How has Amazon shaped Indian publishing?

Amish Raj Mulmi
2 min readFeb 19, 2018

For The Ken, I set out to query with Indian publishers, literary agents, booksellers and authors about the ecommerce behemoth has shaped the business of books here in India. The story’s behind a paywall (a Ken subscription is required to read it fully), but the major points were:

About $3 billion worth of physical books sold worldwide in the first half of 2017. With 80% of global ebook sales via Kindle. While Amazon’s numbers sure do all the talking, three different Indian publishers we spoke to also suggested Amazon accounted for anywhere between 40–55% of their total physical sales.

Between market dominance in physical sales, improved distribution, and the new avenues that Kindle has opened up, Amazon has become a giant Indian publishing cannot ignore, much like in the rest of the world.

The improved distribution of books via Amazon has been accompanied by a rise in the total number of books being published. With the entry of multinational publishers like Hachette and HarperCollins and several Indian publishers who’ve expanded their operations, it’s never been easier to publish a book. But it’s also equally difficult for a new author to be discovered in an age of bestsellers.

Then there’s the question of discounts. Though many commentators suggest they are the sole reason why bookstores are going out of business, it’s not entirely accurate. High rentals are the leading reason why Indian bookstores are going out of business, but ecommerce discounts obviously impact them.

Between high discounts and shrinking physical retail space, the e-commerce space is on its way to monopolising the space. But with its focus on bestsellers, unless Amazon solves the ‘discoverability’ problem, it’s difficult to see how newer authors, or authors with a niche readership, can be highlighted.

For Indian publishers, digital sales have mostly stabilised at around 5–8% of total sales, much lower than the West. The adoption of digital reading has been slower than expected, and there are only guesses as to why it hasn’t picked up. Nevertheless, some publishers are optimistic.

It wouldn’t be an extrapolation to argue Amazon is the single-largest marketplace for books in India today. There are also few fears that Amazon will be able to dictate terms to Indian publishers as it did in the West, because there’s not much you can do in terms of pushing terms further in a low-priced market like India.

But there’s also the risk that dependence on a single-selling platform brings to the business. An Amazon monopoly over the publishing business will also create a uniform book culture dominated by bestsellers, shades of which are already visible today.’

To read the entire story, click here.

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Amish Raj Mulmi

Consulting Editor @ Writers' Side Literary Agency. Writes mostly on books & publishing, and Nepali history. More at amishmulmi.wordpress.com