Friday, 1 January, 2010

Adventures in Kindleland -- India

Even before I could buy a Kindle eBook reader one of my new young colleagues beat me to it. It was quite a blow to my ego, fancying that I am usually the first person to buy another new gadget which is overpriced and usually, of little utility. Anyway full marks to the new generation for adventure-ness in Kindleland. I had a chance to handle the Kindle and try and get over my envy (in spite of the fact that the kid had readable books -- in fact I think he had Salinger's Catcher in the Rye -- one of my favourites). (You always think that anyone can buy a gadget but you are the one who knows what to do what to do it or books to read).

Anyhow, the next thing I know he has sold his Kindle over eBay. It's already gone because although he wanted to buy books over the Internet from Amazon, they were expensive. He's a reader and in spite of having a Kindle he had visited real bookshops and bought real books for prices ranging from Rs. 200 to 400 (US$ 5 to 8) which is what bestselling paperbacks cost here while the Kindle versions were anywhere from US$ 12 to 25 (Rs 600 to 1200).

Now of course I am envious of his quick decision-making and eBay trading skills. He was able to get rid of Kindle at a good price while I still have junk-filled cupboard including the Apple Newton that I bought second-hand from a tourist many years ago.

In another recent discussion/seminar in Singapore and reported in a Delhi daily, I think it was a guy from a paper company who said that eBooks will never take off in India until they are available for about US$ 3 each. Although I think that commentator was undervaluing the rising Indian buying power, he may have been right about the likely slow traction of eBooks and the high traction of print on paper in this country.

Even as average Indian disposable incomes rise and double in the next five years, the real issue is the price of content, digital rights and compensation to authors, and also the flexibility of the tablets to be format independent. Of course publishers fear this greatly since books will be traded as email attachments and USBs but this is one of great values of printed books -- you buy not only the artifact but the right to lend it and pass it on.

Yes the Kindle was sleek, legible, and excellent for carrying a library along but I'll try and wait for my disposable income to double before I buy an eBook. By that time I expect that the price of content will come down to half and it will become even more portable.

No comments:

Post a Comment