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eBooks Are Surging in Southeast Asia

While Amazon, Kobo, Apple, and Google are fighting it out in Europe and South America there’s been a quiet little ebook revolution going on in Southeast Asia. ("Quiet" only because this is the first solid info I have received.)

The first annual ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) eBook Conference wrapped up earlier this week. Over 200 people were present at this conference in Kuala Lumpur, including attendees from Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Australia, and Vietnam. Much verbiage was shared on the current state of the the ebook industries, including some statistics which had never been published in English before.

In Vietnam, for example, reports having signed 70% of Vietnamese publishers. Most of their ebooks are priced between $2 and $3, and reportedly are priced about 30% of the price of paper books. has 50 thousand active users (out of a population of 87 million), and they allow their users to download a single title onto five devices. also provides AlezaaBuild, a fuss-free PDF-to-ePUB conversion tool. “Vietnamese publishers do not know—and do not want to know—about ePUB conversion since they focus strictly on publishing, distributing and selling," said CEO Phuong Tran "So we step in to provide the necessary e-book services.”

Thailand’s ebook market is estimated to be worth around $6.67 million last year,  or about 1% of the paper book market. But with a population of 69 million and 8 million smartphones and tablets sold each year, that is expected to change. “However, ebooks would not sell, or sell well, without stable and reliable distribution. It is also worth noting that if a title does not sell well through brick-and-mortar outlet, then it is going to perform even worse as an ebook. So publishers should convert their bestsellers into e-books, and do not fear cannibalization of p-book sales,” said business development director Polapat Udomphol. Thailand’s own one-tablet-per-child program should also have a positive effect on the ebook market.

Less was shared about other ebook markets. The size of the Singapore ebook market was not mentioned, but this country of 5 million spends an estimated $41 million a year buying books from overseas.


image by Bryan_T

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Paul Salvette December 8, 2012 um 10:20 am

Thailand isn’t a particularly bookish culture like Vietnam and Singapore, but the introduction of OokBee is a good development. It has the backing from some very powerful businessmen in the country, so eBooks are being taken seriously here for their potential. Unfortunately, there is no software on the market that can adequately render Thai script in EPUB format. Everything is still stuck in PDF, which is not suitable since many Thais prefer smartphones over tablets. The One Table Per Child program has actually started to ship to schools, and my son (in first grade) got one. By god, an actual campaign promise that was followed through! The eBooks on it are all PDF though. It’s only a matter of time before some young developer comes up with a program that can read Thai script in reflowable format properly.

For Singapore, I’m a bit surprised Amazon hasn’t set up shop there. It’s a well-educated population (possibly the most in the world), very affluent, and a very easy place to do business.

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