mystery” I’m trying to figure out? Basically, I’ve seen a sudden increase in sales on BN to the point that I’m selling a lot more on there than on Amazon, and I can’t figure out why. Do you know if this is happening to a lot of people? I haven’t changed anything and haven’t been marketing my stuff at all this year. I’ve posted more details and some numbers on my blog if you have time to check it out:

    http://brianjamesfreeman.wordpress.com/2012/08/23/a-barnes-noble-nook-ebook-sales-mystery/

    Thanks!

    Like

    • Phenomenal B&N sales Brian!

      No idea what’s causing it. Mine are frozen – literally. I was always good for 20 – 30 sales there, like clockwork, but nothing so far in August, which is very weird.

      As for you, keep riding that wave!

      Like

    • P.S. Still on vacation, but got some computer time today briefly…

      Like

    • Laura PepWu says:

      Brian, you’re not alone. I’ve had 2 authors ask me the same question in the last week. I’m off to check out your blogpost. Like David says, enjoy riding that wave!

      Like

      • A reader figured it out! I never think of the “people who bought XXX also bought YYY” feature on BN for some reason, even though it has been a huge driver of sales for me on Amazon. So it turns out my novella was showing up on the “people who bought this also bought” section for the new Dean Koontz eBook trilogy on Barnes and Noble! Woo! 🙂

        Like

  5. ninagrandiose says:

    In general, India is a very protectionist state and is very slow and reluctant to allow foreign business “in.” When it does, it seems to set up an unprecedented list of requirements as in the case with the soon to be established retail giant, Ikea.

    Like

    • Ah, so a possible fourth theory: India’s protectionist policies preventing the launch of a full-blown Kindle Store, for now anyway. Perhaps just having a storefront within the US store prevents things like separate bestseller lists, sales reports etc. (and perhaps even the 70% on Indian sales).

      Hmmm, plausible…

      Like

  6. I heard from one of my contacts in India today who said, “there is no proper route to buy an Amazon kindle in India yet”, and, “most of the readers in India are not comfortable with card-transactions online”.
    They buy their books COD from Flipkart.
    I’m guessing it’ll be a while before the Amazon thing takes off in India but who knows — my friend probably hasn’t heard from the majority of his 1.2 billion country folk.

    Like

  7. Matt Larkin says:

    My wife (she’s from India) was happy to hear that. Even she has no idea whether there will be a market for fantasy novels there, though.

    Like

  8. bottleHeD says:

    Hey David, on the Junglee front, its lack of success doesn’t really have to do with the name. I’d guess it’s because Junglee doesn’t aggregate some of the bigger esellers like FlipKart and HomeShop18, so the results it throws up are fairly questionable.

    Like

    • That was perhaps a little flippant of me.

      I guess Amazon doesn’t want Junglee to aggregate results from sites perceived as competitors. I don’t know much about HomeShop18, but Flipkart would certainly fall into that category.

      Like

  9. AGClaymore says:

    It’s not quite there yet, is it? India has more English speakers than Canada and a greater percentage of them are tech adopters (many of them work in the tech sector). There have been rumblings of a forty dollar tablet coming to the market from a manufacturer in Hyderabad. Amazon better pull up their socks before it’s too late…

    When something takes off in India, it takes off big. Last time I was there, it seemed like everybody had a cellphone, even one kid selling flowers at a traffic light. Once tablets take off, it’s going to be a massive eBook market.

    Glad my first novel includes a character hiding away in Goa during the Salazar years. Might give me an in…

    Like

  10. Elena DeRosa says:

    I wonder if Amazon plans to open a call center and/or fulfillment warehouse in India, and this is the “first step.”

    Like

  11. Great information, even if it’s a bit murky as to what is going on behind the scenes. My guess is it was a rush job. Access to a fraction of 1.2 billion potential readers has to be a positive take-away from this but not without some ambiguity.
    Thanks for being on top of this. Have a great vacation–or what remains of it!

    Like

  12. Laura PepWu says:

    Thanks for breaking all of this down for us, David! Interesting theories and I look forward to your follow up posts.
    I get your frustrations about the disconnect between Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk too. I had a Kindle gifted to me from my parents in the UK, but since they registered it there (they wanted to put some books on it) I couldn’t use it with Amazon.com. I kept being sent to the Amazon.co.uk store, but then being in the US I had to pay for international delivery fees. More syncing is needed I think, particularly for those outside of the US & UK.

    Like

  13. chitchat140 says:

    Hmmm. Wonder why the lack of attn to detail there? That can’t last long.

    Like

  14. Let me point out there is a fairly simply work around for not having reporting for India sales. Just change your price and you’ll know anything sold at that price was sold in India.🙂
    The 35% royalty is unfortunate but with that large a pool of possible customers, I’ll take it. I have read that about 20% of India is internet connected. That is a LOT of people.

    Like

    • Yeah, I saw that suggestion on the Kindle Boards thread. Good idea, but depends on (a) you having a different price in India, which I probably will, but also (b) looking at your 6-weekly reports which make me want to go hulkSMASH!

      Like

      • Plus you only get the total for a week, rather than the daily break down – making it less useful for checking something like the effectiveness of a 2-day price drop or a promo spot etc.

        Like

  15. Arindam says:

    David, I am self publishing my first book with create space. So I just want to ask you that , “Can I print & distribute it myself, here in India or with the help of any local publisher; as I do not think anyone living in India, going to by its print book from amazon; as the shipping charge is on higher side.” And again will there be any problem for me, publishing my book with create space as I live in India? Thanks in advance!

