Infibeam Launches Pi: Kindle Competitor For India

Infibeam has announced the launch of Pi - an ebook reader for Indian market. The device is priced at 10,000 Rs (approximately 220$) and  is pretty similar to the original kindle in its capabilities.

Kindle vs Pi

Feature Kindle Pi
220$ approx. (10,000Rs) 260$ (Import charges extra) Price
Screen Size 6\" 6\"
Size 203.2mm x 134.6mm x 9.1mm 188mm x 118mm x 9.5mm
Weight 289.2 grams 180 grams
System Requirements None Unknown
Wireless Global coverage. Free usage in home country Not Available
Storage 2GB,1500 books 512Mb, 500 books
Battery Life 7 days 7 days
Access To Ebooks Kindle, PC, iPhone Pi
Ebooks Available 400,000 100,000

The major difference is that kindle comes with free wireless but with Pi you will have to use a computer to sync your purchases. Amazon wanted to position kindle as an ultra simple standalone gadget with no dependencies and went with free wireless to realize that goal. Syncing with a computer is not a difficult task but it is often cumbersome. Cutting out the wireless might explain the 40$ difference in price between Kindle and Pi.

The selection of e-books offered at this point veers more towards the unknown than the popular. Infibeam claims to carry all the best-sellers in the ebook store but none of the top ten books featured in infibeam’s bestseller list is available in the ebook store. Hopefully this content gap will be filled soon.

Though Infibeam is touting the low cost of e-books, a brief search through the e-books store found them to be more expensive than paperbacks.The pricing seems to follow international pricing of e-books and I wonder how successful that strategy is going to be in India. Even Amazon, with all its might was not able to convince publishers to reduce the cost of ebooks. maybe Infibeam will be able to do it since India is a price sensitive market. Maybe the target audience of a 10,000Rs ebook reader won't mind the high price for the books but I think Pi will find better success if it has ebooks priced lower than paperbacks.

Though ebooks are convenient, I’m not comfortable locking up my book collection in a DRM encumbered format. The ebooks Infibeam sell are in the epub format and most ebooks come with various restrictions. You cannot print it, copy it, share it and the ebooks bought cannot be re-downloaded more than 3 times. These restrictions are not Pi’s alone. World over, ebooks are typically sold with such restrictions as publishers are weary of privacy. Kindle is even worse because the ebook format kindle uses is proprietary and the ebooks can be read only on kindle or kindle software. In case of Pi, the epub format is an open standard and there are free readers available from Adobe for Windows and Mac.

Interestingly, Infibeam's inspiration from amazon extends much beyond their site design and logo. Even the product shots of Kindle and Pi share a striking similarity. They could have done without this. If you can launch a cutting edge device, surely you can make original product shots ?

I’m happy to see an Indian company take the bold step of introducing a cutting edge gadget in a market which is still small and maturing. I don't think Pi will be a runaway hit  as a general purpose ebook reader but if Infibeam is able to get textbooks into the device, then they might find greater success.

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