Home » Amazon, Non-US » Amazon Deletes Kannada-Langauge eBook, Indian Literary Community Freaks Out

Amazon Deletes Kannada-Langauge eBook, Indian Literary Community Freaks Out

16 August 2016

From The Digital Reader:

The Times of India, Bangalore Mirror, and other sites are reporting that Amazon won’t let a Kannada-language ebook into the Kindle Store. (According to Wikipedia, there are around 50 million people in the world who speak that language.)

Amazon’s apparent reluctance to allow Kannada e-books on its Kindle platform has angered sections of writers and Kannada groups pitting the Kannada Development Authority, a statutory body, and Kannada Sahitya Parishat, the apex literary body, against the Seattle-based ecommerce behemoth.

The two organisations are gathering details to decide on its next move to get Amazon to respond to the request of writers to introduce Kannada e-books on Kindle.

The spat is showing signs of gaining momentum in the coming days as Amazon India, headquartered out of Bengaluru, is said to be planning to offer books in Hindi, Tamil, Marathi, Malayalam and Gujarati on its e-reader.

While the Kannada Development Authority has written a letter to Amazon, the Sahitya Parishat is consulting experts to guide it in the matter.

“We have written to Amazon requesting it to treat Kannada in the same way as it wishes to treat other Indian languages. We have also asked them to explain why they want to exclude Kannada from Kindle,” Hanumanthaiah, the Authority Chairman told ET. “We will decide our future course of action after receiving Amazon’s reply,” he added.

. . . .

For the record, Amazon launched the international Kindle store in 2009, and seven years later it still neglects to support most of the languages on this planet.

Link to the rest at The Digital Reader

The post below discusses books and trigger warnings. PG suspects Amazon just managed to trigger 50 million people without having any intention to do so.

Someone needs to ask the AAP and the Authors Guild where they stand on the dire shortage of US books translated into Kanarese and how long Kannada speakers will be relegated to second-class status.

Amazon, Non-US

24 Comments to “Amazon Deletes Kannada-Langauge eBook, Indian Literary Community Freaks Out”

  1. Kannada apparently uses a written language that looks like Sanskrit. So, the bigger issue here is that Amazon still doesn’t properly support embedded fonts. (It’s something driving me up the wall as well, being as my new horror trilogy was written in two fonts for aesthetic reasons.)

    • No, the Kindle can do embedded fonts – it’s one of the features of KF8 format.

      The real “problem” here is that Amazon won’t sell ebooks in Kannadan.

      Amazon doesn’t let you sell just any language in the Kindle Store because then they would have to provide customer service, tech support, and troubleshooting for the authors and readers who use all those languages.

      • Note that I said “properly”. The writer usually has to ‘force’ the Kindle to support the font, and Amazon’s software still sometimes strips the coding out during upload.

      • Yup. Font support is the least of it.

        50M speak it but how many buy books in it?
        How many books a year are published in it?

        A couple decades back, Dell sold Linux desktop PCs identical to their Windows models. At first they cost the same. Then they cost $50 more. Then they stopped selling them. The cost of supporting the OS in-house was too high for the volume of systems sold. With Windows, a good portion of the support was provided my MS, not Dell. With Linux it was all Dell’s responsibility and the volume just never grew big enough.

        When your business depends on low margin/high volume the fixed support costs can quickly overwhelm any economic benefit of even an apparently large niche.

        In this case, the best info I found is that total books published in India run between 50k and 90k a year. 45% in English or Hindi with the rest divided among over 25 different languages.

        The population is large but the publishing business isn’t: $2B total and $40M in ebooks in 2013/14:


        And that is before getting into the demographics and economics of the regional languages. (50m people in a country of well over a billion?)

        It is quite possible that the total sales potential for Kindle ebooks in that regional language fall short of the cost of one full time contract employee providing support. Never mind retooling the reader software.

        Also, don’t forget that those regional languages aren’t equal in size or economic potential but that supporting one would require supporting all or face 24 “scandals” like this.

        I’m guessing Amazon will say nothing.
        It wouldn’t be polite to say 50M speakers of the language can’t generate enough sales to support even one employee.

        Yes, it’s a chicken and egg issue, but also India’s entire ebook sector is tiny to start with.

  2. I’m sure there will be discussions on how to solve this, but meanwhile, the internet is there, India has many, many, many tech/IT/engineering bright minds. I’m sure they can pretty easily and swiftly figure out how to sell ebooks on an attractive site for download without much trouble until Amazon works it out.

    • That’s what I was thinking. I’m surprised there aren’t more people jumping on the publishing platform bandwagon; it seems like that would be a no-brainer in India in particular.

    • Why didn’t they do this on FlipKart if it was so important to them?

      I’m sure Amazon has their reasons, because they wouldn’t ignore all that $ they are leaving on the table.

      I’m guessing it has more to do with compliance with regards to obscenity laws as well as copyright infringement.

      I doubt software can compare an English work with a translated work because sometimes the word order is different. So Amazon would have to hire a team of competent readers who understand copyright law to be able to read and compare the works. Not a small task. I wouldn’t want to bother with that, either.

