Ebook Pricing for a Foreign Market – East Asia and India
This article is the second part of our series, Ebook Pricing for a Foreign Market. You can find the first article here: it covers general rules of pricing for a foreign market and the advantages and disadvantages of territorial pricing. It also covers pricing for the Southeast Asian ebook market: Thailand, Indonesia, Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Singapore.
Today’s article will focus on East Asian markets (Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea, Japan, China) and India.
The Indian book market
The Indian book market is talked about a lot in Western publishing: with an estimated 125 million speakers it is the second largest English speaking country in the world. English being the language of education from middle school level and the lingua franca for conducting business and science, the question is only: who is going to supply the Indian middle class with good quality English language books?
If you are interested in an in-depth analysis of the Indian book market, including languages other than English (there are 1600!) and the state of self-publishing, read this article.
Kindle ebook store launched in India in 2012 and slowly won customers overfrom the local competitor Flipkart. Flipkart, in turn, offered up their ebook customers and library to Rakuten’s Kobo. Now all big players are present, including Apple and Google. PublishDrive has also contract with the local education and test bookstore, Rockstand.
Currency: Rupee (₹), 1 USD = 64.07 INR
A great place to check pricing trends for self-publishers is Amazon. What do we get if we compare prices of the same self-published books in rupees and in dollars?
For ease of comparison I only checked books available through KU and books without a print edition (at least in India). The pricing trends are confusing: it could be anything between 10 rupees (yes!) to 300. Comparing the same books in the US store, there are a couple of things to note. Firstly, that the prices are approximately the same as in the US: you can leave it the same and it won’t look out of place. Secondly, that there is no golden rule for changing the price: some books are selling for half of the American price in India and some are selling for slightly more. Similar books on Kobo are selling between 45 and 300 rupees, with a peak at 150. Indian authors are trending in the range of 190-250.
AMAZON.INAMAZON.COMRRP CONVERTED TO USDDiscounted from ₹133 to ₹45$1.51$0.70₹64$1.31$1₹99$2.62$1.54₹110$3.05$1.71₹226.56$3.06$3.53
Biography and memoir
Biographies are hugely popular in India, and can go up to 300 rupees. They usually start at 130 rupees (without Amazon discounting).
Science, education and self-development
While romantic fiction is popular in India, most traffic is generated by exam prep, self-help and personal development books. It is not surprising that your chances for selling are better if you offer relevant content. While some topics (e.g. textbooks) are culture specific, business, IT advice and ELT material is always a go-to. Even without Amazon’s discounting taken into account, books start at 45 rupees and go up to 250 with international bestsellers peaking at 333.
Indian self-publishing website Pothi offers a lot of great content about what one needs to do in order to sell well in India.
While India is a hot topic of the ebook market, there is much less talk about Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong and South Korea.
Last year Amazon developed and released a Kindle Paperwhite designed especially for reading manga – is the Japanese market really that important?
According to 2015 data analysed by the Business Insider, Japanese readers spent the most on ebooks per person. Even more than customers in the US and UK! (This only shows willingness to pay higher price or buy more books per person and does not tell how wide the Japanese market is.) Even more surprising is this data knowing that just two years previously the otherwise tech-savvy Japanese customers were reluctant to try ebooks.
What the future will bring, however, is difficult to say. Just a month ago Amazon Japan removed the ‘lowest price’ clause from its contract with publishers. This means that Japanese publishers are allowed to offer their books elsewhere for a lower price. (It is unclear how this plays out with the automatic price matching though.)
The top genres, according to the Introduction to Publishing in Japan are Social Science, Art & Hobby and Fiction. They also point out that the Japanese market is not really open to translated books, only around 8% of new titles are foreign.
Looking at the prices in the Kindle store, they are approximately the same in yens as they are in USD -if you leave them as they are, you cannot really go wrong.
With Kobo just entering the market last year, Taiwanese ebook market is yet to bloom. Although 92% of the population is a smartphone user and the number of new book titles is 40 000 a year, there are many other things to do on a gadget than to read. Publishers have to fight hard for the readers’ attention.
While there is no Amazon in Taiwan, Pubu offers an all-you-can-read ebook service and a Chinese self-publishing community similar to KU. Membership starts at 149 New Taiwan Dollars a month ($5 USD). Self-published fiction is usually priced around 50-100 TWD (1.6-3.4 USD), non-fiction a bit higher (80-150 TWD). PublishDrive takes you to Taiwan through Kobo and Google Play Books.
Hong Kong and South Korea
Kobo has a Hong Kong store, but South Korea is only accessible through Google Play. Both markets are mainly interested in non-fiction, especially business advice and ELT. Self-published English language books in Kobo store start at 20 HKD (2.56 USD) and go up to 100 HKD (12.80 USD). Books from international publishers are priced at 180-190 HKD.
Big Western publishers mostly reach the South Korean market through the local Kyobo with their English language offer, but are selling paperbacks most of the time. Even Harry Potter wasn’t available as an ebook in Korea until last year! Publisher made Korean ebooks are priced at around 10000 won (8.8 USD) individually, but Kyobo also offers a subscription service with discounts.
There is Amazon in China, although it is a one-way road. Kindle ebooks sold worldwide don’t automatically appear in the Chinese store. Chinese book market is growing fast and is increasingly open to foreign titles, although foreign books sell better when translated to Mandarin. Unlike in Hong Kong and Korea, genre fiction is big in China. Readers like reading short stories (designed for the daily commute) in a serial form, interact with the events and form reading communities.
PublishDrive users can reach China through the national library chain, CNPeReading. Since the library is buying the books forever, publishers receive high royalties on the list price. All books circulated in China have to comply with Chinese press rules, this might resulting in increased processing time.
Hopefully we managed to give an overview of the East Asian and Indian market – there is more coming soon!