The Brazilian market has not seen an entry from Amazon so far, but that looks like it is about to change. It seems that the Kindle will be launched in Brazil by the holiday season, along with a store that they hope to full with at least 10,000 titles. Oddly, in what I believe is the only instance of such a thing happening so far, there will be no other Amazon services entering the market at the same time. That means that for the time being the eBook store will have to stand on its own.
While a full retail store is definitely in plans for Brazil, at the moment there are apparently too many potential dangers in the notoriously complex commercial markets there. By going entirely digital, many of the shortcomings in infrastructure and tax codes can be somewhat sidestepped. It’s interesting timing given the fact that Brazil’s consumer growth seems to be trailing off after a decade of impressive growth, but Amazon is far from the only company interested in cashing in on Latin America’s most prosperous economy.
The motivation behind this move is Amazon’s expectation that the Kindle could quickly come to dominate the eBook market. Apparently some research has indicated that a fairly large number of Brazilian readers already own imported eReaders, including the Kindle, and go out of their way to purchase and download books through stores that are not technically open to the country at this time. By moving the Kindle Store in, Amazon expects to immediately grab as much as 90% of the country’s eBook sales. The same source that released this information also mentioned that Amazon is hoping to expand eBook sales from 0.5% of the Brazilian publishing market to 15% within the first year of operations.
We can expect the basic Kindle model to be the first thing released through the new store. It will likely be selling for approximately 500 reais, equivalent to $239, which is obviously higher than many other markets are seeing but still cheaper than the competition currently available in Brazil. Naturally prices will drop as competition strengthens, but there has been some indication that even this high price is being subsidized by Amazon thanks to the added expense of doing business in this area.
There are already contracts in place with around 30 publishers as Amazon gets ready for the release. There is also word that there are still ongoing talks with several that are not included in that list. One publisher said that the current plan is to offer titles at 70% of their paperback price, allowing for a profit margin of 40-50%. That would not translate to much revenue for the wholesalers, in this case publishers, but they are still interested in signing up for the platform as a means to expand interest in their books.
This will probably end up being the slowest expansion that Amazon has undertaken to date. Entering into the Brazilian economy will be rather unpleasant for them and clearly they are aware of that. By leading with the Kindle not only will they avoid some of the headaches associated with local shipping and distribution of assorted retail products, they will also be putting the best foot forward by providing interested customers with one of the best products in production today for reading. It seems to be a smart choice.
Amazon recently announced that they are now interested in developer submissions of Android apps for the international expansion of the Amazon Appstore for Android. Those who are interested can now submit via the Amazon Mobile App Distribution Portal in order to be ready for the expansion. This summer the Appstore is expanding to the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy, and Spain. Beyond that there are apparently plans for more, but even a handful of new markets should generate a big surge in popularity for the Appstore in general and the Kindle Fire in particular.
The Kindle Fire has to be what this is all about, of course. We are expecting the next iterations of the Kindle line, both tablet and eReader, before the summer is out. Although their first Android tablet has started to lose some of its initial popularity, it is clear that Amazon has a great deal invested in the idea of mobile devices integrated into their media distribution system.
Because of its integration, however, selling the Kindle Fire outside the US has seemed problematic at best. Amazon has a lot going for them, but media rights need to be established in any country the company chooses to support. That means not just books as with the Kindle eReaders but also movies, television, music, and apps.
Getting the apps will probably be the easiest part for this effort. By setting up a portal by which Android developers can submit their applications, they are actually setting up an interesting alternative to Google Play. Google has had a few incidents with regard to paying their international developers (mostly failing to pay them, actually) that makes an alternate major app store with a proven record huge news.
There are no estimates yet on exactly when the Kindle Fire will be offered outside the United States. It even makes some sense to question whether Amazon will bother marketing the existing model at all. With a newer high resolution model supposedly on the way, as well as a larger version set to follow soon after, waiting an extra month or two to make sure to put the best product forward might be the smart move.
