Category Archives: Selling Ebooks In India

Wattpad’s Global Data Mine

wattpad-global

Are you making the best of Wattpad’s data tools?

Wattpad is, increasingly, a valuable tool to get actual sales, and I’ll be looking at some of Wattpad’s new sales-orientated features over coming weeks.

But for me Wattpad is most valuable for its global reach and its data.

Take the image above. Obviously this is an inert screenshot, but the original in my Wattpad data dashboard is interactive and a click on each of the highlighted countries will tell me what percentage of my readers are coming from each country.

Wattpad will also break down my readers by gender and by age group, and a lot more besides.

  • This map shows me that for this particular title some 25% of my Wattpad readership is in the US. More than I would have expected, but then this is an English-language title.
  • The UK accounts for 11% and Canada and Australia account for 3% each.

But what matters to me with Wattpad is reaching the rest of the world and, again bearing in mind this is an English-language title, the stats are both revealing and occasionally surprising.

  • In Europe I’m finding readers in Germany and Austria. Surprisingly no traction yet elsewhere in Europe.
  • 10% of my Wattpad readers for this title are in India. That’s very useful to know as I really hadn’t considered India a likely market for this particular book. And 2% in neighbouring Pakistan and 1.5% in Sri Lanka.

But then come the real surprises.

  • Courtesy of Wattpad I’m finding readers in Africa for my English-language title – in South Africa, Kenya, Uganda, Ghana and Nigeria. In fact 5% of my readers for this title are in Nigeria, which gives me something to focus on.
  • In Latin America it’s not great, but I’m finding readers in Brazil and Guyana.

Across Asia it’s looking very promising.

  • The Philippines is delivering fully 10% of my readers, and while there are still far too many white spaces (0%) across Asia I’m doing the happy dance on seeing I’ve found readers in Georgia and Outer Mongolia.

Am I seeing sales from all this? Two points arise.

First, it’s impossible to make a direct link between the Wattpad stats and sales , but I suspect yes, I’m seeing some extra sales. Not many, but a few.

But, to come to point two, that’s not what I use Wattpad for. Wattpad is my route to connect with readers who for whatever reason cannot or are not looking at the big ebook retail stores we mostly rely on.

Wattpad is about finding my future core readers and establishing my brand in far-flung lands.

As per stats, there are clearly a couple of countries where it may pay off to start some focussed promotion. By which I mean focussed brand-building, not buy-my-book marketing, although of course that’s a welcome bonus.

For this particular title 49% of my readers are 13-18 age group and 80% female. Both figures could be higher as about 20% in each case have opted not to give that data. Given the title (YA aimed at girls) the stats are not surprising. A further 25% are 18-25, but I’m getting readers across all age groups.

For this sort of data alone Wattpad is worth setting some time aside, but there is much more to Wattpad than just data, as I’ll be exploring in future posts.

For 2017 I plan on getting ALL my tiles on Wattpad and trying to leverage some of Wattpad’s many promotional tools. More on that soon.

With 45 million users worldwide, and literally one new reader signing up every second of every day, Wattpad is potentially one of our most valuable internationalist-indie tools.

Are you getting the best out of Wattpad?

This post first appeared in the International Indie Author Facebook Group. See the original post and discussion here. (LINK)

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Other recent posts from the International Indie Author Facebook Group:

Google Play have introduced new discovery features to Google Play Books that might just bring us a few more sales.

With 75 global ebook stores GP is one of our most useful assets for global reach.

While still sadly indifferent to Africa (just South Africa and Egypt), Google Play is a strong player in Latin America, eastern Europe and SE Asia (inc. Thailand, Indonesia,Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, Philippines, etc, where Amazon and Apple are not available). .

Anecdotally Google Play is my best bet for sales across Latin America, out-performing Amazon in Brazil and Mexico, and even bringing sales from small countries like El Salvador.

Google Play’s self-pub portal is now closed to newcomers, and we have to be in one of the 75 GPB global countries to even see the store, but we can still get our titles into Google Play Books.

Sadly neither Smashwords nor Draft2Digital can help here, but StreetLib and PublishDrive can, and of course so can the pay-up-front aggregators like Bookbaby and Ebook Partnership.

See the original post and discussion here. (LINK)

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Another One Bites The Dust – Sainsbury Ebooks To Close.

I’ve not heard anything from Sainsbury yet but Kobo are reporting they are hoovering up Sainsbury’s customer base as Sainsbury opts out of the ebook business.

