Amazon releases Kindle for Android

Phandroid report on the release of Kindle for Android in the Android Market today. Their Kindle/Android article has a screenshot that shows –

  1. Less than 50 downloads – so it’s literally just been introduced.
  2. Amazon advertising 620,000 books in the Kindle Store.
  3. A mention of thousands of free books. Why not mention the 20,000 figure?
  4. Synchronization of last page read and annotations with other Kindle Apps and with Kindles.
  5. Option to change text size, color mode, and brightness.

At Amazon there’s a page detailing Kindle for Android and there are lots of decent features –

  • Read in portrait or landscape mode.
  • Tap on either side of the screen or flick to turn pages.
  • Buy a book from the Kindle Store optimized for your Android phone and get it auto-delivered wirelessly.
  • Search and browse more than 600,000 books, including 109 of 110 New York Times bestsellers. If you are a non-U.S. customer, book availability may vary.
  • Kindle for Android requires Android OS 1.6 or later. It’s available in a lot of countries (46 to be precise) –

    Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, United Kingdom, United States

    Earlier is Better

    The Samsung Vibrant’s marketing material had confirmed that Kindle for Android would definitely be out by July 21st. Amazon beat that date handily by releasing today.

    What happens to Android powered eReaders?

    A rather interesting question. What happens if Nook or another of the numerous Android based eReaders open up to Android Apps?

    Suddenly, every single Nook owner would be able to use Kindle for Android and B&N would be at risk of losing the stream of ebook revenue that is allowing them to sell Nooks at the cut-throat price of $199. That’s the danger of all these open Operating Systems – Someone else controls the OS and you can have your entire ecosystem pulled out from beneath your feet.

    There’s no way B&N are going to allow Kindle for Android on Nook and this might mean they open up the Nook to only a limited portion of the Android Market or start their own App Store.

    Kindle at Airports today, Kindle for Android July 21st

    Two big additions to the Kindle ecosystem.

    Kindle at Airports starting today

    HMS Host have put out a news release talking about an exclusive deal with Amazon to sell Kindles at Airports. Pretty important news.

    NewsBlaze has the Peess Release talking about Kindles arriving at Airports

     “The Kindle’s readable ‘easy on the eyes’ screen and vast selection of titles are sure to delight travelers planning short or long trips.”Kindles sold through HMSHost’s stores are pre-charged and ready to read.

    Ryzner added, “We’re making the day better for travelers who will find it convenient to download a book before boarding a flight, on the flight prior to take-off, when making a connection, or even on the way home from a trip.”

    The stores that will be retailing Kindles are two chains owned by HMS Host – Simply Books and Authors Bookstores. They are present at 100 airports worldwide including the 20 busiest North American airports – The list includes airports in Atlanta, Charlotte, Orange County, Dallas, Salt Lake City, San Diego, Houston, San Jose, Tampa, Miami, and Minneapolis-St. Paul.  

    It’s a pretty important step for Amazon. The Kindle is particularly well-suited to travellers and having it available for purchase at various airports at the new $189 price is going to lead to a ton of Kindle sales.

    Kindle for Android arrives on or before July 21st

    Android Spin talk about the Samsung Vibrant being released on July 21st and there’s an interesting little snippet –

      The “Vibrant” is set to launch with some great things under the hood. Amazon’s Kindle app, The Sims 3, MobiTV and James Cameron’s “Avatar” just to name a few, are to come preloaded onto the device.

    If they’re advertising it with Kindle for Android (which supposedly works on the Vibrant’s Android 2.1) you have to imagine K for A will be out by then. It’s quite interesting that the Vibrant will be coming to all major US carriers. It also has a Super AMOLED display and a text entry method called Swype which is really cool – you literally swipe through the letters of a word quickly and the word shows up.

    The addition of Kindle for Android is interesting. It’ll probably not be long before it’s hacked and people start using it to read pirated ebooks.

    Potential for Kindle for mobile in China, India, Russia, Brazil

    Amazon have released Kindle for iPhone and Kindle for Blackberry and, if the Dell Streak flyers are accurate, are set to release Kindle for Android. Have been pretty critical of the sales potential for ebooks via these channels because they don’t compare well with dedicated eReaders – May or may not be under-estimating their potential.

    Where I’m definitely wrong in terms of sales potential of ebooks via mobile is China, India, Russia, and Brazil. Mostly for two reasons –

    1. Most mobile owners in these countries can’t afford a dedicated eReader and might not be able to for a long time (2 to 4 years or more). This was pointed out in a comment (thanks!).
    2. The sheer numbers of mobile subscribers means that even single digit ebook reading adoption rates would translate to huge ebook sales. 

    The number of mobile subscribers in these countries is highlighted by a recent post titled ‘Staggering mobile stats in Brazil, Russia, India, China’ at eMarketer.

    There really are Ridiculous numbers of mobile phone subscribers in China, India, Russia, and Brazil

    Here are the stunning numbers for mobile subscribers in BRIC –

    1. China – 747 million. It’s projected to grow to 1.3 billion subscribers by 2014.
    2. India – 525 million. Projected to grow to 853 million by 2014.
    3. Russia – 174 million. Projected to grow to 200 million by 2014.
    4. Brazil – 174 million. Projected to grow to 212 million by 2014.