The Appstore for Android has already proven itself able to provide better returns for developers than its Google counterpart. It’s true that many find the extra oversight and extended review process to be painful, occasionally to the point of refusal, but that has not stopped the store from growing rapidly over the past year. Customers seem to value the higher submission standards, if nothing else.
Will this be enough to revive interest in the Kindle Fire? That’s hard to say. With Windows 8 right around the corner and Apple surely waiting to one-up any competition as soon as they are able to justify it financially, it’s an unsettling time to be selling Android tablets. Because of Amazon’s break with Google’s standard interface and store, as well as the ecosystem integration, they stand somewhat apart from the Android crowd and might be able to survive even if interest in Android falls abruptly. The next Kindle Fire is going to have to be impressive to regain the kind of market share that it had at the end of 2011, though.
While the Kindle name is practically synonymous with eReading for many people, it has been confined largely to the US for a rather long time now and as such Amazon may have lost a chance to build the same momentum in other markets. Much of what made them so successful was being the first company on the scene ready to get eBooks out there when customer interest began to stir. The situation will be a bit different moving forward.
When it comes to international market coverage in eReading, Kobo is the name to reference. They haven’t had the same impact in the US that Amazon has managed with the Kindle, but the Kobo Touch eReader has been available in areas where a Kindle was hard to come by for quite a while now. They have recently partnered up with WHSmith in the UK in an effort to gain more coverage. The Kobo Vox, essentially their attempt to match the Kindle Fire or Nook Tablet, is just £149.99 (by comparison, the Kindle Fire is not even available). That’s not to mention the fact that Kobo devices are already available in 190 countries with expansion still ongoing, or the newly revamped self-publishing platform that they are having some success with.
Sony is also making something of a comeback. While they were possibly the first company to launch a major eReader line with the Sony PRS series, they have failed to stay relevant in recent years. Their new Reader Store has finally opened (months behind schedule) in the UK and they have a fairly substantial presence in select other markets where the Kindle is just beginning to move in.
Even Barnes & Noble is going to be something of a threat, potentially, in specific international markets. Well, one specific international market if they’re lucky. The much-reported partnership that the company has with Waterstones has produced very few results so far. The partnership is still likely to happen, but they are taking their time about it. This is most likely a matter of developing relationships for content to fill UK eBook stores with and could be held up at least partially due to the chance of the Agency Model being abolished in book publishing by ongoing lawsuits. This would naturally have widespread implications.
None of this is to say that the Kindle won’t be able to make it outside the US. If anything, the international launch of the Kindle Touch and Kindle Touch 3G enjoyed such popularity that even Amazon was shocked. Since the creation of a real, local Kindle Store in any given market is likely to be a major undertaking, however, anybody who has already got their store and device out there for customers is at a distinct advantage. Amazon certainly has enough weight to throw at the problems they encounter, and they will do so without much hesitation as the recent small publisher negotiations prove, but it may be a long process at best with all the other big names already at work.
The Kindle Touch and Kindle Touch 3G have begun to make their way to customers outside the US a full week ahead of schedule. Some may already have them in hand. The company mentioned on Friday that they had begun sending out the new Kindles for pre-order customers. Shipments are being mailed in the order those pre-orders were received.
The enthusiasm from customers outside the US has apparently exceeded expectations by quite a bit. Since there has already been a well observed secondary market for Kindle re-sales emerging in areas that did not have access to the device previously, this could indicate a more active expansion on the international scale than we have seen so far. Much of that will depend on how much ongoing popularity the Kindle enjoys now that it is past the pre-order stage, but it’s safe to say that Amazon will expand to pretty much any area they see the potential for profit in.
At the moment the Kindle Touch and Kindle Touch 3G are, as Amazon claims, the only more or less globally available eReader in the price range to offer such a wide range of features. While some of them are not fully functional in all circumstances yet, such as the newly introduced translation ability from the last firmware update, the important parts are all still there. Users will still be able to enjoy the high contrast E Ink screen, two month battery life, and all the other basic eReading functions that we’ve come to expect even in cases where the more creative new abilities have not quite become available. On top of that, the optional 3G connectivity will work all over the world and remains free of monthly charges no matter where you’re ordering from.
