Category Archives: Google Play ebooks

Wattpad’s Global Data Mine

wattpad-global

Are you making the best of Wattpad’s data tools?

Wattpad is, increasingly, a valuable tool to get actual sales, and I’ll be looking at some of Wattpad’s new sales-orientated features over coming weeks.

But for me Wattpad is most valuable for its global reach and its data.

Take the image above. Obviously this is an inert screenshot, but the original in my Wattpad data dashboard is interactive and a click on each of the highlighted countries will tell me what percentage of my readers are coming from each country.

Wattpad will also break down my readers by gender and by age group, and a lot more besides.

  • This map shows me that for this particular title some 25% of my Wattpad readership is in the US. More than I would have expected, but then this is an English-language title.
  • The UK accounts for 11% and Canada and Australia account for 3% each.

But what matters to me with Wattpad is reaching the rest of the world and, again bearing in mind this is an English-language title, the stats are both revealing and occasionally surprising.

  • In Europe I’m finding readers in Germany and Austria. Surprisingly no traction yet elsewhere in Europe.
  • 10% of my Wattpad readers for this title are in India. That’s very useful to know as I really hadn’t considered India a likely market for this particular book. And 2% in neighbouring Pakistan and 1.5% in Sri Lanka.

But then come the real surprises.

Continue reading

Catching Up On The Global Publishing Scene. November 2015 Update.

google-mobile-asia

 

Asia’s Emerging Ebook Markets.

When it comes to global ebooks sales we all need to think “globile”. That is, global mobile.

Much of the world have simply skipped the entire desktop PC and dumb-phone era and gone from no internet access to 3G and 4G smartphones, pretty much overnight.

With every single smartphone a device that could be carrying our ebooks the potential for authors and publishers is hard to exaggerate. But where to focus one’s strategic planning?

That graphic from Google at the top of this post may help decide.

For those unfamiliar with the international two-letter country coding:

  • AU is Australia
  • ID Indonesia,
  • TW Taiwan,
  • SG Singapore
  • HK Hong Kong
  • JP Japan
  • KR South Korea.

Right now Korea is the tops and India and Indonesia are way down the list in terms of smartphone penetration. But it’s these two countries that are among my top priorities.

Not just because they are fast growing (India will likely be the second largest smartphone market next year) but because Indians and Indonesia, coming late to the internet world, are far more reliant on smartphones in their everyday lives than we in the rich west who use smartphones mainly as an add-on to our existing desktops, laptops, e-readers, dumbphones, landline phones, etc.

And given India is the nation that reads the most, and the sixth largest book market on the planet even before smartphones fully impact, it’s not hard to see why even the more cautious commentators are now joining me in predicting India will be the next ebook gold-rush.

# # #

Africa Watch 1: Egyptian Book Store Chain Sets Up In UK.

In a sure sign of how the Global New Renaissance is taking hold, the Egyptian bookstore chain ALEF has opened a store in… London.

Read the linked post on Publishing Perspectives for the full story. (LINK)

Here just to extract the most pertinent point:

“We believed that people in Egypt don’t read because they don’t have access to books, and we turned out to be right…”

In fact ALEF is doing “booming business” in Egypt and the new London store is just the first step of their international expansion, selling not just Arabic-language books but Arabic books translated into English.

Yes, there are issues of (comparatively) low literacy levels in many countries across Africa, the Middle East and elsewhere. But the idea that people in these countries therefore don’t read is just ludicrous. The problem is, always, about availability and affordability.

And for indie authors and trad pub publishers alike the new “globile” markets where everyone and their dog has a smartphone in their hand, mean that we can, increasingly, reach readers hitherto completely beyond reach.

As we hurtle into 2016 the possibilities – and opportunities – ahead are unprecedented.

Don’t let them pass you by.

Go Globile in 2016 and build a truly international readership for your brand.

# # #

33% Of French Commuters Prefer Ebooks

It will come as no surprise to learn that French train commuters, just like commuters in many countries, while away the journey reading.

The French railway operator SNCF estimate 75% of passengers read books on their journey. (LINK)

What may come as a surprise is that 33% of them e-read – either on dedicated e-readers or on smartphones.

SNCF responded by offering their own ebook subscription service with 100,000 French-language titles. Check out the SNCF store here. (LINK)

It’s not clear who is supplying SNCF, but that’s neither here nor there.

What is key for us as indie authors is the direction digital reading in France is taking.

Ebooks, may still be a tiny fraction of the overall French book market, but early days.

Hard to imagine though it is, just a few years ago the US and UK were nascent markets with only a handful of people reading ebooks.

And in those early years it was very easy for a handful of savvy, forward-thinking indie authors to be very big fish in a very small pond.

This is the true beauty of the global nascent markets right now. There are open goals out there. Major opportunities to be big fish in small ponds now and to grow into even bigger fish as those ponds grow.

Already this year we’ve seen western indies top the charts in China. We’ve seen India leapfrog the UK as the second-largest English-language book market. In Germany indie authors have been dominating the ebook charts for some while.

Across Asia, Latin America and eastern Europe the book markets – and especially the ebook markets – are seeing a new vitality as the Global New Renaissance takes hold.

No, none of these markets (except China) can compare to the US market today. But that’s to miss the point.

And more importantly to miss the opportunity.

Because many of these so-called nascent markets – China, India, Germany, Latin America, Indonesia, etc – are already as big, or bigger (much bigger in the case of China) than the US market was back in 2009-2010.

And back in 2009-2010 savvy indie authors like Amanda Hocking and John Locke were gigantic fish in a very small pond. Million-sellers at a time when hardly anyone in the US even knew ebooks existed.

When looking at the emerging global markets available to us now, don’t think “nascent – not worth bothering with”.

Think OPPORTUNITY!

# # #

Children’s Book Sales “Booming” In China.

The Shanghai Children’s Book Fair took place earlier this month, and reports emerging (LINK) show a very vibrant children’s publishing sector with keen interest in titles from the wider world.

Hardly surprising given there are 370 million under-eighteens in China right now – more than the entire population of the USA. And that number could grow rapidly with the new two-child policy.

Incredible opportunities emerging in China across all genres, not just children’s books.

So far Fiberead remain the easy option for accessing this massive market, but I’m watching carefully for more direct opportunities alongside.

China is potentially the most lucrative of all the markets – the China market alone will dwarf the US market very soon – and it will rapidly expand over the next five years. But access is always going to be awkward. Not impossible, by any means, but not without its challenges.

Awkward it may be, but China should definitely be on the watch-list for any author serious about global reach.

# # #

New Distribution Channel’s For Audio Books.

While Amazon’s ACX is effectively the only show in town for indie audio, we should never rush to put all our eggs in one basket, because alternatives will be along soon enough.

  • Xin-Xii recently started distributing indie audio to German retailer.
  • Now, say hello to Author’s Republic (LINK), courtesy of AudioBooks(dot)com. (LINK)

I’ll investigate this further, but so far it looks like we now have a real alternative to ACX for distribution, although we’ll still need to get our audiobooks made first, which means ACX still has the advantage.

Author’s Republic does have some sort of iOS tool for making our own, but ACX clearly holds all the aces in this respect.

The Author’s Republic will distribute not only to Audiobooks(fdot)com but also to:

  • Audible
  • iTunes
  • Amazon
  • Barnes & Noble
  • Scribd
  • Downpour
  • tunein

as well as library providers such as

  • Findaway
  • Overdrive.

And presumably they will expand further on that as we head into 2016.

Perhaps more importantly, this will be the first of many. A matter of time now before other retailers open up audiobook self-pub portals themselves or ebook aggregators follow Xin-Xii’s lead and start distributing audiobooks.

Those locked into exclusivity with ACX for their audiobooks may be getting slightly better royalties (although Author’s Republic will supposedly be paying a competitive 35%) but could be missing out on reach, especially with Author’s Republic ‘s access to key outlets like OverDrive and Findaway which ACX will deny you.

And don’t forget good old-fashioned CDs. CDBaby can your audiobooks widely distributed for the majority of audiobook listeners that have not yet embraced digital.

Beyond that, another reason to avoid exclusivity is radio. Global radio is an exciting opportunity for indie authors converting their works to audio. More on that in another post.

# # #

Africa Watch 2: One Billion Reasons To Take A Second Look At Africa.