    Even 1% of that number (16.4 million) would be a tantalizing market. However, we can do better than just randomly guess at the market for books in these countries.

    What are the sizes of the book market in China, India, Brazil, and Russia?

    The numbers are really enticing when you dig a little deeper –

    1. Beijing Review estimated China’s Book Market at $5.6 billion a year in 2004.
    2. Russia’s book market is estimated at $3 billion a year in 2008 (courtesy the Frankfurt Book Fair website).
    3. The Bookseller estimates Brazil’s book market at $1.7 billion a year in 2008.
    4. India’s book market is estimated to be at $1.5 billion a year (courtesy Prayatna, figures are for 2005). The English segment is estimated at between 20% and 45%.

    That adds up to $11.8 billion a year. Factor in the growth in India and China since 2004/2005 and these markets probably total up to about half the size of the US market ($25 billion a year).

    Another point worth considering is that there’s a significant English-speaking population (courtesy Wikipedia’s list of countries by English-speaking population, the usual disclaimers apply) –

    1. India has the second largest population of English speakers in the world (232 million). 
    2. Even China and Russia have sizeable English-speaking populations – 10 million or so for China (alternate sources claim a 20 million figure) and 7 million or so for Russia.

    The percentage of the population that understands English has been growing in both India and China and allegedly so has the reading population.

    We have huge populations and huge book reading populations

    The intersection between the book reading population and the cellphone owning population in BRIC ought to be reasonably high – Factors like living in cities, being middle class or better off, and knowing English probably increase the probability of both owning a cellphone and of reading books. 

    It would be reasonable to estimate that at least the same percentage of mobile phone subscribers are book readers as is the case in the general population. Given that over 50% of the populations of BRIC have mobile phone subscriptions we ought to be able to reach 50% of the book reading populations in these countries.

    If you don’t like that random estimate just cut it to 25%. It still leaves us with users who spend $2.95 billion a year on books.

    Will all these mobile phone subscribers read books? Will they use Kindle for mobile?

    We’ve already established (by means of totally random guesswork 😉 ) that 25% to 50% of the book reading populations of the BRIC countries are available as potential mobile ebook customers.

    Which brings us to some questions (with answers/guesses included) –

    1. Will users actually read on phones? Perhaps. People in Japan love to do it though they probably have very advanced phones.
    2. Will users pay for books? This is a good question. It’s possible that wider availability of titles and reasonable prices encourage more book purchases. It’s also possible that book piracy takes off.
    3. Will users use Kindle for Mobile? Given that the Kindle Store has lower prices than anywhere else (and that BRIC will be price conscious) it’s likely that they will choose Kindle for Mobile if/when they pay for ebooks.

    This is the sobering part. We have a potential $11.8 billion market and 25% of that ($2.95 billion a year, a conservative estimate) is available via their mobile phones. However, there are several barriers to getting them to read on the phone and to pay for ebooks. We might only be able to capture 10% of the market.

    How could Amazon leverage Kindle for Mobile in BRIC?

    There are a few big weaknesses of the way English books and books in general are sold in these countries –

    1. Unrealistic prices for books. For example – Books in India are priced close to their prices in the US.  
    2. Low range and poor availability. A lot of books never reach BRIC countries and when they do the numbers are limited. All the transportation and storage issues affect availability (and probably the prices too). 
    3. Not enough targeting of non-English speakers. If you have an ebook store you can sell books in other languages and add ‘shelves’ at minimal cost.
    4. Low number of bookstores. Plus they’re difficult to get to and they’re not open 24/7. If you’ve driven in China or India you’ll realize that every trip to a bookstore is an adventure (that promises to be of the abruptly ending kind).
    5. Lack of Infrastructure – The publishing and bookstore model is built for countries with very good infrastructure (roads and transport) and where lots of people have their own cars or other reliable means of transport. It breaks down in most parts of the BRIC countries.
    6. Very high inefficiencies. Consider books that aren’t published in a BRIC country – They have to be shipped all the way, stored, displayed and sold. With mobile books it’s just a mobile download.

    For a company like Amazon that loves kaizen and quality and improving things this is a fantasy. There’s almost no way to get into mobile books in BRIC and avoid greatly improving the status quo.

    The question on potential market size is interlinked with the question of whether a good range of books is available at good prices and conveniently. The answer to the latter is most definitely not and it’s hard to answer the first.

    The mobile ebook market in BRIC is a mystery

    While we can say that there’s a huge potential market worth billions of dollars and that the current options and choices in BRIC (for reading on mobiles and reading in general) are terrible it’s hard to say what the reaction would be to a very good offering.

    It’s the type of opportunity that might turn out to be colossal or might end up nowhere.

    The good thing is that by selling ebooks and by targeting the major platforms (Nokia etc.) Amazon or another company could explore the BRIC market cheaply and quickly. It wouldn’t cost much to figure out whether the BRIC mobile ebook market is worth pursuing.