So far we have no word on the possible international release of the Kindle Fire media tablet. Surely there will be some effort to bring this branch of the Kindle line to a wider audience at some point in the relatively near future, but it could be a complicated enough problem to work through that delays until the next generation of the product would not be surprising. If nothing else, securing rights to media streaming over a variety of different media forms will tend to involve time-consuming negotiations of a sort that many publishers don’t want to be in with Amazon given their recent tactics.
Check back here for more information on Kindle Fire international release schedules, tech specs for the Kindle Fire 2, and generally anything Kindle related that I can come up with. There should be no shortage of such information over the next several months.
Recent reports via The Nikkei indicate that Amazon will finally be bringing their bestselling Kindle eReader line to Japan in April of this year with their newest model, the Kindle Touch 3G. It will carry a 20,000 yen price tag (~260USD), which seems a bit high compared to what the same model is going for elsewhere, but this will actually be rather competitive with existing 3G eReader options in Japan. Amazon has teamed up with Japanese cellular carrier NTT DoCoMo to offer 3G access which, as with all other Kindle 3G products, will require no data plan or monthly fee of any sort.
This will be a big step for Amazon in a number of ways. Not least of these is the fact that they are entering into an uphill battle against both established competing hardware providers and a whole new publishing industry that has demonstrated a tendency to be far more resistant to the eBook as a medium than their US counterparts. Sony and Panasonic are among the more recognizable names that already have a presence but this will also involve going up against Japan-based Rakuten, the company that recently acquired Kobo as a subsidiary and which has an impressive presence in the market already.
When dealing specifically with the issue of eBook supply, many have noticed that Japanese selections are pointedly missing from current Kindle Store offerings. This is not really a coincidence. Even localized Japanese eBook stores, such as that offered by Sony, reportedly tend to offer tens of thousands of titles compared to hundreds of thousands in other markets, and these don’t always even include bestsellers. Either there are some accommodations already planned for building relationships with Japan’s book publishers, or Amazon intends to rely even more heavily than usual on their ability to attracted talented self publishing authors to the Kindle Direct Publishing program.
While this will be a great thing for fans of eReading in Japan, there is unfortunately not yet any real reason to get hopes up regarding a Kindle Fire offering. Currently it is expected that the UK will be the first to have access to the Kindle Fire outside of the US and even that is taking an absurdly long time for many peoples’ tastes. The transition to Japan would require a far more extensive localization effort than even the Kindle Touch 3G will require as well as an impressively large amount of infrastructure development for Amazon. That says nothing about the complications of digitals video rights acquisition, which one would imagine to be a major concern in this case but which I lack the ability to offer any informed commentary about at this time.
Regardless of how much of the Kindle Family makes the trip, it is good to see Amazon expanding their efforts in non-Anglophone countries. While this tends to provide more complications at first, it’s worth it to get the Kindle out there. Hopefully this effort in particular will be more than just a passive offering of Kindle hardware and KDP, so as to draw more publisher attention to the potential for digital publishing in Japan.
One of the biggest obstacles that Amazon is going to have to overcome in order to continue expanding its Kindle line at a decent rate is the complicated international release process. That hasn’t stopped them so far, of course. Some analysts are anticipating, for example, that the Kindle Fire will control as much as 50% of the Android Tablet market in 2012. A great start, but it still doesn’t really make an impact against the market dominating iPad which is already around in over a dozen countries.
The first step in improving their new tablet’s presence is coming in January 2012 when according to supposed insider sources speaking to tech blog Know Your Mobile the UK will be the first country outside the United States to get the Kindle Fire. It isn’t exactly a surprise, given the history of Kindle releases and the ease of localization, but it is a step in the right direction. What’s important will be what comes next, which could end up being somewhat unpredictable given the peculiarities of the device.
Obviously the first instinct is to look to Anglophone countries that require minimal modification of the user interface. Amazon has spent a lot of effort on getting things working properly, after all, and the need for redesign may at times be significant when dealing with alternate languages. I would guess that this will not be the primary factor in determining who comes next, though. Given the Kindle Fire’s emphasis on consuming a variety of media (especially video) via data streaming, chances are good that they will go where the content rights are most easily acquired.
