bookmateTelecom operator Aircel has launched an e-book store Aircel BookMate for its subscribers that allows one to browse, download and read books, magazines, comics on their smartphone, tablets and PCs.

The Aircel BookMate app for Android smartphone can be downloaded from the Google Play Store, while the iPad and iPhone app appears to be in development.

One needs to have an Aircel number to register for the service. Users can either opt for monthly membership where users will receive Aircel BookMate points every month or a one time point purchase. The Aircel BookMate points can be used to purchase books and comics, and unused points will be rolled over to the next month. It’s currently offering three monthly plans — Rs 25 for 50 Aircel Bookmate points, Rs 50 for 100 points, and Rs 100 for 200 points.

How ever, there’s no information on how one can buy Aircel BookMate points at present. While the payment options offered is not clear, we feel there is an opportunity for Aircel to provide carrier billing as a payment option on the store, which might provide them an edge over other e-book stores.

Surprisingly, the e-book store does not have any visible Aircel branding on its site and expect for the site URL, there’s literally no Aircel logo on the entire site.

The e-book store offers comics from Diamond Comics, Chandamama, Media Transasia, and magazines such as Outlook Money, India Today, Outlook, Business Today, among others. When we checked, the collection of books in fiction and non-fiction categories seemed to be low, in fact we could only find books from public domains.

Since the collection of books is not that appealing, we wonder why would anyone register on the service instead of opting for solution from Amazon and Apple, which offers much better content catalog. Besides that, Aircel also does not exactly allow users to buy a single book at a time, instead it locks down users with monthly subscription or wants users to buy one time points. This would make sense if Aircel’s e-book store had a collection of content that’s not available elsewhere. That’s not the case.

E-books and E-Magazine Stores

AmazonFlipkartSkoolshop.comlearnpedia.in, among others, offer e-books and some offer an e-book app as well. There’s also Vriti and thedigilibrary.com, although, they only seem to provide books for entrance exams. In February 2013, Google finally added an e-books section to its content marketplace Google Play in India, allowing users to purchase e-books to their mobile phones and tablets. Google also offers an separate app for magazines, which is not available in India yet.

In August 2013, Flipkart had inked an e-book distribution agreement with the California based self-publishing and distribution platform Smashwords which focuses on independent publishers. As part of the deal, Smashwords will be offering its entire catalog of free and paid e-books to Flipkart consumers in the next three to four weeks. It claims to have published more than 200,000 e-books from more than 60,000 authors and publishers at present.