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Amazon Watch: Launching Soon in South Korea?, Swahili Now Supported in Kindle Store

6938155399_a0d4de7d20[1]Local sources are reporting that Amazon is in a hiring spree in Seoul, South Korea. The Korean language news site Donga reports that the retailer is hiring up to 300 positions in anticipation of a launch in March.

The jobs are mostly in IT, which is leading some to speculate that Amazon plans to launch a digital presence first and not a retail presence. This could mean that Amazon could plan to launch a local Kindle Store in South Korea in the near future.

The Kindle Store doesn’t currently support Korean, but that’s not a major stumbling block. With Amazon adding new language support willy-nilly (6 new languages added in the past 2 weeks), there’s no reason they can’t simply add Korean on the day that the site goes live.


Speaking of which, a brief check of the Kindle has revealed that Amazon quietly added a section for Swahili some time in the past couple weeks. One hundred and two titles are listed in this section, including textbooks.

According to Wikipedia, Swahili is native to eastern Africa (think Kenya, for reference). It’s described as a lingua franca in much of Southeast Africa, with about 15 million native speakers.


image by valeuf

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Scott Lewis February 27, 2015 um 12:46 pm

From the headline, I thought Amazon was releasing a smart watch. 🙂

Nate Hoffelder February 27, 2015 um 1:15 pm

Yeah, it could use some work 😉

puzzled February 27, 2015 um 4:52 pm

Amazon could be building a datacentre in South Korea for AWS. This would account for the number of people being hired.

Nate Hoffelder February 27, 2015 um 6:46 pm

That is actually a more likely possibility, yes.

Tom Semple February 27, 2015 um 10:01 pm

I was just in Seoul on business (my first time there). I asked one of our hosts about 'ebooks' but she was unable to tell me who they could be purchased from (quite possibly something lost in translation), and I didn’t persist (I wish I’d asked about 'online shopping'). Most folks are using LG or Samsung smartphones there, and according to Wikipedia, South Korea is on the list of countries where books can be purchased from Google Play. Apple also sells books, but from what I can tell, most are in English. Kindle devices don’t offer Korean as a language setting, which is generally needed before launching a Kindle Store (of course that’s 'just software', script support is there).

The bookstore I visited there was busy, had prominently displayed translations of a number of bestsellers in the US, from what I could tell. But my impression, quite possibly erroneous, is that Koreans are way too busy working to read very much, but in a country of 70 million people, there are bound to be some bookworms.

Yes, so a data center is a better guess.

There are in fact a number of books in Korean in the Kindle Store, though they don’t merit their own category. My search for 'korean edition' returned 3700 items, and while I didn’t check the entire list, there are at least dozens if not hundreds of books in Korean (mostly classic literature translated from other languages). Odd that they don’t have a category set up as that is as many as they have for a number of other languages (Swahili), and we have a lot of Korean literate people living in the US.

I have a 'won' to learn some Korean so I may have to get a few of those and hope Kindle’s (Bing) Translate feature (now on Android with an update this week, as well as Fire, Kindle, and iOS) is up to the task. My paperwhite’s 3G worked fine in Korea, BTW.

Ebook Bargains UK February 28, 2015 um 2:36 am

Tom, Ridibooks are the biggest ebook players in South Korea, with 40% market share. Owned by Ridi Corp. Despite the anglicised name, the ebook site is inconsiderately all in Korean to keep prying western eyes at bay.

Ridibooks and the South Korean ebook market are on our ones-to-watch list. A good option for anyone with the wherewithal to get translations and a local distributor.

The problem for western indies at the moment is accessibility, with Google Play the only significant easy-access point to South Korean consumers.

Our discussions reveal several SK ebook stores are keenly interested in having English-language titles available, but, as with so much of the potentially lucrative global market, the practicalities of upload and publisher payments remain big obstacles.

In the event Amazon are pondering a Kindle SK store that would be great news, and not too surprising. Societies don’t come much more tech-savvy than South Korea.

But Amazon’s track record for international Kindle expansion is none too impressive. With global media growth stagnant in Amazon’s Q4 results it’s clear their focus is elsewhere.

And clearly Amazon’s continuing imposition of ridiculous surcharges on non-Kindle countries, while blocking half the world from buying at all, doesn’t help.

With Apple blocking iBooks access to vast tracts of South and East Asia (despite huge interest in Apple devices) and Kobo still darting about like a fart in a colander. not knowing what hole to go out of, it seems Google Play is the one light on the horizon for western indies targeting the global ebook markets.

walker July 12, 2015 um 9:08 pm

Kyobo Book Center … the main store is in downtown and has koorean ereaders and information on ebooks.

Ebook Bargains UK February 28, 2015 um 1:59 am

This will be the same Wikipedia article that states Swahili was "was created by George Swahili in 1997, lead bass player for the band Oingo Boingo."

puzzled February 28, 2015 um 2:06 am

Well, yes. If it’s in Wikipedia, it must be true.

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