For authors and publishers, Africa remains the Dark Continent (which BTW meant and means “unknown”, not something derogatory) for book sales and discovery.

But for me it’s THE most exciting of the long-term prospects for indie authors, and one I’m following closely, although little chance of any significant sales there in the very near future.

But a new report confirms my anecdotal observations that Africa is embracing smartphones and 3G-4G mobile internet just like everywhere else on the planet.

Mobile subscriptions across Africa are expected to pass the one billion mark in 2016. (LINK)

That’s one helluva lot of people with devices that could have our ebooks on.

Contrary to popular opinion Africans love to read. Their problem is access to affordable books.

For authors, reaching African readers is the big challenge.

  • There is not a single Apple iBooks store anywhere on the continent.
  • Amazon blocks downloads to most of the continent and surcharges the rest, including South Africa.
  • Even Google Play, from whom you’d expect better, are only in South Africa so far.
  • Kobo is sort of available, but there is only a localized Kobo store in South Africa, and you need a bank card to use Kobo, so that makes it pretty irrelevant to most Africans.

Right now, South Africa aside, the African continent is not a friendly place for authors. But make no mistake – that’s an issue of distribution and accessibility, not a cultural indifference to books, ebooks and reading.

And there are a few bright spots on the horizon, as I’ll be reporting soon in an in-depth analysis of the state of play across my favourite continent. Meanwhile, check out further posts on Africa below.

I’m very excited by the emerging prospects for authors here in Africa. When I talk about the Global New Renaissance unfolding I really do mean Global, and I intend to be selling across many countries in Africa before this decade is over.

I’m a six-continent content-provider.

How about you?

# # #

$10 Smartphones At Wal-Mart.

With The Next Generation social media like Instagram and Pinterest, and messaging apps like Viber and WeChat getting hotter and hotter by the day, it’s a real PITA that you need a smartphone to participate. Even though many, like Viber, have desk-top access, you still need a smartphone number to sign up in the first place.

And some people, quite understandably, do not want the expense of a new phone, a monthly payment plan, etc just to join Instagram or Viber.

For those in America it seems salvation is at hand. Over at The Digital Reader Nate Hoffelder reports that Wal-Mart now offering a smartphone for just ten bucks, and on a Pay As You Go plan so no crazy monthly payments for a phone you may rarely use. (LINK)

Perfect to buy, along with a separate sim card and phone number, and use exclusively for social media like Instagram and messaging apps like Viber, Facebook Messenger, WeChat, etc.

As per previous posts, Instagram is now bigger than twitter. Messaging apps are reaching close to two billion people. An updated post on messaging apps this coming week.

Don’t get stuck in the past for the sake of ten bucks. Move with the times.

# # #

Africa Watch 3: Nigeria.

When it comes to global ebook sales Africa remains the last frontier as western ebook retailers continue to ignore this vast and exciting nascent market.

After all, Africa is still in the stone-age when it comes to digital, right? There’s no internet there, so no-one knows what smartphones are.

And as well know, nobody in Africa reads.

The latter point, however widely believed, is of course so laughable as not to bear further consideration.

But let’s take another look at the first point – that Africa is has yet to realise the internet even exists.

Leaving aside the above report, that Africa will have over one billion mobile subscribers in 2016, ponder this report on what Ericsson is up to in Nigeria.

Subscription video on demand.

Ericsson’s NuVu will launch in early 2016 offering some 3,000 local and international TV and films to eager Nigerian subscribers eager to use their smartphones for entertainment. (LINK)

Ericsson is working with leading international distributors to acquire content ranging from Hollywood to Nollywood (Nigeria has a thriving film industry).

How long before a dedicated Nigerian ebook subscription service pops up? Well, it certainly won’t be KU – Amazon has zero interest in Africa. But it will happen.

And just as Nigerians love Hollywood films so they do and will love western books (Nigeria is the largest English-speaking nation on the continent) – IF they are allowed access to them, and IF they are affordable.

Nigeria presents a great opportunity to start building a pan-African readership beyond the usual suspect, South Africa.

More on how soon. Here just to remind everyone that, as always, we should keep the third tier nascent markets like Africa firmly in mind when looking at the next five years.

No, absolutely no point anyone rearranging their schedule to prioritise Africa right now, but do keep Africa on your radar, and do lay the foundations there now for future development.

Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana and Tanzania are close to the tipping point where smartphones will become the main everyday access point to the internet for millions of English speakers. And there are plenty of other English-speaking nations in Africa not far behind. Malawi, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Liberia, Sierra Leone, etc. And even here in tiny The Gambia (yeah, The Gambia is one of only two countries in the world where the definite article is officially part of the country’s name).

And of course this is not some uniquely Anglophone phenomenon. French-speaking Cote d’Ivoire and Senegal, to name but two, are right up there in the globile (global mobile) stakes too.

Watch out for more reports on Africa below, and an in-depth report on Africa soon. The way things are shaping up here may well surprise you!

# # #

British Comedian Russell Howard’s Pending 2017 Global Tour.

No, not a book tour, but this isn’t as off-topic as it may at first seem.

Russell Howard is a British stand-up comedian who rose to fame in the UK on the back of the early days of the digital TV transition, when cheapskate TV productions flooded the myriad new broadcasting channels then emerging.

From being a largely unknown British comedian doing bottom-of-the-barrel shows for late-night TV micro-audiences Howard has, thanks to digital reach, built up a worldwide audience, in English, that goes far beyond the English language countries.

Yes, the tour is focussed on the UK, USA, Australia and New Zealand, but also Finland, Iceland, Sweden and Norway, and of course his wider reach through digital extends globally.

Howard already knows where his paying audience will be in 2017.

The key throughout all this is digital. Digital reach is global, and that goes every bit as much for books as it does for stand-up comic TV shows.

Yet many of us indie authors still treat ebooks as simply cheap versions of print books, to farm out to the same home-market audience as print books, and then to wonder why it’s such hard work actually finding an audience.

Far from thinking about 2017 many of us indies don’t even have 2016 on our radar, even though it’s weeks away.

I’ve no idea how much Russell Howard actually understands or cares about all this, or how much his success is down to having a great manager and Howard is just sitting back and enjoying the ride.

But I do know most of us indie authors don’t have managers to think outside the box for us and spot the opportunities unfolding as the Global New Renaissance gets under way.

That’s down to us.

We have unprecedented opportunities to expand our reach and our modes of delivery.

We have unprecedented opportunities to step out of our ebook novelist boxes and become global content-providers across formats, across multi-media and across multiple nations far beyond the usual suspects.

Don’t look on 2016 as just a new year.

Look on 2016 as a new opportunity to break new ground and reach new audiences quite unthinkable back in 2009-1010 when the “ebook revolution” began.

Don’t let these unfolding opportunities pass us by.

Think about the next five years, not the next five weeks.

# # #

Africa Watch 4: Google Play Is Rolling Out Youtube Offline Across Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya and South Africa.

No, it’s not ebook stores, but the direction is clear. Google is focussed on the wealthiest English-speaking countries in Africa.

So far Google Play only has one ebook store on the continent – in South Africa.

It’s a safe bet that, some time soon, Nigeria, Ghana and Kenya will follow suit.

Google Play already has more global ebook stores than any other retailer. Some sixty or so. We can expect that to increase next year.

Currently the Google Play Books self-pub portal is closed to newcomers – although existing clients can still upload direct.

For the rest of us will need to use an aggregator.

Sadly neither Smashwords nor Draft2Digital supply Google Play Books.

Luckily both StreetLib and PublishDrive do, and can get your titles on Google Play within 24 hours.

NB: Other aggregators like Ebook Partnership also supply Google Play Books, but they have up-front fees. StreetLib and PublishDrive are pay-as-you-sell aggregators.

Google Play is a tiny player in the US, and if that’s where you are focussed, don’t expect too much action. But elsewhere around the world Google Play can and should be a key part of your global strategy.

But do be aware that Google Play pretty much automatically discounts our titles to make them more appealing to its customers. Which is great, except…

This will inevitably put you in conflict with Amazon’s price parity clause which dictates you cannot sell cheaper on another retailer than on Amazon.

So to avoid being punished by Amazon for Google Play trying to offer customers a better deal, you’ll need to price higher on Google Play when you first list.