Sainsbury is a significant UK supermarket chain that, along with Tesco, took on the challenge of the UK ebook market.

Tesco fell foul of major issues unrelated to its digital ambitions and had to pull out of peripherals like ebooks.

No word yet as to what triggered the Sainsbury pull-out, but given Amazon UK’s overwhelming dominance of the UK ebook market this is disappointing but not surprising news.

For indies it will make no difference to our Sainsbury sales as Sainsbury was strictly trad-pub only. A handful of indies using Vearsa were there, but for the rest of us it simply was never an option.

This latest UK ebook store failure follows close on the heels of the Waterstone’s surrender. Waterstone’s too handed its ebook clientèle to Kobo. As did Sony UK before that. And of course Nook UK has left us. And somewhere in between Txtr UK left us and Blloon left us.

Apple and Google Play line up with Kobo to keep Amazon from total UK ebook dominance (small players like Blackwells and Hive are neither here nor there. Kobo has both a localized UK store and partners with the high street chain WH Smith.

I wouldn’t be that surprised if WH Smith conceded defeat next.

The sad reality right now is that if an indie has a very strong UK presence and isn’t faring well on other retailers at home or abroad then going KDP Select and focussing on the Amazon UK market would make perfect sense.

No doubt there will be rejoicing on the Zon-centric blogs these next few days (I suspect many are already planning street parties for when B&N goes down) but a healthy market is one with strong competition.

The UK ebook market is as close to an Amazon monopoly as they’ve got anywhere. It’s common sense, not anti-Amazon sentiment, to say this latest UK ebook store closure is not good news.

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India news – from Amar Vyas

Manasi Subramaniam, Commissioning editor and Rights Manager at Harper Collins India, conducted a master class on publishing rights during Publishing Next 2016. During the masterclass, she talked about translations, international rights, film and other rights for books. Manasi also gave examples of how the B2B books rights process works at Book Fairs.

You can listen to this very informative session here. (LINK)

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The future is never far away, and as regular readers of my Beware The Future posts will understand, if we plan on being in this game for the long haul we need to, if not predict the future, at least anticipate and be ready for it.

The 2016 Tech Trend report is out and while the whole thing is worth snuggling down in bed with, Joe Wikert has thoughtfully been through it and picked out a few key areas pertinent to the future of publishing.

Read Wikert’s summary here, where there is also a link to the full report.

Wikert’s perspective is of course that of Big Pub, not indie authors, but while we indies may not have the financial muscle of the big players we do have other advantages – speed and agility to experiment – and we can partner with third parties to get in on many of these future developments.

The future will happen whether we like it or not. Change and disruption will happen in our cosy indie-ebook-author lives whether we embrace it or bury our heads in the sand.

If we’re on our last legs and don’t plan on being a writer in the 2020s and beyond, then anticipating and preparing for the future is something we can afford not to do.

For the rest of us the future is our biggest challenge, because change and disruption will happen, and in a far faster and more furious pattern than we’ve experienced this past few years with the so-called ebook revolution, when the only big change was print to ebook.

The real digital revolution is still in first gear. (LINK to Joe Wikert post.)

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On a personal note, for those intrigued my my Third World life here in West Africa, my June and July Gambia Diaries are currently holding #1 and #2 place in category in the free charts on Amazon.

 

1-2-in-niche

These short essays are available free from all good ebook retailers.

Given these monthly ebooks are the only two free titles in this category I’m in the interesting position whereby over the coming months I’ll hold the top five, top ten and eventually top twenty spots in category. And in just over eight years I’ll have the top 100!

For anyone wondering, I am able to list on Amazon without price-matching or being exclusive by uploading via StreetLib.

 

For daily news and discussion about the global indie publishing scene join this lively Facebook Group.

 

 

Going Globile: India – Momentum Builds, Despite The Indifference Of The Western Retailers.

For those looking at the bigger picture, Publishing Perspectives this week (LINK), in the wake of the New Delhi Book Fair, runs a post on India reporting on the success of local authors writing in local languages.
 
As I’ve long been saying, the rise of globile (global mobile) means previously disenfranchised readers across the globe are for the first time being given the opportunity to read, listen and watch books, audio-books, video, etc, that were previously off-limits to them due to the restrictions (accessibility and affordability) of analogue content.
 
