The Kindle as Tiny Pony: eBooks in India

November 19, 2010


There it is, just sitting on a shelf, in a little electronics store in the corner of Khan Market, in New Delhi. Like it’s a totally normal thing. An ebook reader. In a shop. In India.

It’s only a little over four years since I wrote Birth pangs of a new literature. Publishing then didn’t believe in eBooks (or a number of other things mentioned therein, like Amazon becoming a publisher, but there you go.)

Four years. And there’s an ereader in a shop in a market in New Delhi.

Which is not to make any sort of point about India. But following my last post about the book industry in India, what is the state of ebooks in India?

India doesn’t have the Kindle officially, yet, or a local Amazon store. But it does have the Wink reader, a home-grown alternative and proud of it. And there are ereader-capable tablets like the Dell Streak and another Indian product, the Android-based OlivePad.

And there’s a big Indian ebookstore startup too: FlipKart, which is doing well apparently, offering 24hr delivery and 30% discounts.

eBooks haven’t taken off yet, by any means. But they’re definitely coming, and India’s just skipping the whole will-they-won’t-they stage the rest of us have been in for the last few years, which is refreshing.

It will be interesting what form ebooks in India take: those available right now are almost entirely imports. Here’s one in Malayalam, although I’m not sure how that works (those might be flat images).

An intriguing possibility: a friend suggested that books in other languages and scripts (like Malayalam) might keep the language and lose the script. Lots of people in India making the transfer to English still speak their local language at home, but they or their kids are losing the script. So transliteration might be a big thing. Possibilities.

There’s a Kindle in the market in Delhi.

(If you didn’t get the reference, you haven’t been keeping up with the links. Go read Frank Chimero’s excellent There is a Horse in the Apple Store.)

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