This will likely sync up somewhat with the Anglophone list, I’m sure, but there’s definitely the chance of unexpected choices given the increasing general wariness being expressed in many of Amazon’s more established markets over their huge influence. The one thing that Amazon has to know that they can’t do with the Kindle Fire is release it like the Barnes & Noble Nook Tablet. While the Netflix streaming is nice, as are most of the content apps that are currently available, the device itself is completely built around Amazon.com integration and would be crippled by the lack of their servers.
Regardless of the less immediate future, UK customers can look forward to a great experience. The Kindle Fire has become a hit in America for good reasons and will have had time in the interim to be polished even further. The video streaming is wonderful and likely to be tied to Amazon’s LOVEFiLM brand rather than the Amazon.co.uk Prime service. Music and cloud storage in general seem to work wonderfully for almost everybody, and indications are good that the vast majority of WiFi connectivity issues will have been addressed prior to this launch. Even the reading experience isn’t precisely bad, however much better the Kindle E INK eReaders might be. Expect official announcement early on as we enter 2012.
The Kindle Fire has made a big splash in the Tablet PC marketplace, driving prices down across the board and seemingly speeding along the release of direct competition from Amazon’s fellow eBook vendors. Sadly, at the moment the Kindle Fire is only available in the US. Chances are good, in fact, that there is going to be an extremely long wait before device is released anywhere else. It is simply too reliant on the integration with Amazon’s Cloud Servers, Video Streaming, Android Appstore, and other such things that have not been prepared for other markets yet.
That doesn’t mean that people outside the US will want to overlook the Kindle Fire, of course. Combine the $200 price tag with the almost complete lack of security measures to prevent Rooting of the device and you have a decent 7″ Android Tablet even if the quality of the custom OS is lost. It does the job, if you’re willing to put up with all of the related complications of buying, shipping, rooting, etc.
The Kindle Fire isn’t the only option in this price range, though. In fact the Kobo Vox, a similar competing tablet from an eBook vendor, is already available in the UK. Even if it had nothing else going for it, and it does, the Vox’s availability would be enough to make it a major player in the new $200 tablet niche. In addition to that, there is no need to root the device to get full functionality just about anywhere. It comes with full access to the Android Marketplace already enabled, unlike either its Kindle or Nook competitors.
Admittedly the hardware isn’t as nice as the competition. Neither the screen nor the processor is as nice as in the Kindle, which is itself criticized as lacking power by many. They have made next to no effort to make the Kobo specifically ready for anything aside from the reading, which will already have some shortcomings given the backlit screen. Since the primary competition will be rooted devices from the US, at least at first, this shouldn’t be too big a deal but it isn’t necessarily a recipe for long-term success.
As much as I’m a big fan of my Kindle Fire, neither option here thrills. The Fire is amazing in many ways, but a big part of that is the seamless integration with Amazon’s services. You lose that the second you take it out of the country. The Vox, on the other hand, has no really exciting features. When your tablet’s big claim to fame is extensive Facebook integration for a reading app, it is a stretch to see success in the future. Either way you’re getting a 7″ tablet that runs Android 2.3 for around $200 (depending on local taxes and the cost of importing) but not much else.
As such, it seems unlikely that the Kindle Fire has much to fear from the Vox at the moment. What will decide things is not where the two devices stand right this minute, but where they go from here on. If Kobo can come around and start offering some really impressive incentives to use their tablet before Amazon extends their web service line sufficiently, there will be some real problems. For now, the Kindle Fire wins ever so slightly based on narrowly superior hardware and nothing else. Firm footing this is not.
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.
For some time now Amazon has been pushing their Amazon Prime service. For just $79 a year (less if you’re an active college student with a valid .edu email address) you can take advantage of unlimited free two day shipping on eligible items as well as enjoy the perk of a selection of streaming video titles free on demand to any supported device. While the former has been the major selling point for many so far, the latter is going to be an increasingly big deal with the coming of the Kindle Fire.
