Date
21 October 2019
Amazon last week launched a portal in the Kindle store with 20,000 Traditional Chinese titles. Photo: Bloomberg
Amazon last week launched a portal in the Kindle store with 20,000 Traditional Chinese titles. Photo: Bloomberg

Why Amazon launched Traditional Chinese e-book support

Amazon, though focused on its e-commerce platform, is not forgetting its digital publishing business under the Kindle brand.

A recent update of the e-reader device has support for Traditional Chinese books, demonstrating the company’s commitment to expanding in the Chinese publishing market.

Last week, Amazon launched a portal in the Kindle store with 20,000 Traditional Chinese titles,  including translations of popular English-language books and those written by Taiwanese authors.

Kindle e-books in Traditional Chinese target not only Hong Kong, Taiwan and Macau but also overseas Chinese in the United States and other countries, estimated to number around 50 million.

For sure, the market for Traditional Chinese e-books may not be as large as that for the Simplified Chinese version, which is aimed at readers in mainland China.

But the publishing industry in the Traditional Chinese market is very much alive and growing fast, and an important factor for this is that there is no political censorship in Taiwan and Hong Kong.

Hence, authors and publishers in this sector are quite busy churning out titles for digital publication. They can also choose to publish and distribute their own titles through Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing service.

In fact, Amazon has been rather slow in harnessing the market. It launched the Simplified Chinese support on the Kindle device in 2012, and carried some 60,000 titles a year.

Meanwhile, Taiwan’s publishing industry has long been waiting for the launch of Amazon Kindle’s support for Traditional Chinese titles. The sector has seen a huge decline in revenue as readers switch from the printed version of titles to digital formats.

Prior to the launch of Amazon Kindle service, Taiwanese publishing group Readmoo launched a digital reading device called Mooink, along with an e-book selling platform, to give readers access to digital titles on the device with just a few clicks. Readmoo said it has more than 90,000 titles.

Toronto-based Rakuten Kobo has also been developing Taiwan’s e-book market over the past two and a half years. The number of its members has grown to 180,000 while the number of books has exceeded 80,000.

In early April this year, Kobo officially launched a Traditional Chinese interface for its e-book reader.  It also unveiled its first Traditional Chinese e-reader last month.

But the whole industry is still waiting for Amazon Kindle, being the market leader, to drive the sector forward.

Taiwan Cite Publishing Group, a Readmoo partner, is working with Amazon to boost its market exposure.

Cite chief executive Ho Fei-peng said writers and scholars have long been urging Amazon to make their Traditional Chinese books available on the Kindle platform to be able to gain a global audience.

According to market research house Statista, the global e-book market is expected to generate US$13.7 billion revenue this year, with the United States accounting for 43 percent.

Morever, revenue is expected to see a compound average growth rate of 2.7 percent between 2019 and 2023 and reach US$15.3 billion by 2023. Market penetration, currently estimated at 13 percent, will hit 14.6 percent by 2023, Statista said.

Based on these figures, it is fair to say that the digital publishing industry has been saturated without any growth momentum. Analysts say the market’s growth rate could slow to below 1 percent by 2023.

As such, the market is looking for a new engine to drive its growth.

Last year, Taiwan’s e-book sales accounted for about 4 percent of the overall book market. This year, with the launch of Amazon’s Traditional Chinese support, the market could climb to 5.6 percent or even 10 percent.

While Taiwan is a small market, more and more publishers are joining the market, and this could help boost the overall e-book business.

– Contact us at [email protected]

CG

EJ Insight writer