June 8, 2022
BEIJING – For many Kindle users, it will be a long day without an old friend. But that Amazon has decided to shut down its Kindle e-book store next year in China after years of sluggish growth comes as no surprise.
After all, the global tech giant was scaling down business in the world’s second largest economy, where competition in the world of digital reading was becoming increasingly fierce with local giants. A speculation about an impending withdrawal were already flying since last year when Amazon shut its Kindle store on Tmall and its e-ink reading devices were out of stock on multiple e-commerce platforms.
Amazon had then issued a statement saying it would discontinue its Kindle e-bookstore in the Chinese market from June 30, 2023. But it had also said it remained committed to Chinese customers and will continue to innovate and invest in China. Amazon’s latest move has given some media outlets fodder to speculate on another US enterprise’s defeat at China’s door.
However, if anything, Kindle’s shutdown, just like its unrivalled success in China in the years following its launch, should be attributed to the ways of the market economy. Championing an ultra-pleasant immersive reading experience helped Kindle win over Chinese consumers’ hearts when the enterprise started selling e-book readers in Chinese market in 2013. As a Kindle user myself, the moment I got a Kindle device was no less memorable than when I got my first iPhone. Not long ago, a Kindle device was must-have for most hipsters in China.
But with the rise of Chinese local e-reading apps and e-book services (many of them free) that are more suitable to Chinese readers’ tastes and come with more functions, Kindle has sadly lost its edge.
Local e-book reading devices come with bigger, even colored, screens, and at a lower price. They offer more advantages, e-book services at lower rates, more variety and updates. That apart, Chinese readers’ tendency to read on cellphones and tablets has also contributed to Kindle’s retreat.
Chinese consumers always have and will continue to welcome any foreign business that offers quality products and services. And Kindle’s decision is actually natural fallout of serious market competition.
Maybe we will see it again, maybe not. But Kindle will be in book lovers’ memory.