But don’t let that put you off. Google Play is an invaluable place to be if you plan on going global.

# # #

Africa Watch 5: ACE Soon To Reach South Africa.

Okay, so quite a lot on Africa here today, but that’s just an indication of how Africa is fast gearing up to become a significant part of the global publishing scene.

Still not convinced? Consider this news just in.

Phase 2 of the ACE (Africa Coast Europe) project is about to begin. (LINK)

Now that may mean absolutely nothing to most readers, so let me offer some background as to just why this is so significant.

I’m writing this from The Gambia, West Africa. One of the poorest nations on the planet.

Five years ago, when Kindle UK launched, I had to partner with someone in the UK just to get my books uploaded, because there was, for all practical purposes, no internet here. Just a ridiculously expensive connection in the hotels, at dial-up speed.

Today I’m on a 4G connection quite unimaginable just a few years ago.

All thanks to ACE, a submarine cable which connects France and Portugal with :

  • Canary Islands (Spain)
  • Mauritania
  • Senegal
  • Gambia
  • Guinea Conakry
  • Sierra Leone
  • Liberia
  • Cote d’Ivoire
  • Benin
  • Ghana
  • Nigeria
  • Equatorial Guinea
  • Gabon
  • Sao Tome & Principe

In addition two landlocked countries in the middle of the Sahara Desert, Mali and Niger, are connected via a terrestrial extension.

Hundreds of millions of people have suddenly, in the past few years, gained access to the internet in West Africa, completely by-passing the desktop and dial-up telephone line era, and are now enjoying 3G and 4G internet on smartphones.

As Phase 2 of ACE rolls out the submarine cable will extend all the way down the west coast of Africa, bringing European-standard internet to:

  • Namibia
  • Angola
  • Democratic Republic of Congo
  • Congo-Brazzaville
  • South Africa
  • as well as an extension to Cameroon

reaching almost a quarter billion people.

As reported above, the number of mobile subscribers in Africa is already expected to exceed one billion in 2016.

And that’s before Phase 2 of the ACE rolls out.

Unless you’ve actually been to a seriously Third World country it’s hard to imagine just how transformational the internet can be in terms of education, health and economic development. Or how much it can transform entertainment.

Ebook sales are probably the last thing the ACE team are thinking about as they roll out Phase 2, but indie authors looking at the global picture should be in no doubt about the new opportunities unfolding.

The global digital reading scene in 2020 is going to be far bigger than anything we can envisage right now.

I’ve said before and will say again – the global ebook markets will collectively dwarf the US market many times over in the coming years.

If you doubt that, just consider the projection for 2016. Over one billion mobile subscribers in Africa as soon as next year. That’s over one billion subscribers in Africa using a globile device that could be holding our ebooks.

That’s a billion people almost all of whom are completely off the radar of the big western ebook retailers right now.

That’s a great excuse for just ignoring Africa. But if we’re serious about becoming global bestselling authors then we can’t afford to ignore any prospective market. Least of all one with the potential of Africa.

Think about the next five years. Not the next five weeks.

# # #

NB These posts have appeared previously over the past week or two on The International Indie Author Facebook Group.(LINK)

 

 

Sorry, Smashwords. There's Now An *Easier* Way To Get Into The OverDrive Libraries.

In a new blow to both US-based pay-as-you-sell aggregator Smashwords and UK-based pay-up-front aggregator Ebook Partnership, there’s now another way into the OverDrive global library catalogue.

Italy-based aggregator StreetLib will from September 15 be delivering Streetlib titles to OverDrive’s 33,000 partner libraries across 50 countries.

With Flipkart gone, the OverDrive libraries distribution option was one of the few reasons left to be putting titles into Smashwords.

But last month I spent far too much time trying to upload titles to Smashwords only to see them rejected straight away, sat waiting days to be approved (the exact same title would be selling on Apple in hours through Draft2Digital) or rejected days later after review. Titles with validated epubs that Smashwords rejects, yet that somehow manage to sail through Draft2Digital and into the exact same stores Smashwords says won’t accept them.

I’ve yet to have a title rejected by StreetLib

For OverDrive library access I’ll be loading all my new titles via StreetLib. I have to use them anyway to get them into Google Play (no direct access to Google Play from here even when the portal is working) which neither Smashwords nor Draft2Digital supply.

StreetLib also get you into myriad other stores Smashwords and Draft2Digital are not supplying.

Stores like El Corte Ingles in Spain, for example. Here’s one of my titles in ECI through StreetLib. (LINK)

StreetLib also gets your titles into the fast-growing global subscription service Bookmate.

Check out the StreetLib self-pub portal here. (LINK)

If you have your own epubs it’s free to upload.

And it’s in English, despite being Italian, Unlike Smashwords and Draft2Digi9tal StreetLib understands not everyone speaks English and so the site has eight language options, making it very easy to navigate.

Make sure StreetLib is part of your going global upload routine.

Mexico's Two Biggest Bookstores Join Forces With Kobo To Fight Amazon KIndle MX.

DiversifyIn2015

Kobo took a big leap forward in Latin America as July closed, with a unique partnership that brings together Mexico’s two biggest, and rival, bookstores in one new Kobo-powered ebook store.

It’s an unprecedented move on the global ebook scene, and possibly the start of many similar partnerships to come as domestic bookstores set aside local rivalries to challenge Amazon’s global ambitions.

Amazon is well-established in Mexico, and has lately been upping its game in this key Spanish-speaking market. In fact, outside Brazil, Mexico is the only Latin American country Amazon is taking seriously right now.

Back in November 2014 El Financiero reported Amazon had bought its first warehouse in Mexico, which was all the warning Mexico’s domestic ebook retailers needed that Kindle.MX was about to be upgraded from a toehold store to the first foot on the ladder. Think Kindle India two years ago, or Kindle Netherlands today.

So while ebooks are still a tiny fraction of the book market in Mexico there can be no doubt the direction things are heading.

The problem for domestic stores in any country where Amazon sets up shop is that the Everything Store has deep pockets and, as and when it finally stops surcharging readers are starts taking them seriously as customers, it can quite simply out-spend any local rival, running at immense losses if need be, for as long as need be.

That, no doubt, was at the heart of Kobo’s unprecedented approach to Mexico’s two giant bookstore chains, Libreria Porrúa (LINK)  and Gandhi (LINK), which between them have 100 bricks & mortar stores across Mexico.

While Kobo is no stranger to partner stores in Latin America or elsewhere around the globe – it has long since been operating Brazil’s Libraria Cultura ebook store (LINK), and had partner stores everywhere from the UK to Australia to the Philippines – this is the first time two rival bookstores anywhere have joined with Kobo to operate a single ebook store while continuing to compete in the print sector.

The new store will be called Orbile, and will be live sometime next month (September).

Orbile will kick off with 70,000 Spanish language titles alongside the full range of over 4 million ebooks that Kobo has to offer.

Both Gandhi and Liberia Porrúa previously ran their own ebook stores, but these will be set aside for the new joint venture. Presumably the self-pub portal Gandhi operated will be absorbed into Kobo Writing Life.

No word yet on how the benefits of the new store will be shared among the participants, but both bookstore chains will be selling Kobo devices in-store, and of course there will be Kobo campaigns nationwide to promote the new venture.

For forward-thinking indies looking to go global this is great news. While Google Play and Apple also sell ebooks in Mexico, and are easy access for English-language indies, none of the Latin American ebook retailers (of which there are far more than you might imagine) are easily accessible to us outsiders.

The new partnership means indies have a chance to get noticed by the Porrúa and Gandhi customers, and is going to be a shot across the bows for Kindle MX that may see Amazon revise its royalty policy on sales in Mexico (currently only 35% unless you are exclusive in Select) to encourage indies to take the Mexican market seriously.

While English-language books do sell in Mexico it is of course Spanish-language titles that are going to see the real action, and with Mexican trad pub titles still priced exorbitantly high, there is a big opportunity here for savvy indies to play the price game and score in this potentially lucrative market.

For thoughts on how to break into the translations game without taking out a third mortgage, check out the two posts on the Ebook Bargains UK blog on this subject, here (LINK)  and here (LINK) .

The July issue of Publishing Perspectives Magazine has Mexico as one of its seven countries to watch. (LINK) .

