New Delhi: India’s fledgling e-book reader business is set to gain a new player next month with the unveiling of Wink, about two weeks before Amazon.com’s latest iteration of its Kindle is launched.
EC Media (International) Pvt. Ltd, a Bangalore-based company that has been working on the product for the past year, plans to start selling the Wink on 15 August, according to Binoo K. John, vice-president, content. It will join the Pi e-reader, which was launched in February.
Vishal Mehta, founder and CEO of Ahmedabad-based Infibeam.com, which sells the Pi, priced at Rs9,999, expects the market to surge as its catalogue widens.
“From 1.5 lakh titles, we will add four lakh titles from all major publishers,” he said. “Having sold infibeam Pi in tens of thousands since February, we hope to double our sales by the end of the year.”
Wink’s basic model with a six-inch screen will be priced at Rs8,000, while the nine-inch advanced version will cost Rs22,000. While the six-inch screen has resolution of 800x600 pixels and weighs 260g with battery, the advanced model (1024x768-pixel resolution) weighs 430g. EC Media hopes to sell 25,000 units by the end of the year. The new six-inch Kindle starts at $139 (around Rs6,400).
EC Media was set up in 2009 by DC Books, a 30-year-old publishing house based in Kerala.
Mint reported on 1 February that Chennai-based technology outsourcing company California Software Co. Ltd will provide the technology support for its e-reader.
“The adoption to e-readers may be slow but it is definite and here to stay,” said D.C. Ravi, chief executive of DC Books.
EC Media has a tie-up with Ingram, a US-based digital aggregator or warehouse, and has access to at least 100,000 titles from various publishers. It has tied up with publishers including Penguin, Roli and Oxford University Press to upload titles on Wink’s portal. It has also independently tied up with Permanent Black, a New Delhi-based publishing company, for four of its titles.
These include A Princely Impostor? The Strange and Universal History of the Kumar of Bhawal by Partha Chatterjee and Finding Forgotten Cities: How the Indus Civilization was Discovered by Nayanjot Lahiri. EC Media will sell the titles at a 25% discount to the market price and 50% of each sale will go to Permanent Black.
“This format has a wide reach and we wanted to experiment. These are early days and we’re observing how it fares in India,” said Rukun Advani of Permanent Black. “The success will depend on how well the e-reader is marketed.”
EC Media has also roped in authors such as Ramachandra Guha and Mridula Koshy independently. While authors get a nominal advance, royalties will be paid on each book sold, which can be as much as 50%, according to John, a published author and former journalist.
“If e-readers catch on in India, which is likely in a year’s time, authors can get published and get four times the existing royalties,” he said.
Magazines such as Tehelka and Seminar will also be available on Wink.
“Our editorial content is strong and we would like to reach out to the younger audiences through this medium,” said Neena Tejpal, chief operating officer at Tehelka. While some of the magazine’s recent issues will be available on Wink, Tejpal confirmed that archives, too, would eventually be made available.
Tejbir Singh, editor of Seminar, also confirmed its presence on the device. “With our editions available on e-books, we hope to tap the younger generation. Seminar is a niche publication and any extra push in a new direction for further access is good,” he said.
However, it’s not clear whether the service will gain traction in India, Singh said.
“While the concept is seeing success in the West, I’m not sure whether we’re ready for it. Even our tie-up isn’t purely for revenue purposes. I think we still enjoy holding a hard copy of a book in our hands,” said Singh. “We (Seminar) are just dinosaurs keen on entering the modern world. Let’s see if we fare well.”
EC Media also plans to launch its own digital newspaper Wink Wire and is also in the process of announcing Wink Books, its digital publishing imprint, to sign more authors independently.
The company also plans to tie up with authors to release serialized novels in the detective and romance genres. Priced at Rs5-10 per download, these will be updated every week.
Apart from this, DC Books has 7,000 Malayalam titles, all of which will be available on Wink to help capture a wider section of readers.
EC media has two types or Readers and both Readers supports capacitive touch screen with multi-touch, a full QWERTY keyboard though display and weight differs.
Reader-A has the following specs in terms of dimensions, weight and display:
Dimensions: 185mm (L) x 124.6 mm (W) x 10.9 mm (H) and weighs 260 grams with battery
Display: Gray Scale: 16-Level gray scale, resolution: 800x 600 pixels,
Screen Size: 6” measured diagonally.
Reader-B has the following specs in terms of dimensions, weight and display:
Dimensions: 262mm(L)×170mm(W)×11.9mm(H) and weighs 430 grams with battery
Display: Gray Scale: 16-Level Gray Scale, Resolution: 1024 x 768 pixels,
Screen Size: 9” measured diagonally.
Both Readers can run for 8000 pages and take approximately 6 hours with USB charging from powered Computer or 3 hours when using optional AC charger.
EC Media portal (yet to be operational) will have standard shopping cart and support secure payments through credit cards, electronic transfers and by DD. Customers can purchase titles directly from the device or from a PC. 10% of all books will be available free for browsing.
The revenue sharing depends entirely on the sales. So, they tie up with authors independently, as is the case with Guha and co. for a nominal advance fee and with each download they pay the authors royalties up to 50%. “If e-readers catch on in , which is likely in a year’s time… authors with an average manuscript can get published and get four times the existing royalties,” Binoo John, vice president (content) of EC Media International Private Limited.
Publishers provide content in ePub or PDF format and Metadata in XML format. EC Media can also create the formats at its end if needed. Currently EC Media supports English and 15 Indian languages.