KindleBooksInChinaKindle Unlimited has reached China with a $2.59-a-month subscription service offering more than 44,000 e-books , according to AsiaOne Business.

So what about the increasing hassles that China is creating for foreign-owned media companies?

I’d love to know the full details, in terms of local partners. And also how about censorship concerns?

It isn’t as if Amazon-sold content is new to China. The company’s Kindle e-book store there started in December 2012, and AsiaOne Business says the “number of active paid readers per month” increased by “about 37 times by the end of 2015.”

Still, as quoted by AsiaOne Business, an economist named Zhu Ning says the Chinese read an “embarrassingly low” number of books. True? If not, can Amazon change that in a big way? Remember, fewer brick-and-mortar stores per capita exist in China than in the U.S. So e-books in China could have more of an effect on the total book market than here in the U.S.

In China, another subscription player will be WeChat, provider of what AsiaOne describes as “China’s leading mobile messaging application,” with 650 million users claimed. Apparently writers even now can publish to WeChat and enjoy small payments. But AsiaOne Business says WeChat is working on more serious monetization.

So does that mean that Kindle e-readers will die off, amid cell phone reading not only on WeChat but also Amazon itself, where Kindle Unlimited apparently will be available through the usual Kindle e-reading app?

Well, not exactly, if we can extrapolate from the comments of one Amazon official, as quoted in the Times of India:

India and China will together emerge as the biggest market for Amazon’s Kindle e-book reader this year, surpassing the US.
David Limp, head of devices at Amazon, the world’s largest e-tailer, said that Kindle saw a growth rate of over 200% last year in India — the highest among the Seattle-based company’s biggest markets.
Limp declined to break up the country figures, but attributed growth in India to the size of the market, increasing sales channels and availability of more content in the country. Limp also said reading increases significantly more in India when a reader obtains a digital device than is the case in the US.

Given all this growth, why isn’t Amazon caring more about the details such as improved e-reading software in its Kindles (as illustrated by the absence of, yes, all-text bolding capability)?

I have a new theory. Perhaps Amazon is caring more a bit more about multilingual globalization and a bit less about serving Americans and other English-language people. This just might be stealing away development resources. I don’t know. Maybe not. It’s just something to watch.

The other obvious issue is globalization of content. Amazon is widely depicted as the friend of the Long Tail. But with more and more globalization, will Amazon in time go for blockbusters in a major way and favor the ones that can easily cross national boundaries? Maybe a little like the big Hollywood studios, where action films prevail at the expense of more refined fare?

I’m asking questions here rather than making statements. For all I know, the long tail approach could continue for both good books and junk and in fact get better, with the model brilliantly executed in a number of local markets.

What’s more—as shown by the Golden Globe for the Amazon series Transparent, the signup of Woody Allen by Amazon Studios and the promotion of books such as Winter Men—Amazon at times can do Quality in a stunning way, not just serve as an outlet for a large number of books of varying merit.

A way to go: The 44,000 books in Kindle Unlimited in China is just a fraction of the more than 600,000 books in the service here in the States.

Back to the censorship issue: With the Chinese government so eager to censor, will Amazon put out separate China-safe editions of blockbusters if it isn’t now? I also wonder what Amazon’s increasing reliance on the Chinese market could mean eventually in terms of the ability of Chinese dissidents to publish through the company.


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