Amazon is pulling out of China, once considered its most significant market. They stopped selling Kindle e-readers last summer and have just stated that they will completely shutter the Kindle Store on June 30th, 2023. This will prevent anyone in China with a Kindle e-reader or using one of the Kindle apps for Android from buying ebooks. The Kindle app for Android and iOS will be pulled from the app stores in the summer of 2024. Also, in 2024, Amazon will close their ebook servers completely, so users must download and store their books on the Kindle or lose them forever.
According to Elaine Chang, president of Amazon China, the Kindle launched in China in 2013 and was the first overseas brand to enter the market and gain traction. More than 460,000 books, including 220,000 Chinese and 240,000 English titles, are available on Kindle Store in China as of 2017. Amazon told Chinese State media that China represented 40% of global e-reader sales.
Why did Amazon decide to leave China? It is primarily due to homegrown competitors like Xiaomi and TikTok parent ByteDance eroding Amazon’s market share. However, iiMedia Research analyst Zhang Yi told Nikkei that the Kindle brand is now “relatively niche” in the region. The Chinese are more likely to read with their phones, and domestic e-book services like Tencent’s China Literature dominate, whereas the Kindle app is only in the top 10.
Pulling out of your largest market, with a whimper does not bode well for the future of the Kindle. This e-reader used to be critically important to Amazon, but in recent years Amazon Music, Prime Video and Alexa make way more money. Amazon sells way more physical books than ebooks. I don’t think the Kindle will be completely discontinued anytime soon, as they do not have much competition in their strongest markets such as the United States, UK, Canada and most of Europe.
Michael Kozlowski has written about audiobooks and e-readers for the past twelve years. Newspapers and websites such as the CBC, CNET, Engadget, Huffington Post and the New York Times have picked up his articles. He Lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.