Open Letter to Flipkart - Doing eBooks Better Than Amazon

Amazon’s recent venture in India, was entering the market with Kindle eBooks. This is it’s only presence in India. On the other hand Flipkart, a sort-of Amazon clone for India is catering to the needs of Indian citizens each and every day. They sell physical books, movies, televisions, ovens, shampoos and the quintessential baby diapers.

If, and ever, Flipkart decides to launch something similar to the Kindle, I would like to offer my two cents on how it could be done differently.

Act I:
It isn’t better.

Ebooks cost in the range of Rs 400 to 500 for the books I was interested in buying. Paperback versions in India cost the same. I have been inclined towards the paperback as it offers me far more value. There is no improvement to my experience that might make me switch my method of reading.

Some promotional items are available at Rs 100, but that is like using a special coupon, and is not the state of their entire offering. On the other hand, paperbacks are DRM free and I like to pass on books I read to my friends.

To get me to switch, I should either get something cheaper, or it should offer me more value for the same price.

Act II:
Making it better.

Ebooks are digital, they can be with me everywhere. Books that would have no luck getting printed, can make a shot with digital publishing. Also, ebooks have the potential to be part of the ‘social graph’.

I would like to offer my suggestions for the same.

  1. Cut a deal to be able to sell ebooks cheaper than their Indian paperback counterparts, for the promise of higher volume of sales. (I was pleasantly surprised by the Rs. 15 pricing that Flipkart brought to the Indian market for songs. Its the right mark.) Market them right along the paperback counterparts with the percentage savings in bold.

  2. Offer sharing unheard of in the paperback world. Let me select a block of text and share it to my favourite social networks, with a link back to purchasing the book. Also, let me gift copies to my friends easily, like Apple’s app gifting works. Just a text box with emails comma-separated to gift to. Also sync read position between devices.

  3. Become the publisher. What I suggest here is pretty much Amazon Singles. But they haven’t thought big enough. This is India! Let people self publish books in any language for under Rs. 100. Keep 30%, and let them keep the rights. The quantity of content relevant to India that Flipkart would have would out rival anything Amazon can ever dream. Next, ebooks that sell well, can then be printed for guaranteed sales. Flipkart’s USP.

After all Flipkart is an Indian company, and Amazon is not. The post independence sentiment still lives.