The long-anticipated release of Kindle devices in China may finally become a reality. On Wednesday, the Kindle iPhone and iPad apps launched in the Chinese App Store; the Android version is also available for download. Meanwhile, Amazon China’s Kindle bookstore is now stocked with about 22,500 Chinese language titles.
After years of speculation, this is the most solid evidence that Chinese consumers will finally get their hands on Kindle devices. Amazon China’s then-president Wang Hanhua said in late 2011 that Kindle products are definitely coming to the country, but since then observers have only had rumors and clues to grasp onto.
Back in April, Chinese Help documentation for Kindle devices was spotted on Amazon China before quickly being pulled (but not before a screenshot was taken). Then in September, Nate Hoffelder of The Digital Reader discovered a Beijing address in the warranty info of the Kindle Paperwhite’s user manual, which tells consumers where they can send broken devices. And last month, simplified Chinese support was included in version 5.3.0 of Kindle Paperwhite software.
Amazon launched the Brazil Kindle Store last week. As Ingrid Lunden noted, that marked the company’s first attempt to break into a new market with an e-book-only operation, suggesting that Amazon has faith Kindle and e-book sales are strong enough to lead its expansion strategy.
If Amazon does indeed launch Kindle devices in China, it may finally be able to tap a huge market opportunity. According to a report by Renub Research, China is the second largest market in the e–reader industry as sales increase steadily and expected to equal US by 2014. In Apple’s fourth quarter earnings call, CEO Tim Cook said that the company’s sales of wireless products were growing in that country: iPad sales were up 45%, while iPhone sales grew 38%. For the year, Apple had total revenues of $23.8 billion for China, than double what it made in China in 2011.
Though Amazon refuses to divulge sales figures for Kindle devices and e-books, the line continues to enjoy very strong traction. But Amazon’s incremental roll-out of Kindle devices to international markets means local competitors, such as Chinese media conglomerate Hanvon, Dangdang, and Shanda, have had time to gain momentum by offering much cheaper devices and e-books.