E-commerce giant Amazon has launched the India Kindle Store on its parent side with a large selection and what it claims to be the lowest prices offered by any e-bookstore in India. This is the second India-specific initiative by Amazon. Earlier, it had launched an e-commerce search aggregation platform called Junglee.
Most importantly, this is the first initiative where Indian consumers can buy from Amazon in Indian currency. Till now, users could have paid in dollars for products listed on Amazon's parent e-com site but they also had to pay customs duty on products shipped from abroad. While Junglee lists products in Indian currency, consumers cannot buy those from the site. Indian foreign investment norms do not allow investment in firms or ventures which retail products from different brands in India.
The India Kindle Store claims to offer more than one million books for Indian customers, priced at Indian currency. In addition, Indian customers can also purchase the e-book reader Kindle from the Croma retail stores across India.
Russ Grandinetti, vice-president of Kindle Content at Amazon.com, said in a statement, "We are proud to launch this new Kindle store for Indian customers â€“ offering Kindle book purchases in rupees and the ability to buy and read the work of many great Indian authors. In addition, we are excited to work with Croma to make Kindle available at retail outlets across India."
Ajit Joshi, CEO and MD of Croma, said in a statement, "We are excited to be the first retailer in India to offer the latest generation Kindle to our customers. This product will be exclusively available through our stores at an introductory price of Rs 6,999."
As per Amazon's US site, it stocks four versions of Kindle and the one which has been launched in India is the basic version, retailed at $109 or approximately Rs 6,200. This means the product has been launched with a little over 10 per cent mark-up on the US catalogue price.
The Kindle e-reader (Wi-Fi) has a 6 inch E Ink display and comes with 2 GB of internal memory and nearly 1.25 GB user memory, storing up to 1,400 books. It has a USB v2.0 micro-B connector and supports TXT, PDF, HTML, JPEG and other standard e-formats.
The product supports Wi-Fi networks for downloading free book samples. It also has free cloud backup, up to three weeks of battery life and 600x800 pixels screen resolution.
One can also buy books once and then read them across devices â€“ on Kindle, iPad, iPod touch, iPhone, Mac, PC and Android-based devices. Amazon's Whispersync technology will sync across all devices. With the Kindle Worry-Free Archive available, all books purchased from the Kindle Store, as well as notes or annotations, are automatically backed up online in the user's Kindle library on Amazon.com. These can be re-downloaded wirelessly for free, whenever you want them.
The company has not indicated yet when it would launch other versions of Kindle in India. These include Kindle Touch (and Kindle Touch 3G), Kindle Keyboard 3G and the top-end variant Kindle DX (which has a 9.7 inch screen). These variants have 4 GB internal memory.
Amazon has also launched Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) for independent authors and publishers in India. KDP allows authors and publishers to make their books available to Kindle customers in India and around the world on Kindle devices and also on free Kindle reading apps. Plus, authors and publishers in India can now set India-specific prices and receive royalty payments in INR.
After the launch of Flipkart's digital music store Flyte, this latest initiative by Amazon is expected to build a more serious online market for digital content in the country. Undoubtedly, Amazon has struck an early-mover advantage in tapping a nascent category with a huge potential. It also rings an alarm bell for top domestic e-commerce players as the global big daddy of online commerce has picked a category, which it has not focused upon till now.
(Edited by Sanghamitra Mandal)