As the Publishing Perspectives posts notes, in India there are 22 official languages and over 100 more major spoken languages in dozens of communities from the Himalayas to the Bay of Bengal. ”The emergence of smartphones and tablets — enabling so-called “mobile reading” — promises to make India a nation of translations.”
 
The post reports Prashasti Rastogi, director, German Book Office in New Delhi as saying, “Lately in India, there’s a huge concentration in publishing on Indian languages. Technology is deep-seated in the market, and we’ve seen the rise of reading apps which cater to Indian languages.”
 
Rastogi adds, “…hordes of people flock to book fairs in Patna or Kolkata to look for books in Hindi or Bengali.”
 
Print books that is. A reminder that we indies venturing into the India market should not ignore print.
 
Ebooks? If only.
 
But the simple fact is local-language Indian ebooks are not taking off in a big way because of retailer indifference.
Take Amazon, for example. With a whole 100 Hindi ebooks available in the Kindle IN store and zero titles on other Indian languages that’s hardly an incentive for publishers to start getting their local-language titles into mobi format.
 
But there’s always Apple and Kobo, right?
 
Sadly, no. There is no IBooks IN store, and Kobo treats India as an afterthought. Kobo has a disappointing partnership store with Crossword and the Kobo international store is available, but there is no localized Kobo India store and like Amazon, Kobo doesn’t want to know about local-language ebooks.
 
Having just absorbed Flipkart’s customers, that’s tragic. Kobo, wake up and smell the coffee!
 
There are two key local-language players in India right now – Dailyhunt and Rockstand.
 
Both are doing rather well, not least because they not only offer local-language titles, But also because they offer local-payment options too – another big fail for the western retailers in a land where only a tiny fraction of its people have bank cards.
 
Both Rockstand and Dailyhunt are in theory accessible to authors outside the country, but the hoops you need to jump through to go direct are not going to have western indie authors queuing up to clamber aboard.
 
Late last year the Hungarian aggregator PublishDrive signed a distribution deal with Rockstand, but that aside the big western aggregators, like the western retailers, seem determined to stick to the easy option English-language market in India.
 
“Languages (other than English) are really thriving, and in fact, there is an increased readership that we see in a lot of local languages,” says Meera Johri, head of an Indian publisher of Hindi classics.
 
In the tagged Publishing Perspectives post Jori adds, “There is a renewed interest in buying Hindi books and reading Hindi books. (Indian languages like) Marathi has always been very vibrant. Malayalam and Bangla, too… One reason is that these languages have a very strong culture of reading.”
 
Getting my titles translated into multiple Indian languages in multiple formats – ebook, print and audio – is a priority for me this year as the Indian book market – already the sixth largest in the world – transforms into a dual analogue-digital market.
 
The opportunities in India right now, for those playing the long game, are hard to exaggerate.
 
Stake you claim now for the India goldrush to come.
 
Think about the next five years, not the next five weeks.
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For daily news and discussion about the global indie publishing scene join this lively Facebook Group.

 

India – The Race For Local-Language Internet Supremacy Has Begun. Indie Authors, Prepare Now For The Opportunities Ahead.

India e-commerce

There are three major e-commerce players in India right now. Flipkart, Snapdeal and Amazon.

Of those only one – Amazon – is now selling ebooks, but don’t give up on this story yet, because what Snapdeal is doing right now is going to alter the Indian e-commerce landscape.

So far the internet in India has been very much an English-language affair. India may be the second largest English-speaking nation in the world, but English is spoken by a substantial minority of Indians.

And for those that don’t speak, read or write in English, the internet – and especially the field of e-commerce – has been of limited interest.

There are great sites in local languages, of course, and some ebook retailers specialize in local-language titles, but English has been the driving force in internet take-up in the country thus far.

But not for much longer.

As Google’s South Asia VP said earlier this year, the next 100 million internet users will not be in English.

The proliferation of smartphones has made internet access a global phenomenon in a way that was quite impossible even five years ago. Globile (global mobile) has allowed nations to simply skip the desktop era of cable internet access and go straight from no internet to 3G/4G internet pretty much overnight.

In India, the fastest-growing smartphone market, globile is changing lives as internet access becomes available to even the remotest parts of the subcontinent.

But with English a minority language (a mere 150 million speakers) the shift to embrace local languages on the net was always just a matter of time.

That time has come. And Snapdeal is the first of the big Indian e-commerce sites to grasp this nettle.