The Latin American ebook market is about to blossom, and this new deal with Kobo will help it along.

 

Ebook Bargains UK

Far more than just an ebook promo newsletter.

Far more than just the UK.

The View From The Beach – Mark Williams At Large

Gunjur-Coastline-Gambia

We tend to focus on in-depth posts and analysis on the global publishing scene for the EBUK blog, and as the entire EBUK project is a not-for-profit operation run by volunteers it often means smaller, but no less important, items of interest get passed by.

So we asked frequent EBUK blog contributor Mark Williams to run a regular column here sharing with us pertinent shorter news stories, as ever throwing in his unique perspective as an international bestselling author and surveyor of the international publishing markets from the far shores of West Africa.

And yes, that is his local beach. As he likes to remind us, he lives the writers’ dream, hammering away at a keyboard on picture-postcard white sandy beaches lined with picture-postcard green gently swaying palm trees next to a picture-postcard warm blue ocean beneath picture-postcard blue skies.  Hey, nobody said life was fair!

The View From The Beach – Mark Williams At Large.

May Is Short Story Month. Are You Ready?

It’s actually the third Short Story Month – it started in 2013 – and momentum is gathering as more and more people look for “bite-size” reading. (LINK)

Millennials have been particularly identified with the demand for this type of material, in part reflecting the rise of smartphone reading and lifestyles where working hours are far more flexible than in days of yore.

Vintage/Anchor Books are releasing a short story every day during May to mark Short Story Month, all priced at 0.99, and I think they are on to a winner.

I also think, because I’m going down this route myself, that short non-fiction, and especially short narrative non-fiction is also the new black.

Amazon’s Kindle Singles and B&N’s Nook Snaps have already proven the demand for short digital material, and Vintage/Anchor see a lot of potential to engage readers with shorter offerings.

We were all surprised to find Millennials, the generation most comfortable with smartphones, preferred reading paperbacks to reading ebooks, but my feeling is its all to do with length. Reading a 100,000 word novel on a smartphone (as opposed to an e-ink ereader) is probably not the most pleasant of reading experiences, but for consuming a shorter work in a short space of time a smartphone may well be the ideal vehicle.

As indies we have in some way painted ourselves into a corner with our 0.99 full length novels flooding a handful of key markets, but we need to step back and view the markets from the perspective of readers, not writers. Something we collectively seem not very good at, as the huge number of exclusive-with-one-retailer indie titles shows. What better way of telling readers that what we care about is us, not them…

As the global New Renaissance gets into second gear we should all divest ourselves of any straight-jacket notions about what will sell and where, and what will be commercially viable, and likewise we should all divest ourselves of any straight-jacket notions about marketing and promotion.

Kobo Parent Company Rakuten Enters The Magazine Publishing Market. Expect Amazon To Follow Suit Soon.

I’m surprised Amazon hasn’t gone down this route yet, but with Rakuten leading the way it’s now pretty much inevitable they will do so.

Rakuten’s first venture is a fashion magazine in Japan, and rather cleverly all the fashions featured are also for sale on Rakuten’s Ichiba retail site. (LINK)

Purely speculative but I would imagine India would be the ideal place for Amazon to follow suit. Amazon’s fashion arm has been making big strides in India, and an e-magazine devoted to exposure for fashion items available on the Amazon IN store would boost Amazon’s challenge to the 600lb gorilla in the Indian e-commerce marketplace, Flipkart, which happens to own India’s 600lb gorilla e-fashion site Myntra.

If I were a betting man I’d put money on both Flipkart and Amazon launching e-magazines this year. And if I were adviser to Jeff Bezos I’d be asking why Amazon doesn’t have both an e-zine and a print zine of its own in the USA.

Career Authors Alert: Selling Rights Vs Selling Ebooks.

Here’s a White Paper that’s free to download from Publishing Perspectives. Its theme: Global Rights and Licencing.

This is only 20 pages, but well worth the time if you are serious about being an international bestselling author.

Don’t be misled by the title. A lot of indies think in terms of selling ebooks. Even thinking about selling print books is a stretch. So selling “rights” might not be something you think indies need to be bothered with.

If so, think again.

Selling “Rights” should be at the heart of your career strategy so you can let someone else worry about the donkey work of selling your work beyond your comfort zone, while you actually spend your time writing the next book.

But it’s not just about selling the book. It’s about selling the translation rights, the film rights, the TV rights, the boardwalk rights, the game rights, the…

So long as we indies are locked into the microverse of ebooks we are never going to be able to compete with the big boys.

The White Paper is mainly about global book (print and digital) rights, but also includes a very useful section on film rights – something ALL of us should be thinking about.

It also includes a “starter” for the global markets by focusing on two countries regular readers of EBUK or my posts elsewhere will know are high on my list as places to be focused on: Brazil and Indonesia.

I know few of you are convinced about Indonesia, but ponder this little gem from the report:

Of the 32,000 titles published in Indonesia in 2014, 50% were translations of foreign languages, with English the front runner.

Other snippets from the post reiterating what I’ve been saying:

“Germany is the trans-Atlantic powerhouse.”

“Japan is the fourth largest publishing market.”

“The Spanish language markets offer global opportunities.”

“Turkey is taking off.”

“Poland and the Czech Republic are showing strong signs so life.”

The global New Renaissance is a fact. It’s happening all around you as you read this. And you can be part of it. Front seat tickets are on sale right now.

Or you can be a bystander and wave as it passes you by.

Hopefully this link to the GoogleDocs download form will work for you. (LINK)

If not, pop along to the Publishing Perspectives website. (LINK)

Asia Watch 1.

 Tencent, the Chinese e-titan, has just seen its value exceed two hundred billion dollars, leaving the likes of Amazon in its wake. (LINK)

Yet another clear sign, as I’ve been warning this past few years, that the centre of digital gravity is shifting east, and we should all be focused on getting a foothold on these oriental players now, before the rest of the west wakes up and starts a stampede to climb on board.

Tencent, Alibaba, Xiaomi, JD and a host of unpronounceables I’ve been tagging these past years are now coming of age and with that come opportunities unparalleled in the west as the global New Renaissance shifts into second gear.

The upstart start-up Xiaomi has just upped its ebook game with a deal with Trajectory, Macmillan and Gardners to get western English-language ebooks into the Xiaomi store. See more on this below.

A week or so ago Tencent became for all practical purposes the biggest ebook store on the planet (except by revenue, because ebooks in China are so much cheaper) as it reinvented itself (more on this in an in-depth look at China shortly).

JD has long been one of the biggest ebook stores in China, and last year signed a deal with one of the Big 5 western players to get English-language ebooks into China, where demand for E-L literature is high.

In doing so they followed the lead of OverDrive, now ironically owned by another eastern giant, Rakuten.

Alibaba doesn’t sell ebooks yet but you can sell your print via Alibaba through its US store 11Main. Expect Alibaba ebooks soon.

As the only western indie author to have a title hit the number one spot on Amazon’s Kindle China store I’m probably better qualified than most to say savvy indies should all be making sure China is not just on their radar but on your URGENT ACTION NEEDED list.

And make sure India and Indonesia are there too, because these are among the next eastern hot-spots for indie authors willing to step outside their comfort zone.

UK and Australia Digital Libraries Now Supplied By 3M.

 The 3M Cloud ebook service is now available in the UK and Australia, having shifted north to Canada last year. (LINK)

We’ve covered 3M on the EBUK blog before and will run an update on the global library markets soon.

Here just to remind you that, erotica authors aside, you can get your ebooks into the OverDrive catalogue via Smashwords.

The pay-up-front aggregator Ebook Partnership will get you into the OverDrive global libraries (over forty countries) and also into the OverDrive retail outlets which Smashwords does not deliver to.

Or you may prefer to pop along and try Ebooks Are Forever, a new initiative by Joe Konrath to get indie titles into US libraries. (LINK)

Magzter Now Open To Indie Authors.

 The global digital magazine retailer Magzter also sells ebooks, and following a reference in a post here on EBUK recently they kindly reminded me that indie authors can now upload direct to Magzter.

Go to Magzter (LINK) and set up a publisher account and then upload your titles. They need to update the site as it seems to suggest you can only publish magazines still, but if you go through to the next stage you’ll find a portal specifically for ebooks.

