Market potential for eBook sales in India is immense but are Indians embracing eBooks and how is this influenced?
As at June 2011 a reported 850 million Indians were mobile phone subscribers with a projected rise to 1 billion by 2013 which will rival China.
Reports suggest that approximately 100 million Indians were internet users at the beginning of 2011 which represents a mere 8% of the population but still placed India 3rd in the world league table of users but with one of the world`s lowest internet penetration rates. At June 2011 less than 1% of the population were Broadband users.
Clearly, on a simplistic numbers analysis, the potential for manifold growth of Indian internet consumers is vast but how does this sit with the evolving e-book market?
To date, the volume of Indian eBook purchases has been steady and developing rather than explosive, in line with many other countries who have been slow starters. There have been limiting factors such as prohibitive cost and inaccessibility to e-reading devices, the lack of a broadband service with adequate internet speeds to service fast download and scarcity of published eBook titles due to squabbles between authors and other vested parties and publishers slow to convert their catalogues to the digital version. However, these market dynamics are changing as competition intensifies and more platforms to download and read eBooks are introduced. PC tablets, smartphones and a variety of specialist e-readers are bringing consumer choice to market which can only benefit pricing. As India rolls out its broadband program, faster internet speeds are being integrated. A much wider selection of eBook titles will come to market as eBook publishing houses,authors,agents and retailers reach agreement on the financial fundamentals.
Indians generally have become conversant with developing e-commerce in the form of e-newsletters,e-marketing,e-newspapers and aspects of e-learning. The concept of an eBook presents a different dilemma as it is a personal choice reading medium which does not offer the physical `feel` of a paperback book and, to some, will sit uncomfortably with their traditional reading habits and rationale. Some will be reticent to change and others will embrace. In many respects the eBook revolution mirrors that of the music industry a few years back when it would have been unthinkable to consider that downloading a song or album to an mp3 player could essentially replace the music CD.Could the eBook replace the paperback?
If we examine a sector of the current market say Hindi eBooks you will find a wide range of subject matter both in English and the native Hindi language word covering categories such as Hinduism for children, The Holy books of Hinduism, Hindi early stage learning eBooks for children and a multitude of Hindi verses, poems and scriptures. Educational eBooks download is a particular favorite where medical, accounting and engineering eBooks are popular. The entertainment and leisure industry is also well represented with eBook titles covering Bollywood, cricket, autobiographies, an array of Indian cooking recipe eBooks, fiction and non-fiction, to name just a few.
The current `eBook India` market is being driven by young Indian students, professionals and parents, who recognise that modernity in the shape of digital reading for learning,education and entertainment can co-exist or enhance traditional methods without compromising cultural values, beliefs and faiths. Their recognition of the eBook age lies not only in their thirst for keeping pace with technological advancement (and parity with their children’s development) but also that e-reading passes the practicality and immediacy test-crucial for today’s fast paced world. They see value in the merits of a portable lightweight reading device that can store a whole library of books and can be topped up with a download in minutes. These groups are discerning and driven and will continue to be the catalyst for growth in the eBook market.
Currently the US and UK markets lead the way. Amazon.com reports that the US business has sold 3 times as many eBooks in 2011 as the same period in 2010 and that eBooks are now outselling paper and hard backs combined. Since April 2011, Amazon.co.uk reports that for every 100 hard backs it sells 240 eBooks.
As the ingredients fall into place for the Indian eBook market, the expectation is of rapid consumer growth and whilst there will always be a place for traditional means, digital advancement is unrelenting and all absorbing.