Thursday, August 29, 2013

Smashwords Distributes Ebooks to, India's Largest Online Bookseller

India, here we come!

Smashwords today announced a distribution agreement with, India’s largest online marketplace and bookseller.  Smashwords titles will begin appearing at 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. 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 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 ebook market today in India is nascent, accounting for less than one percent of the market.  I expect the market to grow dramatically over the next five years as the primordial soup necessary to support a thriving ebook ecosystem comes into place. 

The ingredients for that soup?  Here are they are:
  1. Availability of low-cost high-quality e-reading devices – Smartphones!
  2. Availability of a large, diverse and affordable selection of high-quality ebooks – Smashwords ebooks!
  3. Prominent retailers to promote and sell the books – Flipkart, Amazon and others to follow
  4. Internet penetration – Huge already, growing fast
  5. 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.
I think indie authors will have a substantial competitive advantage in India, because indie ebooks are priced much more affordably than traditionally published ebooks.  Our 20,000+ free books make our authors' offering all the more compelling.

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, 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 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., 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 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.

If you're not already publishing and distributing with Smashwords, click here to learn how.  We make ebook publishing fast, free and easy.


Jason Matthews said...

Fantastic! I didn't know anything about Flipkart. Thank you, Mark.

John H. Carroll said...

Great news! Exciting times. :)

MKR said...

This kind of announcement makes me glad I put the effort in to get approved for the premium catalog. I'm looking forward to my books being readily available in a country that will soon have as many Internet users as my own has people. :)

swappster said...


When will Smashwords publish to the Google Play Store????

Jill James said...

Thanks for not only getting our books to Flipkart but for telling us all about it as well.

Tracy Falbe said...

This is very exciting. I've had traffic for my free ebooks at my website from India for years. I've even had a few turn into customers. Thanks so much for getting us into this market.

Deb Ling said...

Mark, Having just read the email and this post, I just stopped by to say thank you. You do not sit on your laurels, instead you continually look for more opportunities for making Smashwords the best place to place our hard work.

This is one appreciative indie,

BJB said...

The missing ingredient is territory pricing. You can't price a book the same in India as you do elsewhere. Until Smashwords enables region-specific pricing markets like India will remain out of reach (unless you want to sell everywhere at rock-bottom, which is usually an inappropriate strategy).

Rajasir said...

That's really great! A new territory means more business, and that too in the world's second most populous country.

Thanks Mark


Raja Sharma

Webmaestro said...

I'm an Indian. Actually, you can look at official languages in India in two ways.

1. Hindi is the Union's sole official language [source] and English is its sole subsidiary official language [source].

2. Then the states of India also have their own official languages. Thus states have 22 official languages including Hindi [source].

In short, India has 22 official languages including Hindi and only one subsidiary official language which is English.

I also agree with BJB that "the missing ingredient is territory pricing. You can't price a book the same in India as you do elsewhere."

Among other things I translate works of the first non-European Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore (1913) from the Indian language of Bengali to English.

WindMan said...

Can not the withholding tax be avoided for smashwords authors from india?

Unknown said...

Hell yeah!!!

Rosalie Marsh. Author said...

My first book used to be available from Flipkart which I found exciting. Current titles have not found their way there apart from one which is via another e-retailer with mixed delivery reviews. It will be good to have all titles available via Smashwords in a seamless operation and reach those who find print out of their reach (price/availability)
Well Done Smashwords once again.

Lisa Orchard said...

This is aweosme news! Thanks for the heads up! :)

Fiona Ingram said...

Fantastic news for authors, me included!

Lakshmi said...

I'm excited about this opportunity.

Brendan Gerad O'Brien said...

This is excellent news, Mark - thanks for all your hard work and enthusiasm ...

Anonymous said...

Mark always makes me impatient for the future. Keep up the great work.

gpstberg said...

Wow, I'll get my books in front of millions of new prospective buyers, and I didn't have to do a thing.

Thank goodness I'm not in KDP! And thank you Mark for putting this together!

Harsh M said...

Wow Mark!

A great step for Smashwords and for all us authors, especially those from India. I can finally Write for a local audience.

Keep up the good work!

Joleene Naylor said...

Exciting news. The more markets, the merrier. ;)

Unknown said...

Hey Mark,
Being an Indian myself I can say that your data is upto mark. I am delighted to know that my long awaited dream of publishing in my own country is going to be a reality soon. Thanks to Smashwords.

Bill Munro said...

This is fantastic news. Re your comment about 'when will an Indian author become a best-seller, I agree that it will be very soon. India has a very rich heritage of both literature and popular storytelling. The BBC regularly airs stories by Indian authors, and they must surely inspire new Indian writers

Tony McFadden said...

I'm excited, but also a wee bit impatient. When will shipping to flipkart commence? Asking for my Indian colleagues.

Dirrogate Maya said...

I wanted to get onto Flipkart with ny hard science fiction book "Memories with Maya" - The story, for the better part, is set in India and some of the main characters are young Indian scientists.

In under 30 minutes, I'd managed to set up a smashwords account, and upload and validate the epub version of the book that was previously only available on amazon.

Now awaiting the "Premium Catalog" approval process - and then waiting to see it soon on FlipKart.

Thank you Smashwords.

Dirrogate Maya said...

So what's happened. Almost a month after my last post, I can still see the book, though listed in the premium catalog has only not shipped to FlipKart and Oyster.

Are these deals still W.I.P? or has distribution begun?

Unknown said...

As an Indian and Smashwords Author of an e-book titled Designer of Fighter Aircraft, the news of distributing the E-books in India is a pleasant surprise. I wish Smashwords and a grand success.

BFuniv said...

About 2/3 of my books are now on FlipKart. I expect all we be soon. A new market is great news. And like a prior comment, another validation point on why to avoid kdp select.

Thanks Mark.

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