Berlin-based ebook retailer ‘txtr (for those unfamiliar, there’s no capital, no vowels and the apostrophe is in the right place!) is about to take another big leap forward with the imminent launch of six new ebook stores. Five in South America – Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Peru and Venezuela – and another in Mexico.
At this point the store menu (bottom right on the ‘txtr home page) has visual links to the new stores, but they feed back to the central store in Germany. We’re hoping to hear back from ‘txtr on a firm launch date for these, and whether we can expect ‘txtr to follow Google Play’s lead and roll out across a wider swathe of Latin America.
Some observers will be dismissive.
‘Txtr has yet to make a significant impact anywhere, and its token stores in the US, Canada, UK and Australia face fierce competition from established American and domestic brands. ‘Txtr also has the failure of its ultra-cheap ereader the ‘txtr Beagle to weigh down its reputation.
But as Tennyson would have said had he lived to see digital books, better to have tried and lost, than never to have tried at all.
Here’s the thing: ‘txtr is a plucky little outfit with ambition, vision and, it seems, enough money (3M, itself no stranger to ebooks, are among its backers) to play the long game.
With twenty-five global stores ‘txtr has already more than doubled Amazon’s Kindle stores, and is firmly in third place behind Google Play and Apple for dedicated ebook stores catering to overseas markets. Throw in the reach of ‘txtr’s partner stores and ‘txtr ebooks are available in some fifty countries. Without surcharges.
Our guess is Russia, Brazil and India will be priorities for ‘txtr, and then to embrace those areas of Europe so far by-passed (notably Scandinavia and east Europe), before turning its attention to S.E. Asia, following close on Google Play’s heels.
For indies this is great news. While some indies have been enjoying sales at ‘txtr for several years through Ebook Partnership, it is only recently that ‘txtr has been easily accessible, thanks to a distribution deal with Smashwords.
Yet bizarrely many indies seem to have opted out of ‘txtr distribution.
Their loss, because ‘txtr is one of the few ebook stores that wears its indie badge with pride.
Check out the indie section on ‘txtr’s US and UK sites, where indie titles are being given significant exposure. Not a self-pub ghetto like on OverDrive (an update on this soon) but front page stuff saying ‘txtr are PROUD to host self-published titles.
At which point you’ll be thinking, yeah, very nice, but it will be the usual suspects. Ordinary indies like us don’t stand a chance.
No sign of Hugh Howey and Joe Konrath here! Konrath of course is exclusive with Amazon (apart from Be The Monkey), and Howey, it seems, just can’t be bothered with ‘txtr, or even Smashwords. Given Smashword’s is the world’s biggest indie aggregator and indie ebook store this is a rather curious stance from someone who purports to champion the self-pub cause.
So which indies are ‘txtr showcasing?
Click on this link – http://us.txtr.com/smashwords/?referral=banner – and you’ll see a slide show of highlighted indie authors. Delve deeper to see highlighted indie series and other great little boosters.
Doubtful these authors will be buying their second luxury yacht off of ‘txtr sales just yet, but don’t dismiss ‘txtr out of hand just because no-one’s ever heard of it in indieland.
In the real world beyond, ‘txtr has a lot going for it.
An ebook store with over a million titles, a great device-agnostic platform, and a key understanding of glocalization that Amazon sorely lacks.
While Amazon hints at a pending Kindle Netherlands store, maybe, some time, when they can be bothered, and meanwhile surcharges Dutch readers who try to buy from the Everything Store, ‘txtr long since provided the Dutch with their own ebook store. And the Belgians, and the Swiss, and the Danes, and the Poles, and the Hungarians, and…
In fact, going where Amazon can’t be bothered is a key part of ‘txtr’s strategy.
“Especially in markets where Amazon isn’t yet present, network operators can combine the competitive advantage of being first to market with their billing capabilities to lead the development of the local ebook market. txtr’s e-reading service comes with an integrated billing solution, but we have extensive experience of connecting to 3rd party payment providers.”