I get my books into Magzter through a third party so can’t say what the experience is like, but I can say Magzter is a fast-growing global player (over 200 countries).

As most magazines are non-fiction I’m expecting non-fiction ebooks to do particularly well on Magzter, and all the more so if the subject matter ties in with the theme of the more popular magazines.

At the moment the Magzter ebook store is sparely populated and this is a great opportunity to be a big fish in a small pond if you play your cards right. My guess is many people will discover e-zines before they discover ebooks, and most of those will discover ebooks on the same site they buy their e-magazines from.

Watch out for a detailed post on Magzter soon.

 Asia Watch 2.

Xiaomi Steps Up Its E-Book Game! Are You Ready?

  Xiaomi, the upstart start-up from China, has in just five years has gone from nowhere to be one of the biggest smartphone players on the planet.

This month it has been announced Xiaomi has a deal to take western ebooks into its China store, with strong indications the ebook stores will be extended to other countries in the near future.

Nate at Ink, Bits & Pixels has the scoop. (LINK)

Trajectory recently fixed a deal with Tencent to get English-language titles into the Chinese market, and what is gobsmackingly wonderful about this new deal is that it also involves Britain’s wholesale distributor Gardners, which means there is a back door in for indies.

Needless to say l’m already in Gardners, so looking forward to seeing my English-language titles in Xiaomi alongside my Chinese translated titles which have been doing rather well in the China markets.

Yes, before you ask, there is serious demand for western E-L titles in China. Last year OverDrive did a big deal to get western content into China and in September we reported here on the EBUK blog on HarperCollins signing a deal to get its E-L catalogue into China. (LINK)

Now Macmillan has followed suit.

We’ve said on previous occasions that Xiaomi isn’t yet taking on western titles but that it will, and when it does, to jump in with both feet.

It’s happening.

And it won’t stop at just China.

Earlier this month Xiaomi sold 2.12 million smartphones in twelve hours when it did a special sales event across its outlet countries, which include key nations like Thailand and Indonesia, India, Brazil and Turkey.

If you’re serious about becoming an international bestselling author then you need to be serious about players like Xiaomi. Because Xiaomi is serious about ebooks.

Subscription Services Get Bigger & Better. Mostly.

Digital music has been around a lot longer than ebooks, in a meaningful commercial sense, but only in 2014 did digital revenue finally exceed “physical” revenue for music.

And much of that was driven by subscription. (LINK)

Meantime Netflix had a stunning Q1 picking up 5 million new subscribers (LINK) while continuing to make profit.

The naysayers love to say ebook subscription services are unsustainable, and then point to music as an example of why, but music is doing just fine and film and video subscription – far closer to ebook subscriptions than music – goes  from strength to strength.

A given ebook subscription service may come or go, but as a commercial entity the subscription model is working just fine for all digital products. For content providers? Spotify not so much for musicians, and Kindle Unlimited not so much for authors. But early days.

New subscription services are emerging by the day. The Danish subscription service Mofibo will be launching in the UK this year.

And be sure to watch out for the new kid on the block, Playster, due to go live this summer. Playster plans to offer an across the board digital subscription service with music, video, ebooks, audio, etc, all for a fixed fee.

Simon & Schuster have just signed up for Playster. (LINK)

And in separate news Penguin Random House, while still eschewing subscription for ebooks, has put its audio books into Scribd.

Back in February HarperCollins put its titles into the Russia-based subscription service Bookmate. Expect Macmillan and Simon & Schuster to follow suit soon.

Although CIS based, Bookmate is far bigger than just Russia, and is focused on targeting places Amazon blocks downloads to. But with an Amazon Russia Kindle store rumoured to be around the corner the competition between Bookmate and Amazon might be about to be heat up.

I’ve been in Bookmate a while, and can’t say as I’ve seen much action, but I have great hopes for Bookmate in the future. Bookmate is fielding a quarter million English-language titles, only a handful of which are indie. Plenty of opportunity for savvy indies to get traction in the nascent markets Bookmate serves.

Be part of the subscription ebook scene or miss out, because the readers are heading that way in their droves.

 Book Tango / Book Country – What Worries Me Is Books On Board.

 The rebranded Book Tango (LINK) has long been on my watch list, but what worries me still is the links and references to Books On Board, which went under two years ago this month. (LINK) Surely two years is time enough to get the website updated?

One good reason for looking at Book Tango was that it distributed to Google, which the main pay-as-you-sell American aggregators like Smashwords and Draft2Digital do not. But with both Xin-Xii and Narcissus able to get your ebooks into Google Play I still can see no reason to risk playing with Book Tango. But I’d love to hear from anyone who has and has some experiences to share.

+ + +

I’ll wrap this session up with something from trad pub at the London Book Fair. Yeah, thought you’d be impressed. But love it or hate it, trad pub is here to stay and doing rather well. And we can learn a thing or two from it.

At the London Book Fair Faber & Faber CEO Stephen Page talks about how a “new ecology” has emerged in the publishing industry.

Quote: “The previous ecology got hammered and challenged. A new one has emerged that is partly around the resilience and return of physical books, partly around the new confidence there is.  There is a new confidence about the options open to publishers, about the creation of value, about investing in content with confidence. There is a shift towards the consumer, which is still continuing and isn’t finished yet, and just a new confidence about the tools and opportunities open to us.” (LINK)

For those indie fundamentalists who live and breathe the “self-pub good, trad pub bad” mantra it’s bad news. Far from rearranging deckchairs on the Titanic (try finding an indie blog between 2010-2013 that didn’t say that), trad pub has sealed the hole, pumped out the water and fired up the engines again.

For authors who prefer to live outside the tribal lines it’s another sign of a wonderful future ahead for all of us who are willing to embrace the New Renaissance rather than chase archaic print dreams in digital formats.

The opportunities are just beginning to emerge, and many indies will miss most of them because many of us are still thinking books and readers. That is soooo 2009.

Look at the words Stephen Page uses. “Content” and “consumers”, “tools and opportunities”.

Yes, we can dismiss these as meaningless biz-speak, but alternatively we might want to consider that trad pub, having adamantly refused to keel over and die as the indie movement gleefully hoped back in 2009-12, might just be on to something.

For industry-watchers there is not just a new confidence but a new vibrancy in the publishing industry as 2015 gets under way. So very different from the uncertainty and near-despair that epitomised 2010-12.

Indies would do well to watch trad pub very closely, because trad pub is very clearly thinking about the next five years, not the next five weeks.

Individual publishers and bookstores may come and go, but as an industry trad pub and trad pub retail will be stronger than ever in 2020 as it embraces the tools and opportunities of the global New Renaissance.

Where will you be at in 2020? Riding high with them? Or still trying the same tactics that worked so well in 2010 and wondering what’s gone wrong?

Ebook Bargains UK

Far more than just an ebook promo newsletter.

Far more than just the UK.

Hugh Howey Warns Of Shrinking Market Share For Amazon In 2015.

DiversifyIn2015Now there’s a headline we never expected to write. But it seems Howey had a visit from the Ghost of Christmas Future over the festive season, and shared with Galley Cat his “predictions” for 2015. (LINK)

We all know Howey has plenty so say, even if lately it has gone from the sublime to the ridiculous as Howey tries to defend the indefensible. As most indies are slowly coming to terms with the fact that the Amazon honeymoon is over, Howey, blinded by the special treatment he gets from Amazon, is busy digging holes for himself.

Most recently Howey has been offending indies everywhere by asking “does Amazon treat us as second class?”, agreeing Amazon does exactly that, but asserting we deserve no better because we indies are a bunch of scammers and pirates. And no, this is no satire. (LINK)

But in a separate interview with Galley Cat Howey said something far more interesting and relevant. He predicted Amazon will lose market share to Google Play and Apple in 2015. Coming from Howey that’s quite something.

~

 While there are no official stats yet, the anecdotal evidence is building that Google Play in particular is making good headway, both in the US and in the global markets. With sixty or so ebook stores, as opposed to Amazon’s baker’s dozen, Google Play unquestionably has better global reach than Amazon. And with Amazon’s international ebook expansion effectively at a standstill (one new Kindle store this year – the Netherlands, and the hint of another – Russia) Google Play’s global position is obviously going to get stronger and stronger.

But what about in Amazon’s stronghold at home in the US? Is Amazon conceding ground here too?