There is a reason that the Kindle Fire will be coming with a month worth of Amazon Prime membership. The device is designed to work as an ideal portable video streamer. The Amazon Instant Video library has been growing regularly since right around the time the first Kindle Tablet rumors started popping up, and it hasn’t stopped yet. A significant portion of that is free to Prime members.
Of course, as with any such program, there are issues. Most significantly is the fact that much of the benefit is restricted to the United States. Amazon’s other sites mostly have their own versions of Amazon Prime with similar benefits (such as Amazon.co.uk offering free 1 day shipping and evening or weekend delivery discounts in select areas) but as yet none of them seem to involve the video service. While there are obvious reasons for this, including the complications of international media rights acquisition and local content distribution laws, that doesn’t mean that the problem isn’t there. It is slightly strange that Amazon would choose to call their program basically the same thing in multiple countries while offering different benefits depending on location.
This is, incidentally, widely believed to relate directly to the Kindle Fire‘s lack of international presence. Before Amazon can hope to make any money off of such a device, they need to have the media services in place for it to tie into. No video streaming, no Kindle Fire.
Will this be changing in the future? I think it is safe to say that most people expect Amazon to be making a move to expand their digital media services internationally in the near future. The recent expansion of the Kindle eReaders into new markets could even be seen as a way of testing the waters, so to speak. I don’t think that this will happen soon enough to please most people, though. Given the time required for Amazon to build a significant library of video content, Prime members are likely to be left on the back burner as far as this goes for some months yet. More in countries whose Amazon presence is still quite new.
Still, watching for changes in how the Amazon Prime services are handled may be a good way to predict Amazon’s next moves in a given country. As closely tied into it as the Kindle Fire seems to be, a beefing up of related content seems to be a likely predictor of a local tablet release. As popular as their new tablet is, I can’t see Amazon stopping at just the US.
At the moment, and in spite of some admittedly impressive competition, the Kindle is pretty much the biggest thing in eReading. In a given review or opinion, another eReader might come out on top as the new Nook Simple Touch Reader has managed to do lately, but nothing else has managed the level of distribution and quality of content that Amazon has pulled off so far. The margin isn’t all that it used to be, though. In order to keep on top of things, they are going to have to do more than we have seen in the past couple months. While it would not be entirely out of line to assume that the current focus on the upcoming Kindle Tablet might be drawing attention away from the existing product line, I think there may be more to it than that.
The Kindle, as it stands right now in terms of both the physical eReader and the platform as a whole, is limited in a number of ways. The current level of control being exerted by publishers prevents any one-upsmanship in terms of pricing. Amazon has some of the smaller names experimenting with sale offerings, but we have to assume that even if companies start buying into the idea of discounted eBooks it will not be a platform specific thing. That avenue is closed for now. They’re doing a rather good job of getting a lot of self publishing authors into their stores, which helps, but assume that at the moment there is not much that can be done to fix up the store as we know it.
The device itself is also pretty much at the peak of what we can hope for. It has the best screen technology available, amazing battery life, whatever connectivity options you want, and a lot more. About the only thing left to complain about is the physical keyboard. I think this is the first place we can expect major change is here. We know that one of the new Kindle options we can expect in October will be a touchscreen eReader. Not only will this reduce the size of the Kindle without losing the functionality of the admittedly difficult to use keyboard and appease the crowd of people who really don’t like physical buttons anymore, it will allow true localization. Hard to really pull that off when every device you sell has a built-in English keyboard.
This also brings up what I believe will be the next big stage in Kindle expansion. Right now, while a hit in some places, the Kindle platform seems to only be dominating in the US. Amazon has the experience and resources to spread out a bit. I would anticipate, following the release of the Kindle Touch and the first generation of the Kindle Tablet (and, of course, the initial patching stage to iron out the bugs), a big effort to get the Kindle out to any market that Amazon thinks is large enough to be worth tackling. Possibly even before localized firmware is a reality, but with a promise of fully integrated language selection as a later option. There isn’t any reason to hold back now, and stagnation would lose them the edge. Amazon has to keep moving and this is the only way that really makes sense as far as eBooks go.