As Amazon’s South America plans become clearer, will Kindle ebooks even be a feature?

It’s now more than three years since Amazon launched a Kindle store.

Back in those heady days of 2011-12 it seemed the Amazon Kindle store was on a mission to take ebooks to the world.

From just the USA in 2007 Amazon opened Kindle stores in the UK in 2010, then dashed off four in 2011 (Germany, France, Italy, Spain) and five in 2012 (Japan, China, Canada, Brazil, India). In 2013 the pace slowed to just two new Kindle stores (Mexico and Australia), and in 2014 just one (Netherlands).

Since then, nothing. Apple in the same period delivered fifty-one global ebook stores and Google Play seventy-five.

Sadly the Apple expansion has also drawn to a close and lately Google Play has been less active, but let’s stick with Amazon here, as the supposed global giant of e-commerce (Alibaba and Tencent might disagree).

Earlier this month Amazon expanded its Singapore operation to include Amazon Prime.

TechInAsia reported that

Singaporean Prime members will also be able to stream Amazon’s exclusive catalogue of movies and TV shows through Prime Video, and gaming benefits through Twitch Prime.

No, the failure to mention ebooks and books was not an oversight. There are apparently less than 600 physical books available. And despite Singapore being an English-speaking country, and the operating base for Kindle India, no Kindle store.

They list just 576 physical books, all of which are children’s or business/self-help titles. No literature whatsoever. They don’t even stock Lee Kuan Yew’s best-sellers.

In March of this year Amazon acquired the biggest e-commerce site in the Middle East, Souq, and in September acquired Wing, a delivery service for the region, serving countries where literally millions turn out at book fairs to buy books –

Record-breaking Sharjah Int. Book Fair – 2.38 million visitors. $56 million book sales in ten days

and where there is practically no ebook competition. But so far there are no signs Amazon is taking the Arabic ebook market seriously. (Nor is Apple, but Google Play has several ebook stores across the region.)

These would be ideal markets for Kindle Unlimited as English is widely spoken, and most of the titles in KU are from indie authors and are offering full world rights.

But here we are, ten years into the Kindle programme, and it seems the Kindle store expansion plans are at a standstill.

Meantime Amazon Music Unlimited, only launched in 2016, goes from strength to strength, this month launching in another 28 countries.

The latest additions to the Music Unlimited list are:

• Belgium • Iceland • Bolivia • Latvia • Bulgaria • Liechtenstein • Chile • Lithuania • Colombia • Luxembourg • Costa Rica • Malta • Cyprus • Netherlands • Czech Republic • Panama • Ecuador • Peru • El Salvador • Poland • Estonia • Portugal • Finland • Slovakia • Greece • Sweden • Hungary • Uruguay

None of these countries have dedicated Kindle stores, although some, like Belgium, are for ebooks hooked up with existing Kindle stores (France in this instance). In most of these countries Amazon imposes a whispernet surcharge of $2 or more if a reader tries to buy an ebook via Amazon’s US site.

Says Steve Boom, VP of Amazon Music,

Today’s announcement signifies an important moment for Amazon Music Unlimited and our international customers as we continue to offer more music fans all over the world a completely new way to hear expertly-curated playlists and songs from their favorite artists.

Meantime Amazon Video has gone much further, and has since late 2016 been offering video streaming of the latest TV and films to more than 200 countries.

Very nice. But those wanting to read ebooks from their favourite authors will have to look elsewhere.

There is perhaps a glimmer of hope in South America, where Amazon is apparently laying the groundwork for a presence across the continent at some stage, but as I reported here at TNPS previously, with regard to Amazon’s interest in Argentina –

Argentina’s publishers prepare for Amazon’s arrival

there’s no word yet of any serious approaches to publishers to provide content for more South American Kindle stores.

Might it happen? It would be a logical step for Amazon, which already has substantial Spanish-language content from its Spain, Mexico and US stores (the USA has more Spanish speakers than Spain). Most of South America (Brazil, Guyana and French Guinea the exceptions) speak Spanish, as does all of Central America and parts of the Caribbean.

But at this stage it’s still not entirely clear what Amazon’s South America plans are.

Clarin reports that Cordoba lawyer Federico Manuel Boero last month filed with Argentina’s IGJ (General Inspection of Justice) to register Amazon Web Services and Amazon Data Services, explaining this is

a key procedure to obtain the CUIT and be able to operate, invoice, collect and pay the corresponding taxes (and to) pay the salaries of the 7 Argentine employees who work for the company from Brazil and Chile.

But Clarin understands Amazon’s ambitions extend to a full e-commerce operation, and not just in Argentina.

Amazon has been working on AWS services in Chile and Colombia since January.

In Brazil Amazon launched first with the Kindle store, then AWS and then full retail. In Mexico AWS came first, then the Kindle store, then full retail. By some accounts Amazon has just taken top spot from MercadoLibre in Mexico’s e-commerce sector, which will help boost Jeff Bezos’s ambitions in Latin America.

Clarin intimates Amazon may be looking not just at Argentina and Chile but to serve the entire cone of the continent, embracing Paraguay, Bolivia and Uruguay.

That’s for AWS, of course, but retail would be the logical next step, and a Kindle store could, potentially, be on the cards for each country (Google Play and Apple both serve most of Latin America with ebooks, leaving Amazon out in the cold).

Clarin goes so far as to suggest one source indicating an Amazon plan to launch retail simultaneously across the five cone countries, but right now that seems more like wild speculation.

Again, from the viewpoint of simple logic, a Kindle store offering Spanish-language content for each of these countries would make sense. Local ebook players like BajaLibros are faring well doing just this. But again, there are no indications of publishers being sounded out on this count.

It’s abundantly clear Amazon is targetting South America for its web services, and very likely Amazon is targetting at least Argentina and Chile for a future retail venture.

It would be great to see Amazon shake up the ebook retail infrastructure in those countries with more Kindle stores.

But as we start our fourth year of no new Kindle stores being opened one has to wonder if Amazon’s stated goal

to have every book, ever published, in any language available for Kindle customers to purchase and begin reading in less than 60 seconds

has been quietly put on the backburner.

2 Replies to “As Amazon’s South America plans become clearer, will Kindle ebooks even be a feature?”

  1. “Since then, nothing. Apple in the same period delivered fifty-one global ebook stores and Google Play seventy-five.”

    Really bad comparison. Amazon already sold ebooks in a couple hundred countries, so the other two are actually playing catchup.

    1. Not sure Amazon has ever sold ebooks in “a couple of hundred countries”, Nate. Much of the world has no access to the Kindle store. Here in West Africa I can go to Amazon US, look up a book, and see the print and audio versions, but the Kindle store, let alone the ebook, simply doesn’t exist until I sign into my US- or UK-registered account.

      Sales that happen across the Middle East, across Africa and across SE Asia mostly only happen there because the buyers have pre-existing Amazon accounts.

      Sales that are allowed to happen in non-Kindle countries, like South Africa, are usually surcharged.

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