I’ve mentioned before that Amazon is expanding their international presence significantly lately, especially with regard to the Kindle line. No longer must an avid reader live in an anglophone country to take advantage of the best selling eReader to date. The biggest untapped market for anybody looking to sell digital content, however, is probably China. So far Amazon has been slowly seeping into the country in general and now there are indications that the addition of a Kindle Store may be on the way.
There are a few things that stand in the way of making this work. The most important of these is government intervention. Marc Onetto, Senior VP of Amazon’s Worldwide Operations, is said to have been in active negotiations with Chinese officials over how this would work. While no word has been released by Amazon about where they stand at the moment, the Chinese Government has a tendency to take an active part in censoring information that could make things complicated. It is already often problematic to obtain rights to sell digital content globally even without this sort of oversight, but Amazon clearly has plans.
China has proven to be one of the, if not the, fastest growing market for Amazon in the past year, with revenue up over 80 percent. They have already got ten distribution hubs set up and warehouse space adding up to about a third of what their Unites States enterprises boast. All that despite only recently rebranding the site from “Joyo Amazon”, inherited from the company Amazon bought to gain traction in the first place, to Amazon.cn.
Chances are good that these numbers will continue going up for some time, especially if Kindles do start shipping. There is no word just yet on whether Amazon will be creating relationships with local retailers or just selling the devices online, but either way enthusiasm for the product is likely to be high.
If they get this up and running along when seems to be the intended schedule, this would be the first Asian country to have their own localized Kindle and Kindle Content. It seems inevitable that it would be a somewhat crippled version of the Kindle Store, though. If nothing else, China’s censorship policies would make it difficult to truly enable the Kindle Direct Publishing platform that gives Amazon a unique edge over the competition in other markets. On top of this, Onetto did say that they had no intention of forming any sort of connection to existing content providers in this market, indicating that there is going to be some problem with stocking the electronic shelves, so to speak. How they will get around these difficulties is anybody’s guess.
If the Kindle gets government approval, it is likely to make a big splash. There is a lot of demand out there for such a product. Don’t expect to be seeing something like the Kindle Fire any time soon, but now that the Kindle 4 and Kindle Touch have opened the door to localized interfaces this will be a big step moving forward.