Indian e-commerce company Infibeam.com has launched an eBook reader called ‘Pi’, and started taking pre-orders for the product on its website at Rs 999. The eBook reader is priced at Rs 9999.00 and shipping will start on February 22, 2010. Infibeam’s CEO Vishal Mehta told MediaNama, “such a device is a win win situation for all including authors, publishers and readers”.

Kindle Versus Pi

The product at a first glance looks very similar to Amazon’s Kindle minus the keyboard, so much so that it might well be mistaken for a rip-off. “It is primarily because the screen is by E Ink and this is the best technology available for a e-reader. Other attributes that a device like this needs is to be light weight and thin,”  is Mehta’s explanation.

Infibeam’s Pi (Left) and Amazon’s Kindle (Right)

Online E-Books

Infibeam, like Amazon, also has an online e-book store and claims it has 100,000 books on offer. Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol and books by Indian authors Arundhati Roy and Chetan Bhagat’s books are on sale on the site. According to the website, 454 Amar Chitra Katha books are also available.

Specifications, Keyboard, Sudoku, Music

Pi has a 6″ E Ink display, is 10 mm thick and weighs 180 gm. The 8 level gray scale display has no backlight, which might make an e-book difficult to read in the dark. It comes with an internal memory of 512 MB compared to Kindle’s 2 GB but this is expandable upto 4 GB via an SD card slot.

Kindle’s keyboard morphs the device into more than just a reader, but Pi steers clear of all that jazz – it has been positioned primarily as an e-book reader. However, Pi does come with a game function key and entertainment in the form of Sudoku. It also has a pair of earphones, like Kindle, allowing users to listen to mp3s using the device.

No Wireless, No Text To Speech

The major differentiator we think is the free wireless access that Amazon offers for the books to be downloaded directly to the Kindle. Amazon has tie ups with WiFi providers in USA for the same. Pi unfortunately does not offer this additional incentive that would have definitely attracted many users. Mehta told Medianama that “since at present India does not have 3G capabilities, including wireless connectivity would not have made sense, in the future we will have more versions of the Pi”. Pi also does not support text to speech which its Amazon counterpart does.

Market, Pricing

The company is shipping it for free in India and Mehta confirmed that India is their ‘primary target market at present’. Infibeam will be marketing Pi through the website primarily with affiliates and partners  and there has been no decision on offline marketing yet. Without a physical retail partner to push sales, will users even learn of Pi’s existence?

Amazon’s adoption of a passive advertising mode – going more by word of mouth than branding and advertising, can become an advantage for Infibeam. The company needs to step up its advertising and Pi might just take off with its lower price amongst India’s booklovers.

A Kindle 6″, by the time it reaches the user in India, will cost approximately $405 (Rs 18,680) and the Pi is priced at Rs 9999 – much fairer, wouldn’t you say?

Indic Language Support, Regional Publishers

Where it scores above the Kindle is that it supports most official Indian languages including Hindi and Sanskrit and this Mehta feels is one of the USPs (unique selling points) of Pi.

We feel that the company needs to give Pi a definite “Made For India” flavour and leverage its language support, rope in not only English newspapers and magazines but also regional publishers. Kindle already offers Hindustan Times, India Today, Financial Express and India Express. Mehta agreed, informing us that Infibeam has signed with Harper Collins and other big publishers and are in talks with regional publishers as well.

Related:
Hindustan Times Launches Kindle Edition
India Today, Indian Express & Financial Express Launch Kindle Editions
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