Snapdeal, generally acknowledged as the second largest player after Flipkart, is rolling out the Snapdeal site not just in English but in Hindi and Telegu with immediate effect, and by end January will have Snapdeal options in nine other regional languages – Gujarati, Tamil, Marathi, Bengali, Kannada, Malayalam, Oriya, Assamese and Punjabi. (LINK)

Flipkart will follow suit in no time at all.

Amazon? Well, this is going to be interesting to watch.

Amazon’s focus is on the middle class niche who largely coincide with the English-speakers, not the whole population. With its limited payment options in a country where over 90% of the population do not have bank cards that’s unlikely to change.

In the Kindle store Amazon currently supports only one local language, and there are just a handful of titles available.

That’s not so important right now, when over 50% of print titles sold in India are in English. But that’s more to do with availability and affordability than reader preference.

As innovative local-language digital players like Rockstand and Dailyhunt are clearly showing, when local language ebooks are made available and affordable, Indian readers are snapping them up.

And now Snapdeal have just opened the door to local-language engagement with the internet in India at a whole new level.

It seems unlikely Snapdeal will be selling ebooks in the foreseeable future, but the idea that the internet in India will remain the preserve of English-speakers is now redundant.

More and more Indians will be coming online looking for local language content, including books and ebooks.

And many – probably most – Indians who do speak English likely do so as a second language learned at school, rather than their family conversational language at home, and will welcome content in their first language.

There are fantastic opportunities here for internationalist indie authors willing to go the extra mile and seek out translations in as many local languages as possible, for ebooks, print, audio and beyond.

By beyond I mean, for example, promo, blogging, social media engagement, etc.

It’s not commercially viable for me to have The International Indie Author blog and FB pages translated into other languages right now, but it’s certainly something I’m looking at for the future. if we want to fully engage with the world we will have to address translations not just of our books but of our wider social media presence.

But let’s focus on books for now.

Earlier this year India leapfrogged the UK to become the second largest English-language book market in the world. It’s now the sixth largest book market on the planet overall.

And it will get much bigger as smartphones make internet access available to literally hundreds of millions of Indians who previously had no way of getting online.

Many will be buying ebooks, and many more will be using their smartphones to buy print books from online stores.

We are going to see a big surge in local language take-up of books, across all formats, over the next five years.

Savvy indies will be positioning themselves now to enjoy the ride.

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For daily news and discussion about the global indie publishing scene join this lively Facebook Group.

 

 

Flipkart Prepares To Shutter Its Ebook Store. Hands Amazon Control Of The India Ebook Market.

The writing has been on the wall for a while now, and the latest move by Smashwords didn’t help. Nor did Amazon’s launch of Kindle Unlimited India at a heavily subsidized price.

This week Flipkart formally announced the company ebook store’s future is under review, and there’s really no reason to expect it to end favourably.

Last month Smashwords withdrew 200,000 titles from Flipkart because “Flipkart determined their systems are not yet capable of supporting the dynamic nature of the Smashwords catalog.”

In plain English, Flipkart is not running a business model based on the interests of indie authors who want to jump in and out of Select at a moment’s notice. Smashwords is.

Barely was that announcement live than Amazon stepped up with the Kindle Unlimited India launch at a price no-one in their right mind could ignore. Almost certainly it saw a dramatic fall in Flipkart ebook downloads.

The thing is, while Flipkart has deep pockets, a multinational like Amazon has deeper still.

When Amazon launched in India a few years ago Flipkart was the undisputed king of online retail, with 80% of the online retail market (all goods, not just ebooks). Fast forward 2015 and Flipkart has just 44%. Snapdeal 32% and Amazon 15%.

Just this month it was announced India now has more people connected to the internet than the USA has people. By end 2017 it is projected India will have a half billion people online.

And while many will be reading ebooks, digital downloads form one very small part of Flipkart’s business.It intends – and needs – to focus elsewhere.

Last month Snapdeal declared its intention to dethrone Flipkart as the king of Indian retail. Flipkart faces an uphill struggle to stay at the top. Meanwhile Amazon has transformed its India game across the board, including ebooks.

Snapdeal doesn’t do ebooks, and while the withdrawal of Flipkart would leave a gap in the supply chain, I can’t see Snapdeal jumping in. They have bigger fish to fry.

A half billion Indians online by end 2017.

