Thailand's leading e-bookstore, Ookbee, raises US$2M

Ookbee Bangkok Thailand logoAccording to a self-described “web innovation” news site knows as e27, the largest e-bookstore in Thailand—it’s known as Ookbee—just raised US$2 million in funding from the legendary Thai conglomerate formerly known as the  Shin Corporation.

The Shin Corporation, by the way, was founded in 1983 by the former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra. Shin, which now holds a 25 percent ownership stake in Ookbee, has since been rebranded, and is now known as INTOUCH. (Confused yet?)

In lieu of attempting to explain Thailand’s Ookbee phenomenon myself, I’ll pass along a few quotes instead from the e27 story:

“Stay in Thailand long enough, [and] you will definitely chance upon Ookbee, Thailand’s biggest e-bookstore on [the] iOS and Android platform[s], [and] with more than 85 percent market shares of the local e-book market. Based in Bangkok, Ookbee is a mobile-only startup which provides the authoring tools for local publishers to publish interactive e-magazines. While Ookbee is a mobile-only startup, it [has served] more than 1.5 million users in less than two years. [The startup is] growing at [a rate of] 5,000 new users per day.”

Those of you who read our recent post about Kenya’s first e-bookstore, eKitabu, may remember my surprise in learning that books sold through eKitabu were made available for reading on smartphones, tablets and computers, but not dedicated e-readers. That seems to be essentially the same case with the books and magazines sold through Ookbee: The e27 story describes Ookbee as “a new way for consumers to read their favorite publications by bringing them to both tablets and smartphones … ”

And just as Kenya’s eKitabu has teamed up with a local brick-and-mortar bookstore chain, Text Book Centre, Ookbee has similarly joined forces with B2S, one of Thailand’s best-known book and stationary shops.

I also found this quote, from Ookbee co-founder and CEO Moo Natavudh, particularly interesting:

“Unlike the U.S. market, most of the e-books and magazine here are primary contents. [That] means that most of the time for these contents, there are no e-book version of these content before ours. We are pretty much converting all ebook from paper and source file one by one and creating the whole market here.”

And as for what Ookbee plans to do with its newly-acquired US$2 million: regional expansion. The company has already expanded to both Vietnam and Malaysia, and is currently valued at US$8 million.

4 Comments on Thailand's leading e-bookstore, Ookbee, raises US$2M

  1. Thanks for covering our part of the world, Dan. This is an interesting development. My business partner Gof (who is Thai) is going to look into this and see what we can find out. As is typical of Thailand, what is being said in Thai is totally different (and usually much more accurate) than what is in English. We’ll drop another comment tomorrow if that’s okay. It’s definitely worth looking into as not much happens here with regards to eBooks. Most eReading software packages don’t do well parsing Thai.

    So here’s the deal with InTouch: Thaksin Shinwatra sold his shares to the Singaporean-government owned company Temasek Holdings in 2006 with no capital gains tax. It became InTouch and a bunch of other companies. This resulted in a coup, which was followed by an election that picked one of Thaksin’s buddies as Prime Minister. There was some protests, followed by a court case against former Prime Minister Thaksin convicting him of a felony for sale of the Shin Corporation shares. He’s now in exile. There was some violent protests in 2010 (front page of the New York Times!), and now his little sister, Prime Minister Yingluck, is the Prime Minister as of July 2011. Hopefully you are thoroughly confused now. I just live here, man.

  2. Thanks Paul, and please do drop another note tomorrow. I’ve spent a lot of time in Thailand, and it’s a place that still fascinates me. (I wrote the Thailand chapter for Lonely Planet’s SE Asia on a Shoestring Guide a few years back.) But the business with the coup was definitely a bit confusing!

  3. Your blog, recommended by Paul, allows me to dig a bit deeper in the printing industry in Thailand. The collaboration between Ookbee and B2S is very unusual and poses a serious threat to Asiabooks. I blogged about how the download traffic of the two companies have massively outperformed Asiabooks according to The Nation newspaper. Apart from receiving the fund from InTouch, Ookbee also teamed up with AIS to give away six month subscription of free magazines and newspapers. No wonder why they put Asiabooks’ downloads out of the equation.

    Hopefully, the fierce competition of printing industry in Thailand will pave ways to new content developers and authors so they can create quality digital content. For our part, we hope that Thai authors and publishers will turn their attention to eBooks eventually.

  4. Glad you like Thailand. I had no idea you wrote for Lonely Planet—very cool. My colleague Gof wrote up a post on OOKBEE and some of the other digital publishing players in Thailand. Thanks for tipping us off.

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