Smashwords today announced a distribution agreement with Flipkart.com, India’s largest online marketplace and bookseller. Smashwords titles will begin appearing at Flipkart.com within the next three to four weeks.
Flipkart is commonly referred to as the Amazon of India. To be fair to Flipkart, Amazon would probably kill to become the Flipkart of India some day.
Flipkart.com is India’s largest online marketplace. They serve 10 million registered users, one million daily visitors, and offer products in over 17 different categories. Our friends at Flipkart tell me that according to Nielsen BookScan Retail Panel data, Flipkart holds 80% market share for online book sales in India, and holds 40-45% market share for all trade book sales across brick and mortar AND online.
Flipkart’s ebook store is accessible via the Web at www.flipkart.com as well as via Flipkart e-reading apps for Android, Apple iOS and Microsoft Windows 8 devices. The Apple iOS app supports reading only, whereas the other interfaces support both purchasing and reading.
I’ve been eager to distribute Smashwords books to India for several years now. India represents the fifth largest source of traffic to the Smashwords store after the US, UK, Canada and Australia.
In our globally connected world, consumer cultures are becoming more similar than they are different. Online social media marketing touches readers at every point of globe, generating demand for your books. We're now better equipped to serve Indian readers, who can purchase at Flipkart in Rupees.
Two years ago I sat beside a young Certified Public Accountant on a flight from London to San Francisco. If she hadn’t volunteered she lived in India, I would have bet she lived in San Francisco. She told me how she and her friends in India only speak English at work, they dream in English at night, and they only buy books in English. If you haven't thought about the book market in India, now is the time to start.
Here are some quick facts about the Indian market:
- India is the world’s second most populous country with 1.2 billion citizens, accounting for 17% of the world’s population. Source.
- India’s literacy rate is 74% and rising. Source.
- India has two official languages: Hindi and English. Source.
- 125 million Indians speak English, twice the 61 million English speakers in the UK, quadruple the 33 million in Canada, and about six times the 22 million in Australia. Source. I don’t have data on English literacy, or the number of English readers, though our friends at Flipkart tell me about 80% of their book sales are English language books.
- 150 million Indians are online. Source. By 2015, according to McKinsey, the number of Internet users is expected to double to 330 million. Source.
- India recently became the world’s third largest market for smartphones. Its smart phone market for Q1 2013 grew over 160% year over year, a rate of growth faster than China (86% YoY), Japan (24% YoY) and the US (19% YoY). Source. Smartphones are e-reading devices!
- India has one of the world’s fastest growing economies, and one of the fastest growing middle classes. India had 250 million middle class consumers in 2007, a number that will rise to 600 million by 2030. Source. With the rise of the middle class comes increased discretionary consumer spending on books.
The ingredients for that soup? Here are they are:
- Availability of low-cost high-quality e-reading devices – Smartphones!
- Availability of a large, diverse and affordable selection of high-quality ebooks – Smashwords ebooks!
- Prominent retailers to promote and sell the books – Flipkart, Amazon and others to follow
- Internet penetration – Huge already, growing fast
- Consumers inclined to purchase online – Only about 1% of Indians shop online now. It’s not difficult to imagine how this will grow in the next few years.
India has a rich and proud literary culture. I think our agreement with Flipkart will help inspire the next generation of Indian authors to embrace ebook publishing. Thanks to the example set by the 60,000+ Smashwords authors we’ll distribute to Flipkart, I trust Indian authors will come to learn how Smashwords makes ebook publishing fast, free and accessible to all. We’ll not only make it easy for Indian authors to reach Indian readers at Flipkart.com, but we’ll also help them reach millions of other readers across our global distribution network of Apple, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Sony, the Smashwords store and others.
How many months or years before an aspiring Indian author who learns of Smashwords through this relationship goes on to become a NY Times bestselling author? I’m betting it’ll happen within a year or two. I can’t wait! There are talented writers in every corner of the globe just waiting to be discovered by readers.
How to distribute books to Flipkart:
As with most new Smashwords channels, Smashwords authors and publishers will be automatically opted in to Flipkart distribution. As long as your book is Premium Catalog-approved, you’re eligible for distribution.
We’re sending out an email today to all Smashwords authors and publishers today regarding this announcement. If you want to opt out of Flipkart distribution (I don’t recommend opting out!), you can do so within the next 48 hrs by visiting your Dashboard’s Channel Manager. As most Smashwords veterans know, it’s our standard process to give all authors at least 48 hours advance notice via email before activating a new distribution channel.
You can view one of our early test books in their store, The Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success.
We plan to ship to titles and metadata updates to Flipkart daily, five days per week, which is the same schedule we use for Apple, Barnes & Noble and Kobo.
Smashwords authors will earn 60% of the list price for all Flipkart sales, after deducting for India’s equivalent of VAT tax, which in India is called Withholding Tax. This is similar to how we compute author earnings after VAT for Apple sales in the UK and Europe.
Agency pricing is not allowed in India, so we have entered into a wholesale pricing agreement. Although Flipkart.com has the option to discount our books in India, it’s up to them whether they exercise this option. Amazon’s KDP platform operates under similar rules. When you sign up with Amazon KDP, Amazon retains the option to discount your books. In practice, Amazon rarely discounts with the exception of price matching. Flipkart.com, like Amazon, practices price matching against Indian ebook stores only. If they see a Smashwords ebook is priced for less at the Amazon Kindle store in India, they will match the price and the author’s cut will drop to 60% of the discounted price, less of course the taxes mentioned above. However, in situations where Flipkart.com discounts the price outside of price-matching situations, the author will still earn 60% of the list price from Smashwords. Flipkart will carry our free ebooks in addition to our priced books.
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