Huawei will embed books from Indian author Chetan Bhagat in its MediaPad tablet, as a part of a deal under which Bhagat also becomes the company’s brand ambassador in India. Bhagat, who is expected to launch his new book The Revolution 2020 on October 7th, will be associated with the promoting the tablet, but Huawei tells the Economic Times that it will “consider the possibility of Chetan creating content for the brand, for instance, writing short stories that will be available for Huawei device users.”
For a books publishing industry still coming to grips with digital delivery of books, this does set a rather useful precedent, though one can’t be sure of whether such an offer will be open to other writers as well: Bhagat has mass appeal, and his books are positioned and priced to appeal to a readership that wants content that is easy and not high-brow. He is fairly active (and provocative) on Twitter, and has over half a million followers.
A Start, But Can More Be Done?
Books on digital devices aren’t new – I remember reading a book on my mobile back in 2004 – but with the advent of tablets and smart phones, the form factor and ease of reading and the availability of books a mobile phone that you’re carrying will lead to a change in reader behavior.
The Aldiko book reader app for Android is a fantastic application for reading on Android powered phones and tablets. We don’t know what kind of an application Huawei plans to launch Bhagat’s books in, but it is 3G compliant, and Bhagat’s books could well be a start. Through its Hi-Space cloud solution, Huawei could well push new books to customers.
Of course, it depends on whether Huawei sees itself as a device company or a services company pushing ebooks to potential readers – it’s likely that it will not make the mistakes that Nokia made by getting into the services business, and focus on using the branding to sell devices. Even if anyone did try and retail books on mobile/tablets in India, the payment gateway hassle still remains: the embedding of Bhagat’s books would probably already have him and his publisher money as a part of the sponsorship deal. Getting users to pay for content on devices in India – unless you’re targeting users on the iPad – isn’t easy. Telecom operator billing is a solution, but the problem with that is the the telcos want to keep most of the money.