  3. It is possible Amazon can’t deal with every language on the planet – how would they know about plagiarized content, or books with deliberate incitements to violence, or any other thing which would get a writer in English in hot water?

    They will probably add languages as they are able to require the same things in those languages as they can for the ones they already provide.

  4. Right. It can’t be the font. All of the languages listed are written in some variant of the Brahmic script.

    I would speculate that it has something to do with how many books are actually being written in the Kannada language (which may not be directly related to how many people speak the language in daily life).

    If most of the literature in the Kannada-speaking region is actually written in English (the language that’s understood by most literate people throughout India), that would explain it.

    This article suggests that the state of Kannada literature has been less than healthy for quite some time, with most readers being over 40 years old.


    • Good link.
      So, total titles run 6000 a year but many if not most(?) sell 300 copies to the government and never hit retail.

      Sounds like a cultural identity issue more than an economic issue.

      More people thinking Amazon is a public utility, apparently.

    • My mother in law, who grew up speaking Kannada and who now lives in Canada, tells me that the alphabet is too different. If you only know that alphabet, you aren’t going to be able to read in any of the other languages.
      Her first reaction, when I read the headline to her, was mild outrage but, as we read further, we came to understand it wasn’t a deletion but, rather, a decision not to carry that language I the first place.
      If Amazon starts supporting every language that has fifty million speakers in India, it’s gonna get out of hand pretty quickly.

  5. As someone else mentioned, Amazon doesn’t normally leave money on the table unless they think taking that money will actually cost them more in the long run (and we know Amazon likes to take the long view on things.)

    If they just want to get their Kannada books out to readers, the html to kindle tool is free. If it won’t handle Kannada, it might not be worth it for Amazon to ‘fix’ it at this point.

    I haven’t bothered to check, but does kindle support Klingon? 😉

    • “I haven’t bothered to check, but does kindle support Klingon?”

      Yes. 🙂


      • 😛 Twas a joke!

        I do love these titles that ‘trigger’ people by not telling the ‘entire’ truth (of course if the title was the truth people would yawn and check out the next story.

        Amazon never ‘deleted’ a (or any Kannada) ebook, they never offered them in the first place. And the blog starts with:

        “Remember back in 2011 when Amazon removed a Maltese-language book from the Kindle, and everyone lost their sh**?”

        Which is another trigger attack because what it points to is:

        “One of the world’s largest online retailers, amazon.com, has rejected a Maltese attempt to publish e-books in the Maltese language.”

        Which is not ‘they deleted it!’ they just choose not to sell/support it, just like the local wally-mart doesn’t have the brand cookies my mom likes on their shelves.

        They are trying to ‘trigger’ a debate, but I don’t see Amazon caving in on it.

        • I wasn’t trying to trigger anything; I was calling BS on that older story, and this one.

          • Then wouldn’t ‘refuses to support’ be a bit more in line with what’s happening than ‘deletes’?

            Words are power. Use them wisely.

            Of course it might help if I could read, I do see the fun you were poking at the bottom … much to do about nothing it seems.


            The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and the lightning bug. — Mark Twain

  6. Classic case of cutting of supply and asking where is the demand. Many customers have been writing to Amazon (if one follows them on Social Media, they can observe) and asking for Kannada language support on Kindle. There is a huge demand for Kannada books and Amazon themselves acknowledge that. They opened a section dedicated to Kannada books a couple of years on the back of the demand for Kannada content.

    Technology is not an issue because many people have managed to ‘jail break’ and install fonts/support for Kannada ebook.

    Also, to clarify, Kannada has no relation to Sanskrit script and is a Dravidian Classical language.

  7. > support

    So, outsource support to some Kannada-speaking person in India. How much “support” does a Kindle need, anyhow?

    If it’s a big enough issue, ask the local government to kick in some rupees or ask for volunteers.

    Long ago I did tech support for a startup ISP. I found they were going to turn down an offer from the local college for the blind. The school was trying to negotiate a group discount for something like 500 internet accounts. Management was going to pass on it; blind people squicked them, and they might be a support problem.

    I got involved, got them to make a contract, fielded a few support calls… and we never heard from them again, other than checks arriving monthly. Because the school was a tight group, and you only had to walk *one* of them through a problem and it became “institutional knowledge” because it was easier to get help from someone in the school than for some support drone to tell then to click on an icon they couldn’t see…

    No, Amazon doesn’t *have* to deal with potential customers speaking some language most of the world never heard of. But they’re not just passing up a relative handful of Kindle customers; they’re throwing away a 50-million-strong market for Amazon’s other services.

    50 million would make them the size of [clickety] South Korea, the 27th largest country. Bigger than Spain, Ukraine, Poland, or Canada…

  8. This handy page on Wikipedia informed me about the relative popularity of languages. I better work on my Spanish! It’s #2 in the world, just below Mandarin, and above English at #3.


    According to that list, Kannada is #32 in the world, and is spoken by “only” 38 million, not the 50 million claimed. It’s a fascinating list to look at. I speak pretty good French and German, but I really ought to learn Chinese… which is far more challenging than the other two…

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