Will the entry of Amazon Kindle into India give a fillip to the e-book market?

As you read this, a dedicated team at Harper Collins India is working towards converting 150 titles into e-books, hoping to launch them by the end of September. Penguin India and Westland publishers have already forayed into e-books and are in the process of converting more titles into e-books.

The market for e-books is at a nascent stage in India but there are signs of growth. Amazon has taken baby steps into the domestic market by launching an exclusive Kindle store for India, making e-books available at a cheaper rate. You can now pay for e-books in Indian rupees as against US dollars. For example, the e-book version of Ashwin Sanghi’s new release, The Krishna Key (Westland publication) is available on Kindle’s India store at Rs.152, much lesser than the retail price of the paperback version (Rs.250) and marginally lesser than the price on Flipkart (Rs.168). Amazon will also be selling its e-reader, Kindle, through Croma outlets (prices begin at Rs.6999). Will the Indian launch of Kindle be a turning point for e-books?

Author Ashwin Sanghi says: “It’s too early to say but I think a marketing giant like Amazon has the potential to transform the e-book landscape in India. I think the real e-book battle is a couple of years away when all key players including Flipkart jump into the fray. At that time, we are bound to see a surge in sales of our e-books.”

This is a thought shared by publishing houses as well. Gautham Padmanabhan, CEO of Westland says: “In the last six months, we have made 125 titles, old and new, available as e-books. The launch of Kindle’s India store will help people buy the books on a par with Indian retail prices, as opposed to paying the higher price at which e-books are sold for the US and UK markets.” Gautham, like Ashwin, feels there will be an increase in sales of e-books when online channels such as Flipkart and Landmark get into business.

In the West, there are instances of e-books and e-readers nudging traditional bookstores out of business. In that respect, have e-books made a late entry into India? “Yes and no,” says Ashwin and reasons, “It is a late entry if one looks at how e-books have outstripped the supply of traditional books in other countries. But if we look at the low penetration of reading devices (e-readers and tablets) in India, we aren’t late.”

Lipika Bhushan, senior marketing manager at Harper Collins India, feels e-books are unlikely to edge out retail stores in near future. “For publishing houses, e-books will only be an additional source of revenue,” she says. Lipika compares this with sales of books through online channels being an additional source of revenue to that of retail book stores. “When portals like Flipkart began selling books online, it contributed to a mere 2 per cent of the total sales of books. Today, e-retailing of books stands at 14 to 15 per cent,” she points out. Interestingly, when contacted, Flipkart stated that it has no immediate plans of joining the e-book bandwagon.

Reading online isn’t new. We’ve got used to online editions of newspapers and magazines in addition to the print versions and with the penetration of smartphones and iPads, we’ve begun using content sourced through Apple store, reading apps and cloud libraries. Will it be a matter of time before we supplement our bookshelves at home with cloud libraries online?

E-how?

E-books can be purchased through online channels such as Amazon, Apple, Kobo, Baker and Taylor or ebooks.com. E-books are available in formats compatible with different e-readers (Kindle, iPad, Nook, Sony Reader and others). They can also be accessed through cloud libraries on your laptops/desktops or through compatible reading apps on your mobile phones.

Price wise

Salman Rusdie’s Midnight’s Children, sold at a retail price of Rs. 450, is available as an e-book for Rs.257 on Kindle’s India store.

Mohsin Hamid’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist (paperback Rs. 250) is priced at Rs.143 for e-book.

E-book of Fifty Shades of Grey costs Rs.212 as against the paperback sold through bookstores at Rs.399.

More In: Books | Metroplus | Features