The US ebook promo newsletter Bookbub is a good barometer of the US ebook market. With four million subscribers it both reflects and helps shapes the ebook market’s direction.

You only have to look at Bookbub to see how, whereas six months ago almost no indie listings carried Google Play buttons, nowadays as much a 75% of the daily twenty Bookbub titles include Google Play.

As an affiliate promo newsletter Bookbub selects listings based on likely sales for those titles, which is why we see the same handful of top selling authors manage to get listings month after month after month while lesser mortals get rejected at a rate of 68 a day.

But what we’ve seen this past several months is a major shift towards multiple-retailer listings, with a very noticeable increase in Google Play buttons.

Obviously it helps that more and more indies are signing up to Google Play in the first place, which in turn is driven by word of mouth reports of good results from those who took the plunge early.

And Apple, we should remember, has this year upgraded visibility of the iBooks store by making it default on iOS8 devices, meaning Apple ebooks are in front of a lot more people, not just in the US but around the world.

But what we also appear to be seeing is KU spectacularly backfiring in one of its primary objectives – to get as many indies exclusive with Amazon as possible to damage the competition.

As the KU payout continues to drop (expect a brief rise in January as Amazon try to stem the haemorrhage of talent, then back to the relentless drive to get the payout below a dollar) so more and more indies, while still available on Amazon, are jumping ship with Select as soon as their ninety days are up and getting back on board – or in many cases on board for the first time – with the other retailers.

How much this is being reflected by the increased multiple-retailer listings on Bookbub and how much Bookbub is helping drive this phenomenon is open to debate, but safe to assume it’s a mixture of both.

As an affiliate site Bookbub stands to earn off each sale, on top of the listing fees. Nothing wrong with that. Just good business.

But there’s the thing: Most Amazon-only listings will be Select titles and therefore in KU.

We ourselves are not an affiliate operator so are unfamiliar with the details of the arrangement, but logical to assume that KU borrows are either giving a very small return for affiliates, or more likely none at all, on the grounds Amazon asserts the downloads are “free”.

Assuming that is so, it is not in the interest of any affiliate site to excessively promote Amazon-exclusive titles. Yes, they still carry some, because it’s still a great deal for subscribing readers. But self-evidently not as many as they used to.

By increasing the listings with multiple retailers Bookbub acts in its own business interests and in the interests of its subscribers, but in doing so Bookbub is driving more traffic from its four million subscribers to those other retailers.

Which makes Howey’s prediction that Amazon will lose market share to Apple and Google Play a realistic one.

Howey of course has the original date (as opposed to what the public gets to see) from the Author Earnings reports, and also invites indie authors to submit feedback about how they are doing.

Feedback we are getting from indies is very clear. Those who have taken the time to diversify are reaping big rewards. All the more so as Amazon twists the KU knife. Some authors are reporting Amazon reduced to bringing in less than 25% of their income as a) Amazon drives readers to KU making the main Amazon site a backwater, and b) the efforts promoting the other retailers pays off.

No reason to think the feedback Howey is getting will be very different. And a safe bet that data is behind Howey’s “predictions”.

We use that term loosely. Howey’s other big predictions are straight out of Mystic Meg’s Crystal Ball & Tarot Readings tent at the local fair.

The fate of B&N will shake out next year. Really? What with Nook all set to be sold off and all? That’s not a prediction, Hugh. That’s a statement of the obvious. A prediction is telling us HOW it will shake out.

Howey also says “I predict eBook penetration will continue to grow.”

How does he do it? Where do these insights come from that are denied us lesser mortals? And there we all were thinking the ebook fad was over and everyone was going to buy print books instead.

But let’s get back to the one prediction we can concur with.

As a rule when we find ourselves agreeing with the Amazon cheerleaders it’s time for a cold shower and some strong coffee. But two ice buckets and three triple espressos later it still reads like Howey said Amazon will lose market share to Apple and Google Play in 2015.

Well, it is Christmas, and Ebeneezer Howey does indeed appear to have had a visit from the Ghost of Christmas Future.

Take heed. It’s not just us saying this.

Diversify In 2015!

Ebook Bargains UK

Far more than just an ebook promo newsletter.

Far more than just the UK.

One To Watch – Ridibooks, South Korea

Go Global In 2014For those here looking at the long-term global ebook markets, this is significant. For the rest of you, go read or watch A Christmas Carol. Then come back and read this with Christmas Future in mind.

Ridibooks have just secured another round of funding for expansion of their ebook business. (LINK) They already control 40% of the Korean ebook market.

Korea is a surprisingly strong player in the global publishing world and, perhaps even more surprisingly, a very strong player in ESL. English as a Second Language. As the year ends Korean firms have been very active in Latin America on the other side of the world, for example, offering ESL literature.

A reminder as ever that we are lucky enough to write in the one global language. English. Don’t let that stroke of good fortune go to waste.

Korea is an exciting, literate, hi-tech market that understands it has a geographically niche language, and places a premium on the English language.

As yet no easy way to get indie EL titles (or indeed translated titles) into Ridibooks or other domestic South Korean ebook stores, and of course neither Amazon nor Apple are there. Fortunately Google Play is, and Kobo has designs on Korea. South Korea, at least. Even we here at EBUK are not so optimistic as to envisage a North Korea ebook market kicking off any time soon.

No, South Korea is not a market to go expending time and energy on right now, unless you have contacts there or know the language. But it is certainly not one to ignore.

Getting noticed by a Korean publisher could bring its own rewards, but more importantly our guess is Ridibooks has its eyes on the wider world. With both Amazon and Apple effective non-players in the Asian ebook scene (Amazon only in India, China and Japan, Apple only in Japan) the region is wide open for “local” players like Korea’s Ridibooks, Thailand’s Ookbee and Indonesia’s Scoop to gain traction.

Make no mistake. The global ebook market will eclipse the US ebook market many times in the coming years. And Asia will be at the forefront.

No, no point busting a blood vessel trying to get there. But as we saw recently when Brit indies took the number one spot on Kindle China, if you’re not there you could be missing out.

 

Ebook Bargains UK

Far more than just an ebook promo newsletter.

Far more than just the UK.

 

 

Kobo Kicks Off The Race For The Middle East.

Go Global In 2014

Those indies frustrated by the difficulties presented reaching readers in the potentially lucrative Middle East market have reason to be cheerful today, with news that Kobo is making a concerted effort to become a player in the region.

Neither Apple nor Google Play have ebook stores in the Middle East (although Google Play is in Turkey, which is bloody close!), and Amazon famously blocks downloads to anyone who hasn’t got a pre-existing western Kindle account. Great for expats and westerners working in the region. Not so great for local people.

We reported on the developing interest in ebooks in the region back in March in a post entitles Ebook Store Go Forth And Multiply In the Middle East (LINK), and before that, in an article entitle How Much Water Does It Take To Make An Ebook? (LINK) we looked at the climate factors that have meant many areas of the world have been no-go areas for print books but are now opening up to digital reading.

More recently, in July, we predicted Google Play would be the first major western operator to open ebook stores in the Middle East. (LINK)

We stand by that. Kobo isn’t launching a localized store for any of the Middle East countries. But what it is doing is making a concerted effort to get Kobo devices into bricks & mortar stores in the region, with the knock-on effect that device-buyers will buy from the Kobo international ebook store.

It’s a BIG step forward for e-reading in the region, and a big opportunity to find new readers for those indies in Kobo looking to extend their global reach.

Kobo have partnered with regional operator Lionfish to get Kobo devices into 34 stores across the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) states, including Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates. (LINK)

While the Kobo ebook store has previously been accessible in the Middle East it was pretty much unknown, so this move will help build awareness of the Kobo store not just for Kobo device buyers but also for readers with smartphones or iPads who can download a Kobo app.

So far it’s just a handful of the GCC countries, and no localized store, but it’s a welcome start.

We hope Kobo will be looking to expand its presence in the rest of the Middle East and the Arabic-speaking states across North Africa in 2015, but our money is still on Google Play to be the first to actually set up dedicated stores there.

The Digital Reader, also covering this story (LINK), mentions the Arabic-language store Kotobi (LINK). Kotobi is on our “investigate” list, but so far we haven’t made much progress. If anyone out there is familiar with the store, do let us know.

