New signs from Vietnam’s e-book market

August 21, 2018 | 02:26 pm GMT+7

With 55 million internet and smartphone users, ebooks are becoming more common in Vietnam’s publishing industry. However, as the commercial infrastructure for e-publication trade is still limited, there are more challenges than opportunities.


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In Vietnam, where printed books are still dominant, ebooks are getting more popular thanks to new ways of approaching readers.

After five years of development, the e-book market is still at a moderate level with just a few well-known names such as Ybook and Alezza. The problem lies in distribution. In general, e-book developers only sell their own ebooks and rarely sell books developed by others. 

Even independent ebook distributors such as Waka, Alezza and Komo have limited numbers of famous books which can attract special attention from readers. This is because publishers retain e-books for themselves.

A director of a book development company said to trade ebooks, businesses need to set up specific systems different from the model for printed books. 
Publishers and distributors need to provide readers with compatible electronic platforms. It will take a lot of time, money and workforce to build up and operate such platforms.

In principle, publishers and distributors can use profits from printed books to develop the platforms. However, the profit margin businesses earn from printed books is also modest, just 3-5 percent for the first edition, after paying 50 percent for distributors, 10-15 percent to authors, 7 percent for licensing and 20-25 percent for printing.

Publishers are making every effort to solve the problem. 

Dong Phuoc Vinh, director of Ybook, said the business is assisting localities in the southern region to build up local ebook libraries based on the books of the Youth Publication House. The first library of this kind has been set up in Vinh Long province.

Waka, one of the biggest ebook sale websites in Vietnam, is following another way. Not established as a publication house or printed book publisher, in its first operation period, Waka did not own books. 

During that time, Waka focused on distributing electronic versions of books published by publication houses throughout the country.

In 2017, Waka began content production by cooperating with groups of translators to translate foreign books and build up a group of authors. With this method, Waka can diversify the sources of book supplies and take the initiative in publishing ebooks.

By the end of the first quarter of 2018, Waka had attracted 3 million users.