Kindle Unlimited Launches in China, Costs 12 Yuan Per Month

2507505208_266c6950c6_bFresh from pulling bits of Scribd from its teeth, Amazon launched Kindle Unlimited in China on Tuesday.

According to local press reports, the service costs 12 yuan a month ($1.84) and offers access to 44,000 Chinese-language titles (including 3,500 titles translated from English). The ebooks can be read in the Kindle apps for iOS and Android, or on the Kindle.

That's a far smaller catalog than the million-plus titles offered in the US, Canada, and Europe, and the paucity is likely due to newly imposed Chinese gov't regulations that prevent foreign media (publishers and authors in the US, for example) from publishing online in mainland China.

The larger Kindle Store appears to be under the same restriction. It launched over three years ago, and yet a quick check today showed that it only stocked around 300,000 titles, and not the millions found in other branches of the Kindle Store.

There's no word on how many Kindle customers Amazon has in China, although there is one report that Amazon "saw the number of active paid readers per month shoot up about 37 times by the end of 2015" (but 37 times what, now that is what we want to know).

That growth comes something of a surprise give the reports that the Chinese don't read very many books:

According to a survey result published by the Chinese Academy of Press and Publication in April, Chinese people read 4.39 books per capita in the past year, a figure that trails far behind major developed countries; for example, the average American read 7, the average French and Japanese person 8.4, and the average South Korean 11. And, on average, Chinese people allocated just over 15 minutes a day to reading, compared to almost 100 to watching television and over 45 for using the Internet. While parents duly chant the old Chinese adage "a book holds a house of gold" to their children, the financial value Chinese consumers place on books doesn't reflect the same conviction; according to the survey, the average price a Chinese person is willing to pay for a 200-page paperback is 13.67 RMB, just slightly over two dollars. That is half the price of a cup of an iced latte at Starbucks, or one-third the average price of a movie ticket.

This could explain why Chinese book publishers see book sales as merely a stepping stones. Zou Jihua, the director of digital media at China South Booky Culture Media Co, sees distributing to the Kindle Store more as a way of marketing books so he can sell the ancillary rights rather than as a way of making big money by selling ebooks.

"As long as the books gets well-known in China, you can make money in different ways, such as making movies or TV dramas," he told China Daily.

That is born out by the polling stats, although of course there's no way for us to tell whether the stats are accurate.

China Email, Shanghai Daily

image by ginnerobot

About Nate Hoffelder (11274 Articles)
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader: "I've been into reading ebooks since forever, but I only got my first ereader in July 2007. Everything quickly spiraled out of control from there. Before I started this blog in January 2010 I covered ebooks, ebook readers, and digital publishing for about 2 years as a part of MobileRead Forums. It's a great community, and being a member is a joy. But I thought I could make something out of how I covered the news for MobileRead, so I started this blog."

2 Comments on Kindle Unlimited Launches in China, Costs 12 Yuan Per Month

  1. As the first western indie author to hit #1 on Kindle China at end 2014 I can assure you plenty of Chinese read, and having titles in the Kindle store is very lucrative by volume sales despite the comparatively small unit price. Other Chinese ebook retailers are of course much bigger and yielding even better returns.

    There’s clearly no exclusivity demand for KU China – my titles are now showing in KU while still on Chinese retailers.

    No idea at this stage as to how authors/publishers are going to be remunerated for KU downloads or whether unread downloads will be permitted to warp the rankings system as elsewhere.

    What is ironic is that the stars of KU elsewhere, exclusive with Amazon, are not getting a chance to share in the Kindle-CN or KU-CN bonanza.

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