We don’t have a very good answer to what India’s ebook problem is, or what’s causing the shortage of books in India.
What we do know is that there are a lot of people who are reading ebooks and that some of them are finding it difficult to get access to books in the first place.
The problem seems to be related to India’s unique laws that require online retailers to pay royalties on every book they sell.
For ebooks, this means that it costs about Rs.2,400 for a single book on Amazon, Rs.4,000 on Flipkart and Rs.7,000 for Amazon India.
In other words, it’s more than double what it costs to purchase a book on a physical store.
“In a country like India where it’s all about commerce and a lot is tied up in commerce, it is an issue of great concern,” said Gopalkrishna Prasad, senior vice president at digital book publisher Digital Books India, which is also part of the bookseller group Kishan.
India’s online market share is about 2.6 percent, and most of it is owned by the booksellers, which also own the books, he said.
It is a small but significant portion.
“We have no idea what is going on,” Prasadd told Quartz.
But the government has been trying to solve the problem.
In April, the government announced a policy called the ‘E-book Tax’ that aims to make it easier for e-books to be sold on the country’s ecommerce platforms, including Amazon, Flipkard and BookShark.
The policy also allows for payment in cash and e-money, which can be used for online purchases.
However, the implementation of the tax hasn’t yet been widely implemented, and people are still finding it hard to get books on e-commerce platforms.
A few weeks ago, the e-tailer Flipkarm announced that it would begin charging Rs.3,000 (around $4) for the delivery of a book in India, up from Rs.1,500 (around 30 cents) at the moment.
That decision triggered an immediate response from bookseller owners, who have been asking the government to allow them to charge Rs. 2,400.
The government, however, has so far declined to grant their requests.
And as the situation worsens, the number of books that can be sold at all has fallen, with a recent report from bookseller platform Bookstar showing that India is now in a position where nearly one-third of the books on its platform are ebooks.
India may not be alone in the region, though.
In the U.K., e-shop chains Amazon and Flipkarts are struggling to get enough books on their platforms to fill the demand.
There are many reasons for this, including the fact that there is a lack of incentives for bookshops to sell e-readers.
According to the Bookshark report, there are nearly 2.2 million e-stores in the U, but the U currently has just under 4 million bookshoppers.
In India, e-sellers are still struggling to find a way to charge for their books, which makes them more expensive to sell than traditional books.
“If we were to take a bookshopper, we would need to charge at least Rs. 10,000 to get a book,” Prasaraman told Quartz, adding that the government should look at other ways to make the prices on ebooks competitive with traditional books, such as setting up payment plans for buyers.
“I think there are many other ways of making e-selling affordable, but there is still a lot that needs to be done,” he said, adding, “It’s an extremely important problem, which the government needs to take up.”