We’re working on a comprehensive overview of the India ebook market which we’ll be releasing in epub, mobi and PDF formats, but that will be a while yet, so meanwhile here’s a quick summary for those who can’t wait.
India is one of the fastest growing markets for both print books and ebooks, and English-language titles are experiencing renewed interest thanks to the easy access of ebooks on smartphones and to the big strides online retailers are making not just in their online presence but in their delivery capacity. This means that print books are now readily available to avid readers outside the big Indian cities where bricks & mortar bookstores are viable.
Flipkart remains the dominant player for both print and digital books, but Amazon is making vast strides, and lately has resolved many of the issues of accessibility and payments options we’ve previously expressed concerns about. Amazon is now on target to become a significant player in the Indian book and ebook market over the next few years.
Apple still has no iBooks presence in India and Kobo, while there, is not having any impact thanks to some very disappointing partnerships thus far. Hopefully that will change now Rakuten are beginning to take the global ebook market seriously. Rakuten also has a finger in the India pie through OverDrive, which supplies Infibeam’s ebooks.
Nook of course is not there and nor is Txtr, leaving just Google Play and Magzter to fly the flag for the western ebook players.
Google Play is making big strides, but early days. You can go direct to Google Play or through the Italian aggregator Narcissus or the German aggregator XinXii. We expect Google Play to become significant player in India as they upgrade their payment options.
Magzter is holding its own in India, but is not easily accessible for indies. Those with the British aggregator Ebook Partnership will be there.
Local stores like Crossword (via Kobo) are minor players and Landmark recently closed its ebook store. It’s not clear if that is permanent.
Pothi is a small but friendly operator that will distribute both your ebooks and print titles across the subcontinent.
Of the many other local ebook players two are worth seriously getting involved with right now.
Rockstand and Newshunt.
Newshunt started out as a digital magazine vendor (75 million downloads to date) and took on ebooks about a year and half ago. Back in September last year we reported Newshunt had seen 4 million ebook downloads. Six months on and that figure has almost trebled, to eleven million.
Newshunt is a mobile-only ebooks store that is run by Ver Se. It has seen 50 million app installations, has over 14 million active monthly users and gets over 1.5 billion monthly page views. More importantly it expects to have 200 million active monthly users within two years, as m-commerce takes off in India.
Given India is expected to have 385 million smartphone users by 2017 (more than one for every man, woman, child and baby in the US) that kind of growth is probably conservative.
One of the reasons Newshunt is seeing such tremendous growth is that it offers payment options Amazon and co. do not, namely carrier billing. Newshunt even has its own micro-billing facility, iPayy.
Rockstand is owned by Handygo Technologies, and needless to say it too offers carrier-billing – via three Indian telcos: Airtel, Vodafone India and Idea Cellular.
As with Newshunt, getting in isn’t easy for indies.
But nor is it hard.
Last year Rockstand signed a deal with Ingram for ebook content, but of course only a handful of indies are in the Ingram ebook catalogue in the first place.
The good news is, both stores WELCOME western indies and if you get in touch with them they will walk you through their direct-upload process.
Better still, Newshunt CEO Virendra Gupta tells us Newshunt will be launching a fully-fledged self-publishing portal later this year. We’re hoping to get an exclusive interview with Virendra on this soon for the EBUK blog.
But enough of ebooks. Let’s talk print books.
No, don’t switch off. Dump the kneejerk reaction that print and indies are somehow different planets and never the twain shall meet. Indies need to take print seriously.
Most indies treat print as an afterthought, but print is BIG business globally and it may surprise you to know that your POD print books actually have even wider distribution than your ebooks.
If you have POD titles through CreateSpace then, if you elected for Expanded distribution (it’s free!) then your paperbacks should be available from Amazon India. (LINK )
But readers in India can also order them from Amazon’s other India store, Junglee. (LINK)
Or from Flipkart. (LINK)
Or from Landmark.(LINK)
Or from Rediff Books. (LINK)
Or from BookAdda. (LINK)
And on and on and on.
CreateSpace distribution. If you have your titles through Ingram, or are using the Indian distributor Pothi you’ll have even better reach (and with Pothi far faster delivery times).
And of course it’s not just in India. We indie authors have global print reach quite inconceivable just a year or two ago. When we talk about a global New Renaissance we mean exactly that. A Global. New. Renaissance.
What is happening is quite unprecedented in human history. Digital isn’t just enabling us to sell digital books, it’s enabling us to reach the far bigger percentage of the world that hasn’t yet embraced digital.
We can’t begin to exaggerate how significant this is.
The internet has been around for many decades now, but for most of the world it was a novelty or a luxury of the rich in a handful of big cities.
You not only needed an unaffordable computer, but you needed reliable electric to run it and for the internet you needed a cable to connect to the ISP and you needed an ISP in your country in the first place.
Suddenly everything has changed. Mobile has transformed the world in ways most of us are not even beginning to come to terms with.
Not just the literally billions who can now e-read. But a sea-change way beyond access to digital content.
Amazon India is an ideal example. Pre-mobile India was just another struggling foreign market for Amazon. Only the rich could afford to buy from Amazon and Amazon could only ship effectively to a handful of big cities.
Now the e-commerce giants like Amazon and Flipkart are investing staggering sums of cash into India’s e-commerce infrastructure. Warehouse, delivery, etc. Because suddenly, in the space of a couple of years. Amazon and Flipkart and all the other e-commerce sites are able to reach hundreds of millions of people previously not on their radar.
And that includes making books – both print and digital – available to literally hundreds of millions of people who previously had no access to such things.
But despite the huge numbers of people now using smartphones to e-read on, print is still king.
Bear in mind that, the US and UK aside, pretty much every country in the world has digital reading adoption at below 10%. The inverse being, 90% or more are still reading print.
And damn and blast, we indies can’t be bothered with print because, well, we’re indies.
Step outside the box. Digital access to print is transforming our prospects not just as ebook authors but as print authors.
Don’t treat your POD endeavours as an afterthought. Make print part of your career strategy. And not just at home, but globally.
We’ve said before and will say again, India, Indonesia and China are the most exciting prospects on the planet right now for indie authors willing to step outside their comfort zone.
The global ebook market is going to dwarf the US market many, many times over as it blossoms, and counter-intuitively the print market is expanding at a rate of knots too. This truly is a global New Renaissance.
As ever, those who get an early foot in the door will have best chance to reap the rewards.
No, there will be no instant successes and no instant rewards.
But think about how hard it is now for new authors to gain traction in the US and UK markets. And how much harder it’s getting, by the day.
The nascent global print and ebook markets aren’t quite open goals, but there are myriad opportunities for savvy authors to become big fish in small ponds overseas. And then to grow to be even bigger fish as the pond gets bigger.
No, it won’t be easy. Yes, it will take time, effort and probably some costs if you really want to make an impact.
So start small. Focus on one country – say, India, since that’s the focus of this post – or maybe two, and get things in place, and then move on to the next. Build a readership base and then move your focus to the next country.
No-one can do it all at once. Don’t try.
But don’t take the path of least resistance. Amazon is a great starting point for India, but make it just that. A starting point.
Amazon can play a key role in your path to becoming a truly global bestselling author, but it won’t do it on its own. Period.
Think about the next five years, not the next five weeks.