And as a final thought, for anyone with the knowledge or contacts to get Arabic translations of their works, this move by Kobo could make the endeavoiur worthwhile.

Ebook Bargains UK.

Far more than just an ebook promo newsletter.

Far more than just the UK.

India’s Fast-Growing Ebook Market Is About To Become A Lot More Lucrative For Indie Authors – If You Are On Google Play.

Go Global In 2014
The Kindle India store is, unquestionably, the easiest option for indie authors to gain access to the burgeoning Indian ebook market. But it’s by no means the most effective.

As reported before, Amazon does not allow local currency payments on many items, and does not accept local payment methods for most.

India may have just put a spacecraft in orbit around Mars, and it may have a bigger smartphone market than the USA, but it is also a land of desperate poverty, where most of the population have no access to the credit cards Amazon expects to be paid by.

Countless millions of Indian consumers now have a device in their hand that could have your ebooks on, and yes, the Kindle app is free, but if you cannot pay for the ebooks in the Kindle store, why bother? Go to another retailer, like Flipkart, that understands customers living in India and buying products in India want to pay in Indian currency with local Indian payment methods.

Flipkart is currently the e-commerce titan of India, with an estimated eighty percent market share. It recently raised $1bn in a funding round to expand further.

Enter Amazon.

Days before the Flipkart funding was announced Jeff Bezos had laid out Amazon’s plans for India, with investment in new warehouses, etc.  Then Flipkart announced the new $1bn extra funding.

Not to be outdone, Jeff Bezos was there the next day saying he would be investing $2bn. No mention of this days earlier in the announcement on Amazon India. Bezos just magicked two billion dollars out of the air to play one-upmanship with a rival store.

Which is fine if the company has money to throw around. But this is a company that, on its own guidance, is about to report a half billion dollar loss for just one quarter!

No surprise then that just weeks after Bezos publicly stated he would throw another $2bn into India Amazon went cap in hand to Bank of America to borrow, wait for it… $2bn. Two billion to add to the already heavy debt Amazon is carrying. (LINK)

No surprise either that the news was snuck out after business hours on a Friday…

But let’s get back to India. Because weeks after saying he would splash the cash on the subcontinent Bezos hit another hurdle. Actually, make that an obstacle course.

India’s authorities clamped down first on western companies (not just Amazon, let’s be clear, but also Google, eBay, etc) not using local payment processing and to stop them demanding payment in US dollars.

This amid a wider investigation into Amazon’s conduct in the country, amid widespread reports that Amazon wasn’t playing by the rules.

Then as September drew to a close the Indian authorities stepped up their investigation. The Enforcement Directorate has issued orders to over 100 Indian business telling them to stop using Amazon to store goods in Amazon Fulfillment warehouses. (LINK)

In response Amazon warned it may now have to close some warehouses on the sub-continent, but casually explained it was all India’s fault.

“We understand this to be a case where the laws have not kept pace with the new-age online business models,” Amazon said.

So that’s alright then. Who cares about a country’s laws when they conflict with Amazon’s business model…

Google, on the other hand, has responded to the Indian authorities’ concerns in typical fashion: glocalization.

It’s not signed, sealed and delivered yet but Google is about to ink a deal with India’s biggest telecom operator Aircel to allow carrier billing for its products bought through the Google Play India store. (LINK)

For those unfamiliar carrier billing is simply where anything you buy online is added to your phone bill or deducted from your phone credit. No need to have a bank account or credit/debit card, or to share those details with the seller.

It’s a bitter irony that Amazon should be criticizing India for failing to keep up with new-age on-line business models when Amazon is still stuck in the last century when it comes to payments options on its own sites.

America is way behind the rest of the developed world in still using credit cards as the norm, and even at home that poses a problem for online retailers as many millions of Americans are without banking facilities thanks to credit checks and similar conditions. Wal-Mart has just this past week stepped in to help solve that problem with its new Go Bank checking account.

But for the less-developed nations the ability to pay by credit/debit card is a luxury even fewer enjoy. Which seriously hinders the development of on-line retail around the globe.

Vietnam, for example, sees just 1% of financial transactions made by card. In the Philippines it’s just 5%. 12% in Thailand. 37% in Singapore. Not that indies in KDP Select need be concerned, as Amazon blocks downloads to these countries anyway. No, that’s not anti-Amazon, simply fact. Google Play is in all of them. Not pro-Google. Simply fact.

Even for key nations like the BRIC countries, which are the current focus of the western retailers’ attention, it’s not good news for those stores that can’t be bothered to glocalize.

Amazon is rumoured to be edging closer to a Kindle Russia store. Great news if true, but less than 40% of Russia’s urban young people use credit cards. For the general population the figure is negligible.

Amazon will find in Russia that, just as in India and Brazil, by refusing to glocalize it will hinder, not encourage, consumer interest.

In India credit card penetration is just 2%. Give the size of the population that’s no small number of people, but it effectively excludes 98% of the population from buying from the Amazon India store at all. And for those who do have cards they are likely to get lumbered with extra costs from currency exchange fees, etc, because many purchases can still only be made in US dollars.

The carrier-billing deal between Google Play and Airtel will mean every one of Airtel’s 40 million data users with a smartphone will be able to access anything in the Google Play store and have the payment taken from their cash-purchased Airtel credit top-up.

Easier than One-Click. Especially since Amazon doesn’t offer One-Click in India.

Google Play currently offers carrier-billing in 26 countries – almost half of the Google Play stores – and is actively working to reach more.

That said, Google Play is late to the game in India. We’ve mentioned before that the real ebook players in India are likely to be the upstart start-ups focussed on m-commerce, like Newshunt (LINK) and Rockstand (LINK).

Neither of these stores are currently easily accessible to indies, but keep an eye on them and jump in as soon as it happens. Or stick around and we’ll take a look at some “back door” options in future posts.

Newshunt, which of course offers carrier-billing for its readers in India, has seen over 4 million ebooks downloaded in the past six months, and almost all paid for with carrier-billing.

Given the Indian ebook market is barely off the starting grid, and there is so much competition, that’s an impressive initial foray, and a sure sign of things to come.

Not to mention a sure sign of which companies are in the running down the road.

Microsoft, for instance, is planning on offering carrier-billing in India in the near future for its Windows phone app.

Looking beyond the region briefly, Microsoft also has carrier-billing arrangements in the Middle East, and Google Play just introduced carrier-billing in the United Arab Emirates. As we’ve said before, Google Play is the only likely candidate for an easy-access western-retailer-operated Middle East ebook store. (LINK) Hopefully we’ll see that in 2015.

Rockstand too offers carrier-billing. More on both Newshunt and Rockstand below.

Amazon? Amazon famously keeps all its payments in-house, and while there’s little hope Amazon will offer carrier-billing in India any time soon, there are indications that the Amazon wall is, if not quite crumbling, then having a few gates reluctantly put in.

Offering carrier-billing for the Fire phone was unavoidable, of course, but lately Amazon has been very quietly signing up to a carrier-billing scheme in Germany of all places.

Amazon has joined with Bango and Deutschland Telefonica’s O2 mobile network to allow German buyers to pay for Amazon apps through their phone bill instead of paying Amazon direct. (LINK)

In fact Amazon initiated this over three years ago, but only now has taken the plunge, slowly facing up to the reality that carrier-billing is the only way the company can hope to maintain, let alone grow, market share in overseas markets.

The cost to Amazon is of course two-fold. First, revenue sharing with another party (but don’t worry, they’ll just tighten the screws on the content-providers all the more to make that up), and second because they won’t have the customer data. For these reasons carrier-billing will always be a last resort.

Across Europe, according to Jupiter Research, there are some 280 million adults who have no debit or credit card to pay on-line. (LINK) This is by no means just a Third World problem.

Amazon will have no choice soon but to look at carrier-billing in India, Brazil and Mexico, but at this stage it doesn’t appear to be on the agenda, leaving an open goal for Google Play among the western ebook retailers.

For the record, there are no Apple, ‘txtr or Nook ebook stores in India.

Kobo is there via W H Smith India (not that we indies are invited, so forget that) and Crossword (but only as a link to the Kobo localized store).

OverDrive are represented via Landmark (also the country’s biggest b&m book chain) and Infibeam.

