Sunday, 21 November 2010

Kriss Kindle

Cover of "Kindle Wireless Reading Device,...Cover via AmazonWith Amazon's Kindle down to $139 for the 3G enabled version, you'd almost be mad not to. So I did - I put it on my Christmas list. Amazon still doesn't support the sale of Kindles to the UAE (or the greater Middle East as far as I'm aware), so I had to use (client plug warning) Shop&Ship, the service from Aramex that gives you convenience addresses in New York, London and Singapore so that you can buy your stuff locally there and ship it over by courier. Two days and Dhs99 later and it's just arrived.

Amazon's lack of support for Kindle in the Middle East is nothing short of scandalous, particularly here in the UAE where there is abundant IP protection - abundant enough for companies like Microsoft, Sony and Paramount to open up offices and other investments here. Between Amazon and Apple, which still doesn't support the UAE or, as far as I know, broader region with iTunes, the vast majority of 'e' content is denied to all but the few 'haves' - in fact the last Spot On/Effective Measure survey showed that something like 74% of online shoppers in the UAE are expatriates - those with access to overseas accounts and addresses can buy content and goods online more easily than those without.

With the emergence of tablets and readers as a very real market force in other markets (Amazon has been serving more Kindle books than hardcover books since June last year. Christmas day last year saw Kindle books outselling all other books) and the growing market for tablets as more devices are introduced by manufacturers keen to ride the tablet/reader wave, we're going to see enormous demand for content. If it's not met, our market is once again going to get dragged behind to lag on the wrong side of the digital divide. Oh, and of course, denied access to legitimate content, the market will take to using illegal channels. As someone who has long been deeply involved in IP advocacy campaigns, even I couldn't blame 'em.

There's an argument that it's time this is taken seriously at a governmental level - there are now a number of actions that need to be taken with increasing levels of urgency in order that the current lag in the application and use of technology in the UAE and wider region do not start to truly hamper this society in standing alongside other advanced world societies in terms of the way that information is formatted, accessed and shared. We need to focus on content creation, on opening up Internet access (and lowering the ridiculous cost of broadband), on building e-learning initiatives, incentivising entrepeneurialism (and de-criminalising business failure) and opening market access to international players and platforms.

And we need Amazon and Apple to open up to this market - over 99% of mobile apps were served by Apple last year, a market worth over $3 billion. This year Gartner reckons the mobile app market will be worth $6.8 billion and that Apple will retain something like a 75% share. Amazon dominates the market for books, with over 700,000 titles available on Kindle.

And. They're. Not. Here.

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Macthomson said...

Hah... I fear you are preaching to the converted.

There's Day Two of an eLearning conference in Abu Dhabi totorrow which I hope to attend.

I wonder if your thinking will in any way be echoed by the great and good assembled at the ADNEC?

We shall see.

Anonymous said...

Did it not perhaps occur to you that Amazon's reluctance to sell Kindle in the Middle East is because there isn't a single country that doesn't engage in ludicrous amounts of censorship. Apart from Israel, of course. Jews=readers. Arabs? Not so much....

Anonymous said...

It's to Jeff Bezos's credit that he doesn't want to police criticism of nasty oligarchs like the Al Sauds, Al-Sabahs or Al Maktoums. Maybe the Arab world should develop its own Kindle. You can have glitzy showpieces like Media City - but you'll never have genuine creativity until Arab countries become open, free societies.

th3shad0w said...

It might be tempting for some folks to dismiss ecommerce as a novelty but the fact is that it's already a multi-billion dollar industry internationally, and most likely worth a good many millions regionally.

It seems that all those millions are destined to keep flowing out of the region as there's no regional players lining up to sell much of anything to the regional online market apart from the airlines.

The stats suggest some pretty interesting things which ought to give retailers something to think about.

Most significant is that a significant amount of regional consumers already seem to be prepared to pay a premium for the privelidge of real choice.

To put that another way, perhaps there's better and more interesting stuff available online.

You can already see this 'grey import' effect happening with mobile phones - iPhone4s and the latest Android devices are being carried around the streets many months before they officially go on sale.

Similar in the auto industry, where grey imports of hot ticket models can precede official imports by years.

Now it's happening with content and media too - perhaps best exemplified by Virgin Megastores' shift in emphasis from selling music and DVDs in favour of hocking electronics and novelty items.

Perhaps losing a proportion of their business to online sales and grey markets isn't very worrying for regional retailers, who can always rely on the mass market (and people who are warranty-or-price sensitive).

The problem with that assumption is that online shopping is not actually that expensive or 'niche' (i.e. limited to hot-off-the-press goods). Online shopping can actually often be quite cost-competitive with local prices even including international shipping.

For many items warranty is not so much of an issue either. Content doesn't need a warranty for starters and electronics, particularly mobile phones, are normally more than reliable enough to be a 'safe bet' for their usually short shelf lives.

The whole 'content gap' emerging in the areas of music, video and particularly applications threatens to crush local retailers, resellers and (ultimately) content creators the most.

It's somewhat ironic that media and digital content are subject to the most restrictions and government controls and are the most overpriced items around compared to the rest of the world, all while being the easiest of goods to pirate.

who is said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Alwaysozmatt said...

Alexander, I too have ordered a Kindle this week. Awaiting mine early next week.

Simple work around re: no content. I've got a VPN. Du blocked Skype (in the marina) a few months ago and I'm sick of being prey to the censors in this region so I bought a multi-channel VPN. I can log in from Canada/UK/US/Germany all for just USD10p/m. So Apple/Amazon/whoever doesn't know where I am which gets around this issue.

Problem solved.

Sarah Walton said...

Well I guess the UAE has to keep up its reputation of being environmentally unfriendly....I mean they really would not want to contribute less to the felling of timber and more to landfill, would they?

Phillipa said...


what sort of word is that?

Some years ago in Australia the Liberal party devised a slogan for a federal election - just one word, "Incentivation". They lost the election - for a host of reasons - and gave the long suffering population a good laugh with their ridiculous word.

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