Amazon to sell Kindle in China, say reports

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 30 May, 2013, 11:29am
UPDATED : Thursday, 29 August, 2013, 4:13am

Amazon will start selling its Kindle e-book reader and tablet on mainland China next month, according to several Chinese media reports, in a bid to officially enter an e-book reader market that is booming but fiercely contested.

The technology portal Zhongguancun Online raised speculation about the imminent sale earlier this week, when it found a sales-desk for the Kindle hidden at a Suning electronics store in Beijing.

The kiosk - hidden under a thin, blue cloth - had apparently been plugged in, revealing a shining Amazon logo, a photo of which turned up on a microblog.

Suning, China's largest home electronics retailer, told Sina Technology on Wednesday that it would be selling Amazon's tablets in its stores in early June, but did not disclose the pricing. Sina said sales would start on June 7, citing unnamed sources.

The Wifi-only version of the Kindle Paperwhite would sell for 849 yuan (HK$1,064), and the 3G-version would not be on sale in China, the Guangzhou-based Southern Daily said.

The reported price would undercut that of smuggled Kindles currently sold in mainland China, the Chinese portal Techweb noted. Smuggled e-readers are sold in Hong Kong for about the same price.

Kindle Fire, a rival to Apple's iPad, is expected to sell for 1,500 yuan, slightly lower than the cost of the tablets smuggled to Hong Kong.

Amazon has yet to make a statement and did not immediately reply to a written inquiry.

The move signals the latest step the world's largest online retailer is taking to establish a larger market presence in the world's second-largest economy. And the timing may be right as the e-book market is booming. Last year, China's largest online retail platform Taobao reported 100 million yuan in revenue on e-book sales, according to China Business Herald. An insider with Taobao expected a tenfold increase this year, the report said.

In November, Amazon's tablets officially started to support Chinese characters. A month later it launched a Kindle store section on its Chinese webstore. Customers could download Kindle e-book applications for other devices, such as iPads and iPhones.

The service ran into problems when it was investigated by the General Administration of Press and Publication, because China imposes publishing restrictions on foreign companies. Amazon partnered with the Chinese publisher, and its Chinese Kindle store has remained online.

Amazon last month launched its cloud services in China, followed by the quiet launch of its app-store for China in early May.

Similar e-book readers, including Bambook and WISEreader, appeared in China soon after Amazon launched its electronic ink-based reading device in 2007.