Other options include Magzter and Pothi, and the aforementioned Flipkart, Newshunt and Rockstand, as well as a growing number of niche players.

We identified Newshunt and Rockstand above as ones to watch, so let’s end on those.

Newshunt is a mobile-only ebooks store that is run by Ver Se.

Newshunt has seen 50 million app installations, has 14 million active monthly users and gets over 1.5 billion monthly page views. More importantly it expects to have 200 million active monthly users within two years, as m-commerce takes off in India. (LINK)

Given India is expected to have 385 million smartphone users by 2017 (more than one for every man, woman, child and baby in the US) that kind of growth is probably conservative.

By 2020…

Make no mistake, India is a place all indie authors should have their focus on. And none should close their eyes to what a deal with a local publisher could bring to the table in terms of access and translation to India’s local languages (both Newshunt and Rockstand specialize in offering ebooks in multiple Indian languages).

As well as carrier-billing Newshunt also allows customers in India to pay using its proprietary payment option iPayy. No, nothing to do with Apple, because that’s not a typo.

What is it is one more way in which local ebook retailers on the subcontinent have the edge over the western giants trying to barge their way in, and one more reason why western indie authors wanting to share in the action need to look beyond the convenience of their home-grown distribution options.

Rockstand is owned by Handygo Technologies, and needless to say it offers carrier-billing – via three Indian telcos: Airtel, Vodafone India and Idea Cellular.

As with Newshunt, getting in isn’t easy for indies.

In March Rockstand signed a deal with Ingram for ebook content, but of course only a handful of indies are in the Ingram ebook catalogue in the first place.  (LINK) We’ve thus far been unable to determine if indie titles in Ingram are actually available among the 2 million ebook titles on Rockstand, but there’s no reason to suppose they are not.

We’ve said before and will say again, India, Indonesia and China are the most exciting prospects on the planet right now for indie authors willing to step outside their comfort zone.

The global ebook market is going to dwarf the US market many, many times over as it blossoms, and those who get an early foot in the door will have best chance to reap the rewards.

No, there will be no instant successes and no instant rewards.

But think about how hard it is now for new authors to gain traction in the US and UK markets. And how much harder it’s getting, by the day.

The nascent global markets aren’t quite open goals, but there are myriad opportunities for savvy authors to become big fish in small ponds overseas. And then to grow to be even bigger fish as the pond gets bigger.

No, it won’t be easy. Yes, it will take time, effort and probably some costs if you really want to make an impact.

So start small. Focus on one country – say, India – and get things in place, and then move on to the next. Build a readership base and then move your focus to the next country.

No-one can do it all at once. Don’t try.

But don’t take the path of least resistance. Amazon is a great starting point for India, but for all the reasons above it is not going to give you much reach in that country, and none at all across much of the globe.

Amazon can play a key role in your path to becoming a truly global bestselling author, but it won’t do it on its own. Period.

Think about the next five years, not the next five weeks.

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Google Play Launches Another Four New Ebook Stores. Amazon Still Thinking About One.

Go Global In 2014

While rumours abound that Amazon has a Kindle Netherlands store on the way, Google Play is busy doing what it does best: adding more international ebook stores to its already impressive global list.

Or at least it is about to. The Digital Reader reports (LINK) that Google Play has added the Baltic states of Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania to its list, along with the Ukraine.

The stores aren’t fully live yet, but when they are it will take Google Play’s total country-dedicated international ebook stores to 61 – substantially ahead of Apple’s 51, the twenty or so ‘txtr sites (Latin America additions still pending) and Amazon’s dozen Kindle stores.

Comparing the Apple and Google Play lists is instructive.

Apple iBooks stores:

Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bolivia,
Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica,
Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominican Republic,
Ecuador, El Salvador, Estonia, Finland, France,
Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Honduras, Hungary,
Ireland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg,
Malta, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua,
Norway, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Poland,
Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain,
Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom,
United States, Venezuela.

Google Play Books ebook stores:

Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bolivia,
Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica,
Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador,
Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Guatemala,
Honduras, Hong Kong, Hungary, India, Indonesia,
Ireland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malaysia,
Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Panama,
Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal,
Romania, Russia, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea,
Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand,
Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States,
Uruguay, Venezuela, Vietnam.

While Apple has a very solid presence in Asia, and its devices sell in the millions there, Asia is for some reason all but devoid of iBooks store. Across the whole of the continent, Apple has just one solitary iBooks store, in Japan.

By contrast Google Play serves Hong Kong, India, Indonesia,
Japan, Malaysia, the Philippines, Russia, Singapore, South Korea,
Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey and Vietnam.

Amazon obviously has Kindle stores serving India and Japan, and a token presence in China. but for the rest of Asia Amazon may as well not exist, as downloads are blocked there.

The only other easy access to Asian ebook stores for western indie authors are Kobo (but only for the Philippines and Japan), e-Sentral (direct upload, or via Bookbaby or Ebook Partnership) or Magzter (via Ebook Partnership).

Which makes Google Play the essential place to be for any indie authors wanting to reach readers on the world’s largest and most populated continent.

The much-rumoured Kindle Netherlands and Kindle Russia stores may, hopefully, yet materialize. Apple, Google Play, Kobo and ‘txtr have all long ago managed to come to an arrangement with Dutch publishers, and Google Play is already in Russia.

But as we’ve expressed before, Amazon’s Kindle stores run on print rails. And they do themselves little favour by imposing surcharges on ebook buyers in countries prior to opening Kindle stores.

The Netherlands already has a well-established domestic ebook store in Bol, and the recent partnership of Bol and Kobo will only strengthen Bol’s clear dominance of the burgeoning Dutch ebook market.

A market Amazon could have been nurturing by the simple expedient of letting international buyers download ebooks without surcharges.

Why doesn’t it? Ours is not to reason why.

But on the other hand, why not. Here’s one possible reason.

Trad-pubbed ebooks come to Amazon with strict territorial rights, reflecting the print editions.

As said above, Amazon Kindle stores run on print rails. The Kindle stores are driven by trad-pub interests, not indie ebooks.

Indie authors, as we see time and time again (how many years has it taken for us indies to get the pre-order option?), are an afterthought. Even when indie titles provide the bulk of a service, as with Kindle Unlimited, it’s the trad pubbed titles (and the Amazon imprint titles) that are showcased. The rest of us are just padding.

With its brand-recognition and international reach Amazon could have been bringing many indie authors a significant secondary income from international ebook sales outside the Kindle zone countries. Instead it surcharges readers, so most go elsewhere.

Your $4.99 ebook in the USA will cost a reader in the Netherlands or Poland or Sweden $6.99. Amazon will pay you just a 35% royalty on the $4.99 and pocket the rest. Your free ebook in the US will still cost a reader in these other countries $2. And no, you won’t see a cent of that either.

Curiously, as we’ve seen with Kindle France, Kindle Germany, Kindle Brazil, etc, as soon as Amazon gets a good deal with trad pub and has enough titles to open a Kindle store the surcharges miraculously disappear.

All the while it was just indie titles available in these countries Amazon was happy to deter interest, in the full knowledge readers will be signing up with rival stores.

So long as this policy remains in force Amazon will continue to be a bit player on the international ebook scene outside of the handful of Kindle countries.

The others?

‘Txtr is a plucky little store with ambition and stamina, but little hope of making a significant impact. Nice to be part of, but it won’t make any authors rich.

Kobo is broad in reach and lots of potential, but as yet Rakuten have not put their muscle behind it. When they do that will make all the difference

Until then, pending entrance of the eastern players like Alibaba, and the possible purchase of Nook next year, the global ebook market will be either carved up between Apple and Google, or left to Google. At the moment it looks like the latter.

No indications Apple is looking seriously at further global iBook stores. Which is tragic because there are literally hundreds of millions of iDevices out there globally that could have our ebooks on.

On the bright side iBooks stores are now coming as default installations on iDevices, which may be a precursor to a more serious approach to ebooks by Apple. Fingers crossed on that one.

But for now, even if Amazon pulls it off and launches Kindle Netherlands and Kindle Russia stores, Google Play remains the best bet for an international writing career.

http://the-digital-reader.com/2014/09/24/google-play-books-launches-estonia-latvia-lithuania-ukraine/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+TheDigitalReader+%28The+Digital+Reader%29#.VCPFWpRdUsc

 

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