Dec 122010

I have been using the Kindle for around 3 weeks now and can say with considerable confidence that its one of the best e-Readers ever made. Though, not a fan of standalone devices suited only for a single function, I was bowled over by the Kindle’s immersive reading experience and the eInk display which looks amazingly similar to real paper.

The only real disappointment with the Kindle is the cost of the content in India. A typical NYT best seller costs $9.99 usually half the cost of the print edition in the USA. But in India the same Kindle ebook costs $11.99 compared to the print edition cost of $5 (250-300). Now, the Kindle edition has no printing, warehousing or shipping costs unlike the print version. The two major costs are the author royalties and the network charges paid to AT & T for their international roaming service on the Kindle. Given the fact that I download books on the wifi instead of 3G, what is the justification of imposing this additional cost on me? The increased price isn’t confined to ebooks alone. A one month subscription to Hindustan Times costs $9.99 in India, which is 400% more than the print version.

In my opinion the cost of the commodity should be based on the purchasing power of the local currency. In the United states, an ordinary meal would cost around $10 and a movie ticket around $8-10. In India these figures are only about $3-4 (Rs 150-200). In a price conscious market like India, expecting someone to pay twice the cost for digital content doesn’t make a lot of sense. If Amazon wants to take advantage of the huge volumes here, it will have to make content affordable so more people are willing to pay for it.

Given the fact that Kindle is essentially useless without content, lower ebook prices give a huge boost to the device sales. Doing otherwise encourages piracy already rampant in the print edition books (You can get a bootlegged copy of any popular novel for $2 in most Indian markets). I am subscribed to the only available Indian magazine on Kindle – India Today, but I never changed my region to India and am wary of doing it because the prices immediately go up.

The Kindle is a great device, but it will only be able to sustain its top position if Amazon brings more local content to the device and takes care of the pricing concerns outside the USA.