    Like

    • Let me see…

      1. First of all, I hope you are doing both an ebook and a paperback.

      2. You can use more than one service to print your paperback. Why not use Createspace to cover US/Europe and then figure out an Indian alternative for the local market? Publishing via Createspace (if you opt for Expanded Distribution, which is $25) will get you onto Junglee.com – it’s worth checking if their Indian shipping rates are any better.

      Like

  16. Arindam says:

    First all thanks a lot for such a quick response.
    Yes, I am doing both paperback and ebook via Createspace and kindle respectively.
    And again my plan is also the same. I want to first publish paperback with Createspace to cover USA and UK and then after seeing the response there, I will publish it India with a local publisher. But I was not sure if there will be an legal problem with it.
    I am opting for expanded distribution; I will check the Indian shipping rates for sure.
    Again thanks a lot for the response; it was really helpful. I have not much idea about self publishing as it is my first time.
    Just one more questions-
    Will that be a problem, to get my royalty from Createspace as I live in India. (I already read that post of yours on applying for an EIN. And downloaded that form. )

    Like

    • It shouldn’t be a problem, I know of some Indian writers doing exactly that already. The only downside is that you – like me – will be paid by cheque, meaning you won’t get any payment until you hit $100 in royalties, which can take a while to accrue at the start, especially for paperback sales which tend to be slower. Then there are cheque fees, delays while it is being posted from the US then cleared by the bank – but no significant issues to worry about.

      Like

      • Arindam says:

        Thanks a lot David.🙂 Great to hear it from you.

        Like

      • Anjali says:

        Hello David,
        I have been following this blog for quite a while and enjoying your posts and insights. I want to share with you and your readers about a problem I’m going through with Kindle UK. I am not getting my Kindle check payment here in India, probably because they do not send it by Air mail. Reportedly thrice they have issued the same check and sent it through “regular mail”, as is “the rule”, they said. But the check never reached me.
        I guess, letters sent in regular mail in UK do not reach India. I am receiving checks from Kindle USA alright, but I have failed to receive any payment from Kindle UK (my royalty has reached about 160 GBP). The last check they sent is said to be dispatched about one month back, and it didn’t reach me yet. They are absolutely heedless about my problem and I have no clue how to get my UK royalties.
        This is very frustrating, you know, to wait to see your royalties grow and not receiving it ultimately. I am considering to withdraw from UK sales channel. I think, authors and publishers from India will face the same problem with receiving their checks in India. Thanks in advance for any suggestion or insight etc.

        Like

  17. Larry Wilson says:

    Split royalty rates don’t make sense unless Amazon has to share profits with a local company. That could be the case if Amazon wanted to break into the Korean market. All Koreans between age 6-65 have mobile devices of some sort, it seems. It is one of the most wired countries in the world — home of Samsung, after all. Korean’s are avid readers, too. I’m not sure Kindle readers, or Kindle Fire, would make an inroad here, but certainly their reading apps. Smart phones and tablets are ubiquitous. Furthermore, English is taught from the third grade. Perhaps many are not fluent readers of English, but there is an increasing interest. Of course, the secret of success would be making Korean books available in Kindle format, and for that there would probably need to be a partnership with a Korean company who might want a cut of the action. But, if Amazon can’t do India right, they sure aren’t ready for the East Asian market yet.

    Like

  18. Wow, finally it’s in India for self – publishers, I hope it will get better in the near future.

    Like

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  21. Jim Self says:

    This move is a bit weird for Amazon. They always seem a lot more ambitious in their plans. They are the ones that kickstarted ebooks as we know them, so why would they not treat a sixth of the world’s population as an important market? I think that more than anything shows they are rushing the site, or that there was some kind of major delay.

    I’m going to trust Amazon to act in their own interest, which includes treating India like a real market.

    Like

  22. umashankar says:

    That is a cogent post. Your observations on the name ‘Junglee’ are bang on. It is not a remarkable opening by any standard.

    Like

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  25. Thanks for this. I have had a free title on Amazon for the last 6 months. For the last three it has settled into a regular grove of 5 copies a day (US store). I hadn’t looked at it during September until today, but the average is 18 copies a day for the month so far. The rank in the US store has not shifted enough to reflect this many copies and the Author Central chart doesn’t show enough of a spike either. My only thought was that India has been downloading the addition copies this month.

    I’m wondering if anyone else has seen additional free sales go up, and if there has been a surge of new consumers in India rushing to fill devices with free/cheap material.

    At least I got an email from Amazon today apparently moving the royalty rate for India up to 70% to match everything else.

    Like

  26. The rules for FDI (Foreign Direct Investment) are still being standardized in India. There is considerable opposition to FDI here, as well. That’s one of the major hurdle for retailers like Amazon to get in quickly. Secondly, majority of the people read physical books and many of them are available in the pirated format. The piracy industry is huge in India and books, movies, music… everything gets pirated.

    For people who like to buy genuine books, Flipkart is an obvious choice (they are doing an excellent work with collection, price, delivery). Otherwise, they go to one of their favorite book-shops near their house and browse the ‘Heavily-discounted’ section. Online retailers have created a dent in their sales.

    Flipkart has added an e-book section, almost as an afterthought of amazon entering India. But, the devices needed to read books (tablets, specialized eReaders like Kindle) have minimum penetration even in the cities. Along with releasing eBooks in India, Amazon should have come up with aggressive marketing and pricing for Kindle. It will sell well just because no one else is focusing on specialized eReader device.

    I guess they will, when they start having full-fledged operations in India.

    Destination Infinity

    Like

  27. tannerakane says:

    `Thank you for the information. As an independent writer, I don’t see a need to place my books in most overseas markets. There’s too much competition. For me, building a fan base from over 300 million Americans is a start. Once I build a following, then I consider expansion into other markets.

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