Monday 15 August 2011

The sleeping Giant - eBooks and India - Pt 2

The old and the new - Mysore, India Photo By A.G. Claymore
A few weeks ago, I posted about the potential that India represents in the eBook market. Days later, Amazon announced that they were in talks with possible Indian eCommerce players (purely coincidence, I assure you…). So now we stand back and wait to see how it plays out. You might say we are in the eye of the hurricane. One of the leading eBook retailers is taking the worlds second largest population seriously, but what form this will end up taking is still unknown.
Library is undoubtedly important. One of the biggest points of discussion about eBook penetration tends to be the language targeted libraries. Amazon has a decent library for the German market with more than 150,000 titles. Kobo recently came to the game with 80,000 German language titles and a German version of the Kobo touch eReader. It will definitely be one of the major factors in India. They were producing literature on the sub-continent when my ancestors were still following wild herds. A lot of the existing literature will be public domain. Making local heritage available as free eBooks would go a long way towards naming a winner in the eReader race.
Just thinking of the potential makes my head hurt. The state could even subsidize the readers for the school system. If you could provide texts in eFormat, that could eliminate literally tons of books that get beat up and replaced on a continuous basis. A child could sign out the reader at the start of the school year, loaded with the texts (on a mass license) and then return it at year’s end, or buy it out.
That brings us back to the one issue that can make or break the eBook revolution in India. The price. In North America, eReader sales took off when the price hit 0.5% of per-capita GDP. I believe it a reasonable assumption that that kind of metric is directly transferrable.  If eReaders in India were to cost 0.5% of per-capita GDP then you will be able to walk into a tech store in Bangalore and hear the same thing I hear down the street at Indigo – “sorry, we carry that model of eReader but they sell out the same day we get a shipment in.”
So, what is that magic price in the Indian economy? Roughly Rs. 530, or twelve dollars US. If someone figures out a way to provide a good reader at that price, tied to their own library, they’ll ride the hurricane all the way to the bank.

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