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A Kindle shortage is fueling the theory that Amazon is leaving China

Written by Mengyuan Ge Published on     2 mins read

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In October 2021, Amazon closed down its Kindle flagship on Taobao.

Amazon landed in the spotlight in China on Tuesday, when a shortage of Kindle e-readers in its JD.com flagship store led to speculation that the company was pulling out of China.

The uproar began when a Weibo user with 124,000 followers noticed the Kindle shortage and posted questions about the reason behind the lack of stock on JD.com. Subsequently, “Kindle” became a trending topic on Weibo on Tuesday.

A representative of Amazon spoke to Chinese media outlets the same day to deny that the company was leaving the country. “We are committed to serving Chinese consumers. Consumers can purchase Kindle devices through third-party online and offline retailers. The high-quality customer service and warranty offered by Amazon will remain on offer. The Kindle e-reader is popular with consumers and some models are currently sold out in China,” the representative said.

The speculation that Amazon might be exiting China comes on the heels of its Kindle flagship store on Taobao shutting down in October 2021. At the time, Amazon did not issue a statement or explanation.

At the moment, Amazon’s Kindle store on JD.com, China’s second largest e-commerce platform, only has the Kindle 10 for sale. Other models—Paperwhite, Oasis, and Kids Edition—are out of stock. Kindles have been available in China since 2013, and Amazon has sold e-books in the country since 2012.

While Amazon’s Kindle is the top e-reader in the United States and Europe, Chinese consumers prefer to access their reading material through their smartphones. A slew of e-book stores have launched in China to specifically serve readers who prefer to use their smartphones. The likes of Tencent, Alibaba, JD.com, and Douban each have their own e-book marketplaces. Popular options include China Literature, Douban Read, JDRead, Baidu Read, and WeChat Read, which offer domestic and international titles.

There is no shortage of domestically developed e-book readers either, with popular brands like Xiaomi, iReader, and Onyx Boox.

It took more than one post on Weibo to breathe life into the theory that Amazon is leaving China. After a data protection law was implemented in November 2021, Yahoo left the country for good and LinkedIn downsized its operations.

In October 2021, Linkedin announced it would shut down the social media functions of its service, and pointed to “a significantly more challenging operating environment and greater compliance requirements in China” as the reason for the change.

Yahoo cited “the increasingly challenging business and legal environment in China” and terminated its operations in the country on November 1, 2021.

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