‘Txtr has been around since 2008, a year before Amazon launched KDP, and as above counts 3M among its backers. At the other end of the business ‘txtr counts classy book retailers like Foyles (UK), and major tech-players like T-Mobile and Lenova as partners.
‘Txtr may not have Amazon’s brand recognition or traffic, and may forever be a bit-player in the key US and UK markets, and even in its home market in Germany, but elsewhere ‘txtr is shaping up to be a significant player in the global ebook market Amazon shuns.
Here’s the thing: Amazon’s Kindle stores runs on rails. Print rails. It’s a sad irony that the store dedicated to accelerating the transition to digital at home (mainly to reduce storage overheads and shipping costs) predicates its international Kindle expansion on the print market.
That’s just beginning to pay off in Brazil, where Amazon is starting to gain traction in the lucrative print market. But as anyone who has sold an ebook on Kindle BR will know, you can hit the best-seller charts with a single sale, and make the higher echelons of the in-store chart with just a handful.
Brazilians were buying ebooks from domestic and Latin American stores back when Amazon was slapping surcharges on readers who tried to buy from AmCom. No surprise then that Brazilians haven’t rushed to embrace the Kindle store since it launched.
And it’s a similar story across the Amazon sites. With the exception of maybe Kindle UK and Kindle DE, the satellite Kindle stores are simply adjuncts to Amazon’s actual or pending print and other e-commerce interests in those countries.
Which is why we can’t even hope, let alone expect, Amazon ever to become a global ebook player in the way that Google Play and ‘txtr are now positioning themselves.
As the global ebook markets burgeons, so Amazon will become more and more marginalized.
Not a problem for those authors who think the US and UK are the be-all and end-all of their publishing existence – Amazon will continue to be the dominant player here for the foreseeable future. But for anyone with ambitions to become a truly international bestselling author it is stores like Google Play and ‘txtr that will help make it happen.
At the moment Google Play, while supportive of self-publishers (Google Play is actively seeking out indie authors to sign up for special deals) does not make it easy for us.
The Google Play self-pub portal is a challenging process, and as yet very few aggregators will get you in. The UK’s Ebook Partnership and Italy’s Narcissus, and Ingram and Vook seem to be the only alternatives to going direct.
With ‘txtr, by contrast, access is as easy as signing up to Smashwords.
And as is now plain for all to see, ‘txtr won’t hide your Smashwords titles away like OverDrive does.
Just the opposite. ‘Txtr will proudly shout them from the rooftops.
At a time when indie authors are increasingly being sidelined by ebook stores (in the UK three of the biggest ebook retailers have no self-pub titles at all); at a time when Trad Pub is dominating the ebook charts; and while the big players like Amazon and Kobo continue to pay lip-service to indies while giving Big Pub all the perks (how many years has it taken just for indies to get pre-orders?), we need all the friends we can get.
If you are in Smashwords and have for some reason opted out of ‘txtr, you might want to reconsider.
If you are not in Smashwords at all, then the ‘txtr distribution alone is a good reason to reconsider, plus they have great distribution to Flipkart, India’s biggest ebook store. So far as we know Smashwords is the only “free” (pay-as-you-sell – there are no free lunches!) aggregator getting titles into ‘txtr.
So a big round of applause to Mark Coker and Smashwords for the deal with ‘txtr, and an even bigger one to ‘txtr for embracing and promoting self-published titles, instead of hiding them away.
Now how about we indies do something to show our appreciation?
Next time you’re doing some promo, spare a thought for ‘txtr. No, none of the big promo newsletters even know ‘txtr exists, but there’s nothing to stop you adding a ‘txtr link to your tweets and FB posts.
If we all tweeted a ‘txtr link alongside our Amazon links it could make a big difference, not just to our sales, but to ‘txtr’s future.
‘Txtr is making the effort for us. Let’s return the favour.
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