Amazon launches Kindle tablet and e-reader in China

Amazon could face problems securing e-book content in China, according to an analyst

After remaining quiet on the hardware front for years, Amazon.com's China business has finally brought the company's Kindle tablet and Kindle e-reader to the country.

On Friday, both the Kindle Fire HD and Kindle Paperwhite went on sale through the company's site in the country. The Kindle Fire HD starts at 1499 yuan (US$242) for the 16GB version model, while the Kindle Paperwhite is available for 849 yuan ($137)

The company brought the products to China after releasing localized versions of its Kindle software to the country in the prior months. In May, Amazon updated its mobile app store to include Chinese language support, and last December it launched its local Kindle e-book service.

Before the Kindle's official launch in China, local consumers in the country were already buying Kindle e-readers from overseas markets, said Mark Natkin, managing director for Beijing-based Marbridge Consulting.

But unlike in the U.S., Amazon is a small player in China's online retail market. In this year's first quarter, the company had the fifth largest business-to-consumer (B-to-C) site in the country, but this only amounted to a 2.8 percent market share, according to Beijing-based research firm Analysys International. Leading China's B-to-C space is Tmall, part of local e-commerce giant Alibaba Group.

Amazon's Kindle hardware could help it further its brand and sell more digital products in China, according to analysts. But the company will also face more established competition from rival firms. Chinese companies Hanvon Technology and Shanda dominate China's e-reader market. Apple and PC maker Lenovo, meanwhile, lead in the country's tablet sales. Lenovo Android tablets can go as low as 999 yuan.

But another challenge the company will face in China is the country's publishing market, said Mao Ajing, an analyst with Analysys. Publishers in the nation are still reluctant to make their books available in a digital format, and fear that the change will hurt sales of printed books, she said.

"Amazon's content in e-books won't be as much because of the problems in getting publishing rights," Mao added. "Originally, the Kindle was supposed to arrive in China last December, but this was derailed because of the publishing rights problem."

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