| New Delhi |
Updated: December 22, 2019 4:25:43 pm
Amazon’s Kindle business is gaining ground from the increasing smartphone penetration and is driving substantial growth in the ebooks segment in India and not all of this has come at the cost of the e-reader business.
Amol Gurwara, Country Manager, Kindle Content India, Amazon, told Indianexpress.com in an interview that the Kindle app for smart devices and the e-reader can co-exist. “I think these are completely different use cases. And they are driven by whether or not a customer feels the need and finds affordability to buy a special dedicated device. And if they don’t, that’s fine …we’ve got apps,” Gurwara said.
“Smartphones are significant, just by virtue of sheer volumes… By smartphones, I mean both the hardware penetration we’ve seen, as well as the whole engagement with apps,” he said. Gurwara, who is based out of Singapore, believes that smartphones are somewhat an entry point to the world of “interactive content,” especially ebooks. Amazon Kindle has apps for the iPad, iPhone, Android, and Kindle Fire. Gurwara said the mobile app makes it easier to search for the content, navigate through content and read ebooks at a comfort.
Without revealing the download numbers, Gurwara said the Kindle app’s engagement is high among Indian smartphone users. The app, which is free to download from the Google Play Store or Apple App Store, has as expected seen more adoption on the more popular Android operating system.
Amazon is also seeing significant adoption of Kindle Lite, a small and simplified version of the app, which went live in India in the middle of last year. The slimmed-down app is designed to run on low-end smartphones, something Gurwara thinks has played out well for the Indian consumer.
Gurwara calls the Kindle e-reader a “purpose-built” device that’s been designed for reading. Kindle purists will still like to buy a dedicated e-reader over reading on a smartphone, and Amazon knows it well.
“The e-reader is designed to offer a great experience for reading. It’s the one that has the highest chance of providing you the same,” he said, adding that the “since the e-reader is a single-purpose device, you are not prone to all the interruptions that you would otherwise receive if you’re reading on a different device,” he said.
‘Services tied to the Kindle app’
Like the Kindle e-readers, the app too offers access to over seven million books out of which 30,000 classics can be downloaded for free. Its Kindle Unlimited, an ebook subscription service which costs Rs 169 a month, has a selection of two million books. Then there is Prime Reading, which gives Prime subscribers access to more than 1,000 Kindle books that are refreshed periodically.
The Kindle app is the best example of how Amazon functions. The freedom of reading a book on any screen, along with the access to services such as Prime Reading and Kindle Unlimited, is crucial to Amazon’s business. The Kindle app is not just for reading ebooks, it’s also a platform to sell books.
That’s what makes Amazon different from other tech companies. It’s an e-commerce company that sells you everything, from selling books, Prime Reading, and Kindle Unlimited, all through the Kindle app.
“Our Kindle app allows you to search, find content that you love, buy it and then download it and read it. And there’s a whole range of innovations layered on top of the reading experience. So you don’t need to get up and look up the dictionary when you stumble across a word that you don’t know the meaning of, because all these capabilities are built into the app,” Gurwara explained.
‘Kindle Direct Publishing empowering young authors’
Amazon, as we know, is not just in the business of selling books or e-readers to millions of customers alone, it’s also a publishing house. The company runs a self-publishing system for authors called Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). That system allows authors, especially young and independent ones, to bypass traditional publishing houses and instead work with Amazon directly, which sells the digital version of their books on its platform within “24 to 48 hours.” There is no charge to upload a Word doc, or a PDF file of your story, and following the pricing criteria laid out, the authors receive 70 per cent of the royalties from the sale of their books.
“We have upwards of one lakh authors who signed up for the Kindle Direct Publishing programme in India, and they are creating content in multiple languages,” he said. Gurwara said the end goal is to empower young independent authors with no writing experience or capital to self publish their books exclusively on Amazon’s platforms.
The company has also initiated a lot of outreach programmes. “I think a large part of this is making sure that people see this as a viable option,” he said. “We have already seen strong signs of this actually becoming a number where it’s equal into someone who’s actually doing just this you know in terms of livelihood,” he added.
Amazon’s self-publishing e-book platform currently supports five regional languages — Hindi, Gujarati, Malayalam, Marathi, or Tamil.
Although Gurwara did not reveal how many ebooks have been published in India using the KPD programme, he did reveal that the company has seen an increase of 60 per cent in regional content and some of that comes from the self-publishing platform. Globally, over 20 lakh ebooks have been published using Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing programme.
‘Future of digital publishing is encouraging’
For Gurwara, the future of digital publishing is bright in India. “We’ve seen a lot of repeat engagement with digital reading. And I think the best indicator of long term success is when your existing customers come back and engage with you,” he said.
According to Gurwara, the company has seen strong customer signals and continued innovation in the reading experience as well as the purchase experience. But at the same time, there is also a responsibility to encourage authors and giving them specific mechanisms to go ahead and publish more ebooks using the KPD programme.
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