No wonder Amazon is throwing money at the India store like there’s no tomorrow. And, unlike in the first year when Amazon totally failed to glocalize, you just have to admire the way they are rising to the challenge now. And Amazon is big enough to play the ebook scene at a loss for the forseeeable future,  while still investing in the bigger picture.

Where does this leave the Indian ebook scene? Heavily balanced in Amazon’s favour.

There is no Apple iBooks store in India, and of course no Nook store. Kobo has a token presence (the partner stores are irrelevant). Google Play is there, and may yet emerge as the main western challenger to the Kindle store. The other western player is the digi-magazine store Magzter, which also sells ebooks.

Among the local players Landmark stopped selling ebooks over a year ago and Infibeam is like a fart in a colander, not knowing which hole to go out of.

There are two significant local players left – both app-based and pandering to the mobile readers. Rockstand and Newshunt.

Both have seen impressive growth and both are worthy challengers to the Kindle store. But they don’t have the deep pockets of Amazon to put up a fight against Kindle India.

Western indie authors can get into Rockstand and Newshunt direct, but it’s a convoluted process. The Indian aggregator Kartindo (LINK) will get you in as part of their paid package. But what we really need is a forward-thinking western aggregator like Italy’s StreetLib (LINK) to set up in India. Not likely in the near future as their focus is clearly on Latin America right now.

That said, Rakuten-owned Kobo could yet surprise us all, make a bid for the Flipkart customer data, and start taking India seriously.

Or even formally partner with Flipkart to handle the Flipkart ebook store, leaving Flipkart to focus on its core business.

But until that happens it looks like an open goal for Amazon in the India ebook market.

For daily news, clues and views on the global ebook scene, join the official Facebook Group The International Indie Author. (LINK)

And The Second Biggest Bookseller In The World After Amazon Is…

DiversifyIn2015

For those of us who are neglecting the India market as a place to find readers, take heed of this latest report which suggests Flipkart is way up there ahead of the likes of Barnes & Noble, Waterstone’s, Fnac,etc. (LINK)

A few caveats.

First off, the world’s second largest book market China is totally omitted from the survey.

Second, the survey is actually about the popularity of a store rather than how many books are sold. And it is the whole store, not just the book store.

So for Amazon and Flipkart we are actually looking at the overall popularity of the Amazon and Flipkart stores as opposed to just the bookstore element.

No surprise that Amazon came top therefore. As to whether or not Flipkart sells more books than Barnes & Noble, the jury is out. This survey shows Flipkart is more popular, but given the population of India, the scale of the Flipkart enterprise, and the trending unpopularity of Barnes & Noble, that’s no surprise either.

But we should be in no doubt Flipkart shifts a lot of books and is by far the biggest bookseller in India. Nieslen estimated their market share at 80% in 2013.

Ebooks? There is no breakdown of ebook sales per se for Amazon India and Flipkart, and ebook take-up is India is still in its infancy, so we are not talking massive numbers. But that will soon change as more publishers in India engage with digital, and Flipkart and Amazon will no doubt fight it out for top place as the country’s leading ebook provider.

Both stores are massive in India, although Flipkart by far the largest, but it has to be noted that since Jeff Bezos started taking India seriously last year Amazon has really begun to close the gap on Flipkart’s dominance. Stats for May indicate Amazon actually had more unique visitors than Flipkart, for the first time.

Of course unique visitors and regular paying customers are two different things, but it’s clear that, after a couple of years of seemingly going nowhere, Amazon has really got its act together in India, and is now a major player.

How much that will be reflected in book and ebook market share remains to be seen.

But one thing is clear. Indians love to read, and the Indian reading market, already massive, is growing by the day as more and more of the population engage with the e-commerce world thanks to the proliferation of smartphones and tablets and improvements in internet availability across the subcontinent.

The English-speaking book market in India is impressive. The local-language book market likely to be even more so.

Anyone not thinking about translations into the myriad Indian languages is going to miss out big time in the coming years.

So will those who do not engage fully with the myriad retailers operating in India.

Apple and Nook aren’t there, but Amazon and Flipkart are up against Google Play and Kobo, as well as local players ranging from the small (but very useful for local POD) Pothi to the two big mobile-only vendors Newshunt and Rockstand. There are others. Infibeam perhaps the most interesting as it prepares for its IPO (LINK) , and with a fresh influx of cash it may get back on track with its own ebook store.

