US tech giant Amazon pulled the plug on its Kindle online services in China on Friday, closing a chapter on its fight for the massive consumer market and sending bereft bookworms rushing to stock up on e-books.
The e-commerce pioneer has in recent years appeared to admit defeat to local Chinese rivals such as Alibaba and JD.com, ending its online retail operations for Chinese consumers in 2019.
Last year it said it would stop operating its Kindle e-bookstore in the country, without giving a reason.
After Friday, Kindle users will no longer be able to purchase new books online — though they will still be able to download purchased books onto their local devices for another year.
On Chinese social media, users said they were rushing to stock up before the deadline.
“After two days of hard work, (I’ve) finally downloaded all the free Chinese books on Amazon,” boasted one user on Instagram-like Xiaohongshu.
Millions of Kindle reading devices were sold in China between 2013 and 2018, according to state media outlet China Daily.
But Mr Zhang Yi, founder of the Guangzhou-based research firm iiMedia, told AFP that on the whole, the wide coverage of 4G and 5G mobile networks, as well as the proliferation of smartphones had made e-book readers such as Kindle largely redundant for Chinese consumers.
“From our user behaviour research, we found that Chinese users do not have a big demand for e-book readers,” he said.
Ease of access to free e-books and the low cost of print meant that the Kindle store has “limited business value”, Mr Li Chengdong, founder of Beijing-based tech-focused think tank Dolphin, said.
That’s of little comfort to those who have adopted them, like avid reader Ms Zoe Xu, who told AFP she was upset about the e-bookstore’s closure.
Ms Xu said she bought her first Kindle in 2013, when the e-reader first entered the China market.
“I’ve been in the habit (of using Kindle for reading) for ten years, and it takes time and energy to change to another platform,” she told AFP.
“I’m sad and a bit annoyed at the same time.”
She said she had bought and downloaded enough books to “last me for years” in response to the closure.
Another Xiaohongshu user posted that they had spent 2500 yuan ($345) on ebooks over the past month.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)