It’s been a month since Kindle Paperwhite and Kindle Fire HD finally landed in China. The Paperwhite does have some localized features that Chinese users can share excerpts to Sina Weibo, the prevailing micro-blogging service in China, choose from three Chinese fonts or use the built-in Chinese-to-Chinese and English-to-Chinese dictionaries.
But Kindle in general isn’t well-received for 1) poor quality of Chinese Kindle books and 2) Kindle is too late to compete against local players.
As an avid e-book supporter, I had had a Kindle 2 international version and a third generation Kindle, or Kindle Keyboard. Both screens were broken. I never bought another Kindle device again as accessing Kindle books became available on Android, iOS, the Web and PC later.
A number of people in China bought Kindle readers back then too. To my surprise, so many of them didn’t buy it for Kindle books but for reading text files in Chinese. To help Chinese characters well-presented on Kindle, Duokan — currently an e-publishing platform — developed an alternative system for users to download.
Both people like me who bought English books and those who just used Kindle for reading Chinese wished that Kindle would come to China so that we could buy Chinese books there, just like we bought print books, in both Chinese and English, from Amazon China, formerly Joyo.cn before it was acquired by Amazon.
But when Kindle finally arrived it’s hard for me to think of any advantage the Kindle Paperwhite has in China market. As to Kindle Fire HD, it works the same with all apps in my devices.
We wrote a lot (here and here) about how e-publishing in China isn’t just uploading digital text files onto a website and introducing a digital payment solution. Very few of Chinese publishers can provide properly edited digital files to third-party e-publishing platforms. Half of the staff at Duokan are professional editors that have been editing texts all day long. That’s one of the reasons why it had only launched four thousand books one year after its inception.
There are more than 40 thousand books on Chinese Kindle book store. But Chinese Kindle books have been found of poor quality since the Kindle store was launched. Some users complain that the quality of some Kindle books is inferior to pirated e-books, with the latter being for free.
It’s unknown whether Amazon China will hire editors to re-do the e-book files too — we once heard the company offered to share 5% more of sales to encourage publishing organizations to do so. But other local players are far ahead. Videos or other multi-media content are included in some books. Tangcha re-designs every book it publishes and use special fonts. Duokan is developing a social sharing service before Amazon would like to introduce Goodreads to China. The China’s Goodreads, Douban, has already launched an e-publishing platform and are publishing books including those wrote by its users. Almost every local e-publisher is capable of signing exclusive deals for certain books.
Some Chinese players run the e-book business in the same way with Amazon’s. Dangdang, the online retailer who started with selling print books online, launched an e-book store with 100 thousand titles and a e-reader, Doucan. Neither the large number of books nor the e-ink reader impressed Chinese users. Is Kindle Paperwhite way more superior than the local ones? Here are some fans who really love Kindle devices, but I guess a majority of the rest can hardly tell the difference and would rather buy one out of the cheaper ones.
Duokan said they were always preparing for making an e-reader. Shanda Geak, which built an e-reader for its original literature website long time ago, will launch a revamped one soon. Both Xiaomi, Duokan’s parent company, and Geak are making a variety of digital devices and know what prices are appealing to Chinese users.
I’ll still love Kindle, but will only for buying and reading English books.