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Why India and Brazil are the next hot e-book countries

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India and Brazil are on their way to becoming e-book powerhouses, but their path there looks different from the transition in the US and the UK.

Twenty-four percent of Indian adults with Internet access have bought an e-book, Bowker’s Kelly Gallagher said in a panel at the Publishers Launch BEA conference today, and 18 percent of Brazilian adults have done so.

In predicting e-book penetration rates, it’s key not just to look at the “technology-savvy” countries, Gallagher said, but to look at the size of the overall population combined with Internet penetration rate. “Suddenly, India becomes the second largest potential market” after the U.S., he said, followed by Brazil. The UK and Australia have high Internet penetration, but their populations are small.

“The perfect storm”

Gallagher calls e “the perfect storm for publishing in emerging countries.” Here’s why:

  • Growth of the middle-class economy, focused on education
  • English is the universal language, at least of business. Translated works will be important, Gallagher said, but “where these readers want to go today is not in leisure reading, but primarily focused on business. And they are asking for the content in English.”
  • Advancements in the online payment process (we’ve seen it in the prepaid phone card system, for instance)
  • No supply chain necessary; affordable tech

Why the e-reading transition in India and Brazil is different

Here’s why the e-reading transition in India and Brazil will look different from the way it has in the U.S. and UK:

  • The transition is led by professional/business and academic e-books. 80 percent of Indian e-book buyers have purchased business, professional or academic ebooks and nearly 75 percent of Brazilian e-book buyers have done so. “The education and business genres are key growth opportunities” in the BRIC countries, Gallagher said, compared to “leisure genres” driving the “traditional Anglo markets.”
  • E-book buyers most often purchase e-books directly from the publisher. Amazon (s AMZN) has a small market share (at least for now).

Most Indians and Brazilians are still reading e-books on PCs and laptops, but as e-readers become more affordable, Gallagher says BRIC countries have the potential to “leap-frog” the U.S. in e-book penetration in the next couple of years.

Photo courtesy of Flickr/gaby_bra