China sales of Amazon's Kindle have 'exceeded expectations'

Amazon's Kindle e-readers have found an audience in China, despite a market filled with competition and piracy

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 17 December, 2013, 7:04pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 17 December, 2013, 8:35pm

Six months after entering the Chinese market, Amazon’s Kindle tablets have made a profit.

Introduced to mainland audiences on June 7, the Kindle Paperwhite and Kindle Fire tablets originally launched for 849 yuan (HK$1,084) and 1,499 yuan (HK$1,914) respectively.

In the half a year since their release, both devices have had to contend with a crowded electronics marketplace filled with competition from Apple, Samsung and Lenovo – all companies boasting greater renown in China, where Amazon is a relatively niche player.

Furthermore, the Kindle’s main function as an e-reader that allows users to purchase books from the Kindle electronic bookstore, which currently carries over 60,000 titles in China, has always been a shaky sell in the mainland’s environment of rampant online piracy.

But according to Bai Juyi, vice president of Amazon’s Kindle operations in China, sales of the company’s e-readers have “exceeded expectations … and proven very encouraging”.

In an interview with Sina Technology, Bai declined to disclose actual sales figures, but revealed that Kindle’s business model had been “profitable”, although sales in China were obviously smaller than Amazon’s success in other regions, particularly the United States.

Bai added that Amazon’s international success had been the result of slow but consistent growth, and the company was prepared to follow a similar strategy to make inroads into the Chinese market to eventually “build an ecosystem around reading and cultivate a habitual use of Kindle products.”

Bai cited localisation, a good relationship with local Chinese publishers, and the Kindle Fire’s ability to download Android apps as main reasons for the device's current success in China.

He added that the Chinese Kindle store would continue to grow, with a projected offering of over 100,000 titles available in 2014. 

The mobile reading market in China was worth about 5.6 billion yuan (HK$7 billion) in 2012, but easy access to downloadable books on illegal sharing websites continues to remain a challenge for Amazon and other e-book providers.

A 2012 survey conducted by The China Press and Publication Post revealed that 49 per cent of female readers, which make up a large portion of China’s e-reader market, were unwilling to pay for e-books if they could be found for free online.