Flipkart, one of the biggest players in India’s booming e-commerce market, has conceded that there is one part of online retail it can’t win, and stopped selling e-books. Users who have already made purchases can still access their libraries on the Flipkart e-book app or through Kobo, the e-book platform owned by Rakuten.
According to the Alliance of Independent Authors, Flipkart’s decision to pull out of the e-book business means that Amazon Kindle is now the largest online reading platform in India (though Flipkart is obviously trying not to give Amazon, one of its biggest rivals, more business, as its choice of Kobo shows).
Amazon launched Kindle in India in 2012, a year before its main e-commerce site opened for business there. All e-book publishers in India are facing big hurdles. The country’s smartphone penetration rate is growing quickly, but still low; data is slow and expensive; and many people don’t have credit cards. Physical books are not only still easier to buy, but unlike in the U.S., many cost the same or are slightly cheaper than their digital counterparts.
In fact, Flipkart cited the continuing popularity of paper books as one of the reasons it canceled its online reading service. In a statement it said:
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“The Indian book market is overwhelmingly dominated by physical books and this is a market that is growing at a fast clip. Flipkart will continue to be a leading player in the overall books market in India. In its overall strategy for books, Flipkart does not see the e-Books service as a strategic fit and hence the decision of transitioning the e-Books service to Kobo.”