India is one of the most exciting prospects on the planet right now for indie authors, and with Bookbub now sending out a newsletter with buy buttons for some of the key Indian stores, including Amazon and Flipkart (but sadly not Newshunt or Rockstand), we can expect to see a handful of western indies do very well here over the next twelve months.

If you fancy your chances check out the Bookbub blog which has a post on how best to discount ebooks in India. (LINK)

Don’t just be a witness to the global New Renaissance. Be part of it.

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Good News From Amazon India. Elephants Walk To Mars In Sarees And Stilettos.

Go Global In 2014

With Amazon still reeling from investor reaction to the Q3 Financial Report we thought we would break with tradition and run a positive story on Amazon for a change.

Or at least, one that looks positive if you don’t scrutinize the numbers too closely.

Amazon, it seems, has just had its best month ever in India. Unprecedented sales and traffic, in fact!

While we western indies all gear up for our online festive season next month, a big festive season is just winding down in India. A reminder that if we want to promote and sell globally we need a global calendar to keep up.

Amazon of course don’t do real figures, but they can always be relied upon to let us know when things are going well. And it seems things are going well in India, despite the behind the scenes tax and government issues still unresolved. No link to those this time round. Let’s keep things positive.

Let’s rejoice in the fact that Amazon are claiming the Amazon India online store had, between September 21 and October 21, fifteen times more visitors than the Taj Mahal gets in a year.

Given the Taj Mahal gets upwards of 7 million visitors annually that means Amazon are claiming to have had over 100 million visitors to the Amazon India store between Sept 21 – Oct. 21.

Hmmm…

India is a big country with a ginormous population, but only a fraction of them are on the internet at all, and it’s generally accepted that rival Store Flipkart has 80% of the Indian e-commerce market.

One hundred million hits in a month? Who’s to say. One thing’s for sure: they weren’t buying our ebooks!

But Amazon claims they were buying real books. In fact they claim that if all the books bought on Amazon India last month were stacked up they would be higher than Mt.Everest. By our calculation, assuming an average of 2cm width per title, that means Amazon sold around 440,000 books on Amazon India last month.

Amazon also claims its total shipments last month by weight equalled 800 adult elephants. They didn’t specify male (average 3,500kg) or female (average 2,500kg) elephants but whatever gender, that’s a lot of weight to haul around.

But was it ten million earrings at a massive profit for each pair, or was it one stranded battleship (two previous careful owners) that was sold at a loss? The numbers sound good, but tell us nothing.

Amazon also sold shoes. Lots of shoes. Enough, apparently, to walk to Mars and back without running out. Hmmm. It doesn’t get much more meaningless than that.

At its closest Mars is 55 million kilometres away. At its furthest Mars is 400 million kilometres away. Mean average is 225 million kilometres. That’s about 140 million miles in real money.

Given there’s no friction in space one could theoretically walk to Mars in bare feet and not even sustain a blister, so we’re not sure what Amazon’s numbers tell us other than they had a good month selling shoes.

But Amazon brought us back down to Earth with saree sales numbers. Apparently Amazon India sold enough sarees last month to “engulf the cricket pitches of all ODI (one-day international) grounds across the globe 20 times over”.

Did Amazon actually make any profit with all this activity? Curiously they didn’t mention that.

But let’s keep things positive. If these figures are even remotely accurate then Amazon is making its mark on the subcontinent and is grabbing a growing share of the burgeoning Indian e-commerce market.

Every visitor to the Amazon store will be doing so on a device that could have your ebooks on from the Kindle India store.

And of course there are lots of other ebook retailers serving India alongside the Amazon.

Ignore the India market at your peril.

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India’s Fast-Growing Ebook Market Is About To Become A Lot More Lucrative For Indie Authors – If You Are On Google Play.

Go Global In 2014
The Kindle India store is, unquestionably, the easiest option for indie authors to gain access to the burgeoning Indian ebook market. But it’s by no means the most effective.

As reported before, Amazon does not allow local currency payments on many items, and does not accept local payment methods for most.

India may have just put a spacecraft in orbit around Mars, and it may have a bigger smartphone market than the USA, but it is also a land of desperate poverty, where most of the population have no access to the credit cards Amazon expects to be paid by.

Countless millions of Indian consumers now have a device in their hand that could have your ebooks on, and yes, the Kindle app is free, but if you cannot pay for the ebooks in the Kindle store, why bother? Go to another retailer, like Flipkart, that understands customers living in India and buying products in India want to pay in Indian currency with local Indian payment methods.

