Amazon has long been rumored to be eying the Russian and Dutch ebook markets, but now it would seem the launch of the local Kindle Stores are as little as 6 months away. The listings are matched by a similar posting for a Chinese translator (Amazon already supports both traditional and simplified Chinese, and has sold ebooks in China since 2012).
Even though Russian is not one of the languages supported in the Kindle Store, we've long known Amazon was looking in that direction. In April 2013 Amazon hired the CEO of Russia's Atticus Publishing Group, Arkady Vitrouk, as the head of Kindle Content for Russia. At the time his LinkedIn profile said he was the "Director, Kindle Content at Amazon EU Sarl", but his position is no longer visible so it is not clear of he still holds the position.
Local digital publishing blogs in the Netherlands have been speculating for a couple years now that Amazon would launch in that market. Amazon still doesn't have a local Dutch site, but their interest was seemingly confirmed in September of last year, when Amazon enabled authors and publishers to sell Kindle ebooks in Dutch, Danish, and around a dozen other languages in Europe (as well as Afrikaans).
No matter when the local Kindle Stores launch, Amazon will have their work cut out for them. In the Dutch market Amazon will have to face entrenched competition from local ebook retailers like bol.com as well as international competitors like Apple, Kobo, Google, and even B&N. What's more, Amazon will also have to contend with local publishers who are happy to produce ebooks that are DRM-free or protected only by digital watermarks.
My latest data indicates that 3/4 of locally published and distributed titles either have no DRM or so little DRM that the end user won't notice. I bring this up because it opens up the possibility that local retailers might also add Kindle format ebooks to their stores, giving them a chance to compete for an audience which some assume is out of reach.
In Russia Amazon is going to face different competitors, and they will also have to battle the specter of piracy. While Dutch ebook buyers make heavy use of free ebooks, Russia is known for rampant piracy. This is such a truism that both of the leading Russian ebook providers, LitRes and Bookmate, are pitched as solutions to (and fighters of) piracy.
LitRes is the leading ebookstore in Russia, while Bookmate is a subscription service in the likes of Kindle Unlimited, Scribd, and Oyster. As I reported in May, both companies have accepted capital investment from one or another of Russia's major online retailers (i.e. retailers Amazon might decide to buy) and are in a good position to grow with the market. LitRes and Bookmate have very different focuses which I already covered in depth (here, here) so I won't repeat it here.
In spite of the competition and the problem of piracy, both markets represent excellent growth opportunities. The latest data from leading Dutch ebook distributor Centraal Boekhuis tells us that the ebook market grew by about 58% in 2013, and accounted for 3.2% of the local Dutch book market. This obviously does not include ebooks sold in other languages which were published outside of the Netherlands.
In Russia Sergei Anuriev, CEO of LitRes, estimated that around $15 million in ebooks were sold in the country in 2013. He believes the market doubled in size over 2012.
I don't have exact details on how many ebooks were purchased in either country in 2013; too much of that data is locked in the servers of the major international ebookstores. But what data we have suggests that the markets are still small and have excellent potential for growth.