Amazon is expected to launch a version of the Kindle which supports Indian languages in December or January, Alind Maheshwari, director of Marketing and Copyright Director of the Rajkamal Prakashan Group, a significant publisher of Hindi literature, said at the Publishing Next conference last week. MediaNama contacted Amazon for a confirmation or denial of their plans, and received a boilerplate statement in response:
“Our vision is to have every book ever written in every language delivered in under 60 seconds to our customers. We continue to work towards that goal. Stay tuned.”
In 2014, Kasturi Sudhakar had written about his book, which was apparently rejected by Kindle, even though it worked on the devices he had checked. The issue was that Tamil wasn’t supported by all Kindle devices. Perhaps Amazon has now been able to address this issue now. In any case, from an Indic language perspective, this is a welcome development, and benefits both entities: Indic language publishers should now be able to sell to international Kindle users who might want to read in Indic languages; it might also help Amazon sell more Kindles in India.
…at a time when Flipkart might be pulling the plug on eBooks
This move from Amazon comes at a time when Flipkart is, it is believed, shuttering its ebooks business. MediaNama had written about it here. Flipkart hasn’t confirmed or denied this development to us, saying only that they are evaluating their ebooks strategy. Flipkart exiting ebooks was a topic that came up repeatedly in conversations at Publishing Next, and other publishers at the conference also confirmed that Flipkart isn’t taking new titles for their existing ebooks catalog.
Amazon launching the Indic language support for the Kindle is a great move, and it will help consolidate Amazon’s position in the ebooks market in India. However, this development, when juxtaposed with Flipkart looking to exit ebooks, is worrying since it reduces competition in the market.
As long as Amazon and Flipkart compete for content from publishers, one can expect it to be a sellers market, and in that context, Amazon’s entry into India, late though it was, helped address the situation of Flipkart becoming far too dominant. Publishers have never sought to build direct relationships with their buyers, and it’s about time they did that in order to reduce dependency on large aggregators.
Note that while publishers in the US had to depend on the Nook to provide competition for Kindle, in India, that competition is likely to be provided by apps on mobile phones, and especially from Google Play books and Apple’s iBooks platforms.
Disclosure: This writer was a speaker at the Publishing Next conference in Goa at the invitation of the organizers, with costs of attending covered.