Flipkart is currently the e-commerce titan of India, with an estimated eighty percent market share. It recently raised $1bn in a funding round to expand further.

Enter Amazon.

Days before the Flipkart funding was announced Jeff Bezos had laid out Amazon’s plans for India, with investment in new warehouses, etc.  Then Flipkart announced the new $1bn extra funding.

Not to be outdone, Jeff Bezos was there the next day saying he would be investing $2bn. No mention of this days earlier in the announcement on Amazon India. Bezos just magicked two billion dollars out of the air to play one-upmanship with a rival store.

Which is fine if the company has money to throw around. But this is a company that, on its own guidance, is about to report a half billion dollar loss for just one quarter!

No surprise then that just weeks after Bezos publicly stated he would throw another $2bn into India Amazon went cap in hand to Bank of America to borrow, wait for it… $2bn. Two billion to add to the already heavy debt Amazon is carrying. (LINK)

No surprise either that the news was snuck out after business hours on a Friday…

But let’s get back to India. Because weeks after saying he would splash the cash on the subcontinent Bezos hit another hurdle. Actually, make that an obstacle course.

India’s authorities clamped down first on western companies (not just Amazon, let’s be clear, but also Google, eBay, etc) not using local payment processing and to stop them demanding payment in US dollars.

This amid a wider investigation into Amazon’s conduct in the country, amid widespread reports that Amazon wasn’t playing by the rules.

Then as September drew to a close the Indian authorities stepped up their investigation. The Enforcement Directorate has issued orders to over 100 Indian business telling them to stop using Amazon to store goods in Amazon Fulfillment warehouses. (LINK)

In response Amazon warned it may now have to close some warehouses on the sub-continent, but casually explained it was all India’s fault.

“We understand this to be a case where the laws have not kept pace with the new-age online business models,” Amazon said.

So that’s alright then. Who cares about a country’s laws when they conflict with Amazon’s business model…

Google, on the other hand, has responded to the Indian authorities’ concerns in typical fashion: glocalization.

It’s not signed, sealed and delivered yet but Google is about to ink a deal with India’s biggest telecom operator Aircel to allow carrier billing for its products bought through the Google Play India store. (LINK)

For those unfamiliar carrier billing is simply where anything you buy online is added to your phone bill or deducted from your phone credit. No need to have a bank account or credit/debit card, or to share those details with the seller.

It’s a bitter irony that Amazon should be criticizing India for failing to keep up with new-age on-line business models when Amazon is still stuck in the last century when it comes to payments options on its own sites.

America is way behind the rest of the developed world in still using credit cards as the norm, and even at home that poses a problem for online retailers as many millions of Americans are without banking facilities thanks to credit checks and similar conditions. Wal-Mart has just this past week stepped in to help solve that problem with its new Go Bank checking account.

But for the less-developed nations the ability to pay by credit/debit card is a luxury even fewer enjoy. Which seriously hinders the development of on-line retail around the globe.

Vietnam, for example, sees just 1% of financial transactions made by card. In the Philippines it’s just 5%. 12% in Thailand. 37% in Singapore. Not that indies in KDP Select need be concerned, as Amazon blocks downloads to these countries anyway. No, that’s not anti-Amazon, simply fact. Google Play is in all of them. Not pro-Google. Simply fact.

Even for key nations like the BRIC countries, which are the current focus of the western retailers’ attention, it’s not good news for those stores that can’t be bothered to glocalize.

Amazon is rumoured to be edging closer to a Kindle Russia store. Great news if true, but less than 40% of Russia’s urban young people use credit cards. For the general population the figure is negligible.

Amazon will find in Russia that, just as in India and Brazil, by refusing to glocalize it will hinder, not encourage, consumer interest.

In India credit card penetration is just 2%. Give the size of the population that’s no small number of people, but it effectively excludes 98% of the population from buying from the Amazon India store at all. And for those who do have cards they are likely to get lumbered with extra costs from currency exchange fees, etc, because many purchases can still only be made in US dollars.

The carrier-billing deal between Google Play and Airtel will mean every one of Airtel’s 40 million data users with a smartphone will be able to access anything in the Google Play store and have the payment taken from their cash-purchased Airtel credit top-up.

Easier than One-Click. Especially since Amazon doesn’t offer One-Click in India.

