Kindle fails to win over public

By Tuo Yannan and Wang Xing (China Daily)
Updated: 2010-08-16 16:17
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Kindle fails to win over public 

Amazon's e-reader sales no match for Apple's iPad in China

BEIJING - Apple Inc's iPad and Amazon's Kindle e-book reader have both gained a great number of fans in the global market since their debut, yet local consumer acceptance of the Kindle has paled in comparision to the iPad.

Despite the fact that both products have yet to be officially launched in the country, sales of the Kindle in China's gray market have largely lagged behind that of the iPad. Analysts said strong competition from local rivals is the main reason behind the sluggish performance of Amazon's popular e-book reader.

In Zhongguancun, the biggest electronic market in Beijing, iPad's are stacked up as far as the eye can see.

But walking between the hundreds of booths lined up across one of the biggest gray markets in China, it is hard to find a Kindle.

Wei Wei, a man in his early 30s, is one of the few Kindle vendors in the Zhongguancun area.

Wei also sells several popular Chinese brands of e-book readers from companies like Hanwang Technology Co Ltd, Beijing Newsmy Ideal Digital Technology Co, Ltd and Beijing Huaqi Information Digital Technology Co Ltd (aigo).

Despite being brought to the Chinese gray market over a year ago, prices have dropped and sales have sagged.

"The Kindle 2 has never been our star seller. Prices started at over 3,000 yuan initially and have dropped to 1,500 yuan, yet we still have few buyers," Wei said. Kindle sales, he added, are between 20 and 30 units per month, while 300 Hanwang e-book readers go out the door every month.

"According to our latest estimate, second-quarter sales for Kindle e-book readers sold in China's gray market topped 5,000 units," said Zhang Yanan, an analyst with Zero2IPO Co Ltd, a service provider in the China venture capital and private equity industry.

Meanwhile, iPad gray market sales, according to industry estimates, will reach 500,000 by the end of this year, said Li Yi, founder of electronics industry chain forum,

Liu Hailing, a saleswoman with the biggest unofficial Apple vendor in Beijing's Zhongguancun area, said although the product has yet to be officially launched in China, sales are booming.

"Compared with iPhone 4, iPad's are more reasonable priced for Chinese buyers," said Liu. Plus, many people have already purchased the iPad from overseas, "so there is a word-of-mouth effect that is drawing in even more iPad buyers".

Liu said her store has recently sold more than 50 iPads per week.

The major reason for the sluggish Kindle sales is due to fierce competition from Chinese copycats.

Since last year, at least 15 Chinese companies have launched e-book readers in the market. The products - some perhaps poorly designed - use the same display screen as the Kindle but sell for much cheaper prices.

Many Chinese e-book reader vendors also provide USB connections and expansible storage capability that Kindle does not support. Free e-book downloads also attract buyers.

"Compared with its Chinese rivals, Kindle actually doesn't have many advantages," said Sun Peilin, an analyst from domestic research firm Analysys International. He said because Kindle did not win support from Chinese application publishers its appeal to Chinese users is limited.

Last week, media reports said Amazon's Chinese subsidiary Joyo Amazon plans to introduce the Kindle to China, but company officials refuted the report, saying no timetable has been set to introduce the e-reader.

Zero2IPO's Zhang said the iPad has a host of functions the Kindle doesn't, including games, e-mail, photos and music. This fact alone makes the Kindle's less attractive to consumers.

The US biggest book retailer Barnes & Noble was reported to considering selling itself, after sales of the company has been declining. It was reported that Amazon may take over the company.

Shen Jingting contributed to this story.


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Kindle fails to win over public

China Daily