Photo: Hemant Mishra/Mint
Photo: Hemant Mishra/Mint

Flipkart stops selling e-books

From 11 December, e-books purchased on Flipkart will be serviced by Canada's eBook and eReader provider Rakuten Kobo

Flipkart Ltd will stop selling electronic books from Friday, three years after the online retailer started selling the product, acknowledging that Indians are yet to warm up to them.

Starting 11 December, e-books purchased on Flipkart will be serviced by Canada’s eBook and eReader provider Rakuten Kobo, which offers more than four million e-books. Consumers will not be able to buy e-books on Flipkart starting Friday, though their previous purchases will remain intact.

“The Indian book market is overwhelmingly dominated by physical books and this is a market that is growing at a fast clip. Flipkart will continue to be a leading player in the overall books market in India," the company said in a statement. “In its overall strategy for books, Flipkart does not see the e-Books service as a strategic fit and hence the decision of transitioning the e-Books service to Kobo."

Flipkart launched its e-books store in late 2012. A year later, the company also launched an e-book app to facilitate reading on mobile devices.

The print book market in India is valued at $3.9 billion, according to an October report by market researcher Nielsen.

The report pegged India as the second-largest English book market in the world.

Flipkart started out as an online retailer of books in 2007, but added other products such as mobile phones, laptops, clothes and furniture in the past five years. Until a few years ago, Flipkart was synonymous with buying books online, but of late its focus has moved to higher value categories.

Rival Amazon India has fast expanded its books business and analysts estimate the company is now the largest seller of books online.

Amazon.com Inc. is aggressively pushing its e-book reader Kindle in the country. In June, the firm launched an expensive ad campaign featuring popular authors such as Amish and Ashwin Sanghi to boost sales of Kindle and e-books.

Speculation about Flipkart exiting the e-book business was doing the rounds since September after the company ended its agreement with Smashwords, a distributor of e-books; Flipkart had entered into a contract with Smashwords in August 2013.

“This morning Smashwords received word from Flipkart that after careful consideration, Flipkart determined their systems are not yet capable of supporting the dynamic nature of the Smashwords catalog. As a result they will begin winding down the relationship with Smashwords and remove our titles," Smashwords said in a blogpost on 25 August.

E-books is the third category to have been shuttered by the e-commerce firm even as it explores plans to enter new categories and maintain its lead over Seattle-based Amazon.

In August last year, Flipkart shut its payment gateway Payzippy, after the company failed to sell the service to as many customers as it had expected. It had launched Payzippy in July 2013.

In May 2013, it exited the music streaming business Flyte after 15 months, citing the perils of music piracy and lack of proper infrastructure for facilitating easy micro-payments.

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