Google Play currently offers carrier-billing in 26 countries – almost half of the Google Play stores – and is actively working to reach more.

That said, Google Play is late to the game in India. We’ve mentioned before that the real ebook players in India are likely to be the upstart start-ups focussed on m-commerce, like Newshunt (LINK) and Rockstand (LINK).

Neither of these stores are currently easily accessible to indies, but keep an eye on them and jump in as soon as it happens. Or stick around and we’ll take a look at some “back door” options in future posts.

Newshunt, which of course offers carrier-billing for its readers in India, has seen over 4 million ebooks downloaded in the past six months, and almost all paid for with carrier-billing.

Given the Indian ebook market is barely off the starting grid, and there is so much competition, that’s an impressive initial foray, and a sure sign of things to come.

Not to mention a sure sign of which companies are in the running down the road.

Microsoft, for instance, is planning on offering carrier-billing in India in the near future for its Windows phone app.

Looking beyond the region briefly, Microsoft also has carrier-billing arrangements in the Middle East, and Google Play just introduced carrier-billing in the United Arab Emirates. As we’ve said before, Google Play is the only likely candidate for an easy-access western-retailer-operated Middle East ebook store. (LINK) Hopefully we’ll see that in 2015.

Rockstand too offers carrier-billing. More on both Newshunt and Rockstand below.

Amazon? Amazon famously keeps all its payments in-house, and while there’s little hope Amazon will offer carrier-billing in India any time soon, there are indications that the Amazon wall is, if not quite crumbling, then having a few gates reluctantly put in.

Offering carrier-billing for the Fire phone was unavoidable, of course, but lately Amazon has been very quietly signing up to a carrier-billing scheme in Germany of all places.

Amazon has joined with Bango and Deutschland Telefonica’s O2 mobile network to allow German buyers to pay for Amazon apps through their phone bill instead of paying Amazon direct. (LINK)

In fact Amazon initiated this over three years ago, but only now has taken the plunge, slowly facing up to the reality that carrier-billing is the only way the company can hope to maintain, let alone grow, market share in overseas markets.

The cost to Amazon is of course two-fold. First, revenue sharing with another party (but don’t worry, they’ll just tighten the screws on the content-providers all the more to make that up), and second because they won’t have the customer data. For these reasons carrier-billing will always be a last resort.

Across Europe, according to Jupiter Research, there are some 280 million adults who have no debit or credit card to pay on-line. (LINK) This is by no means just a Third World problem.

Amazon will have no choice soon but to look at carrier-billing in India, Brazil and Mexico, but at this stage it doesn’t appear to be on the agenda, leaving an open goal for Google Play among the western ebook retailers.

For the record, there are no Apple, ‘txtr or Nook ebook stores in India.

Kobo is there via W H Smith India (not that we indies are invited, so forget that) and Crossword (but only as a link to the Kobo localized store).

OverDrive are represented via Landmark (also the country’s biggest b&m book chain) and Infibeam.

Other options include Magzter and Pothi, and the aforementioned Flipkart, Newshunt and Rockstand, as well as a growing number of niche players.

We identified Newshunt and Rockstand above as ones to watch, so let’s end on those.

Newshunt is a mobile-only ebooks store that is run by Ver Se.

Newshunt has seen 50 million app installations, has 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. (LINK)

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.

By 2020…

Make no mistake, India is a place all indie authors should have their focus on. And none should close their eyes to what a deal with a local publisher could bring to the table in terms of access and translation to India’s local languages (both Newshunt and Rockstand specialize in offering ebooks in multiple Indian languages).

As well as carrier-billing Newshunt also allows customers in India to pay using its proprietary payment option iPayy. No, nothing to do with Apple, because that’s not a typo.

What is it is one more way in which local ebook retailers on the subcontinent have the edge over the western giants trying to barge their way in, and one more reason why western indie authors wanting to share in the action need to look beyond the convenience of their home-grown distribution options.

Rockstand is owned by Handygo Technologies, and needless to say it offers carrier-billing – via three Indian telcos: Airtel, Vodafone India and Idea Cellular.

As with Newshunt, getting in isn’t easy for indies.

In March 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.  (LINK) We’ve thus far been unable to determine if indie titles in Ingram are actually available among the 2 million ebook titles on Rockstand, but there’s no reason to suppose they are not.

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 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 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 – 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 for all the reasons above it is not going to give you much reach in that country, and none at all across much of the globe.

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.

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