Category Archives: Ingram ebooks

2016: The Year So Far For Internationalist Indie Authors

2016 The Year So Far

2016 is simply racing by. Either my calendar is on amphetamines or February’s gone, April is looming, and we’re well on the slippery slope to 2017, with 2020 just around the corner.

A step nearer to the the first decade of 5G and the Internet of Things. A decade that, for publishing, is going to make the tumult of the 2010s seem rather tame by comparison.

I’ll be re-visiting the future as we go, because any of us planning on still being on the writing and publishing circuit in the 2020s needs to be preparing now for the challenges ahead.

But we also need to keep one eye on the present because, to paraphrase John Donne, no writer is an island, and events unfolding around us largely unnoticed now will determine all our futures.

So I’m kicking off March with a look back on how 2016 is shaping up so far for us internationalist indie authors looking at the bigger picture than next month’s pay-cheque. (A reminder there, for any new readers, that I write in British English!).

And a reminder too that I live and write in West Africa, and sometimes the distractions of Third World life play havoc with my blogging schedule.

This is my first blog post in over a month. But I do post far more frequently – pretty much every day, often several times a day – over at the International Indie Author Facebook Group. (LINK)

While blogs have a permanence and discoverability Facebook sorely lacks, Facebook Groups are great for interaction. It’s a telling point that the Facebook Group, with fewer members than there are followers of this blog, gets far more productive, daily engagement than the blog does.

So do pop along and sign up to the IIA Facebook Group and enjoy daily reflections on Going Global.

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Meantime, back to 2016 so far.

Amazon is lining up suppliers for a new music subscription service intended to go head to head with Apple’s music subscription option and to challenge the established music subscription players like Spotify.

Currently Amazon offers a limited music subscription service option free to Prime members, but this latest move – expected to materialise in the latter half of this year – indicates the mighty Zon has bigger ambitions than just keeping Prime members on board.

It begs the question, where does Amazon go from here with subscriptions? And more pertinently for us, ebook subscriptions?

I’ve long suggested Amazon will, when the time is right and the costs are down enough, make Kindle Unlimited available free to Prime members.

KU may have a million titles, but in real terms the choice is limited, just like the Prime music and video selections.

But whereas Prime members get the music and video free they are asked to pay full price for KU (aside from the one free title a month).

The logical next step would be to make KU available free to Prime members in its current format, and then re-launch KU proper as a “real” ebook subscription service, dropping the exclusivity condition.

Dropping the exclusivity condition for self-publishers for the extended KU could bring into the game the titles of the many indie authors who play the wider game and are therefore excluded from KU by Amazon’s current rules.

That would be a win for the revamped subscription service – lots of new content to attract paying subscribers – and also a further income stream for authors.

But also a win for Amazon’s wider game, undermining the subscription competition.

It may seem like there is no competition to KU, especially now Oyster is out of the game, but to the extent that’s true at all, it’s only true in the US and UK.

Internationally subscription services like Bookmate, 24Symbols and Mofibo are doing just fine, and in the “home markets” niche subscription services are also doing well, while a new global subscription service, Playster, may yet surprise us.

Given Google has soaked up the Oyster team and skills-base it seems likely Google Play will enter the ebook subscription scene at some stage, perhaps with an international service to compete with Bookmate, Playster and Scribd.

And then there’s Apple.

Pundits like to dismiss Apple as a hardware firm that dabbles in content-supply, but that’s self-evidently untrue. Apple has plenty of content ambitions or it wouldn’t have introduced a music subscription service or be fielding 50+ global ebook stores.

Yes, Apple will remain primarily focussed on hardware, just as Amazon remains primarily focussed on e-commerce but dabbles in hardware and building its own content creation. The two are not mutually exclusive.

Last year Apple entered the music subscription game – something Amazon is now preparing to respond to. And while there are no indications yet that Apple is sounding out big pub on launching an ebook subscription service, it‘s a safe bet that it’s on the way.

For Apple, it’s an extra income stream for very little effort as they already have some 50 global iBooks stores. And of course it would be an extra arrow in their quiver to attract buyers to their hardware, which is the whole point of Apple’s content ventures. For the many publishers who don’t have a problem with subscription services per se, but are studiously avoiding KU for obvious reasons, an Apple subscription service would be welcomed.

And in another slow puncture in the wheel of Apple- isn’t-interested-in-content it’s just been announced Apple’s first original TV series is being made.

Something to keep an eye on as this year unfolds.

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But music subscription is not the only content push Amazon is planning.

Currently Amazon is advertising for new technicians to take Audible to a whole new level. I’ll be covering this in detail in a dedicated post on audio shortly.

And yet another event on the Amazon horizon is the arrival of an Amazon used-ebook store.

At the moment it’s only an industry rumour, and there’s no real indication of how this might work, or what its impact might be.

My guess is an Amazon used-ebook store would, like KU, be aimed at the indie circuit. I’ll reflect on why in another post, as so much else to cover right now.

Video, for example.

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Amazon has been actively building its film and TV production arm and clearly has ambitions far beyond simply adding to the free content available for Prime members.

Video is big business. Not just in the US but globally.

Of course, film and TV have long been available worldwide. Nothing new there. But what is new is a) the scale and b) the delivery.

Here in West Africa freeview satellite dishes are everywhere, for those lucky enough to have electric. That’s the same across the world. But old-fashioned satellite broadcasts are a hang-over from the twentieth century, like analogue TVs.

As the Globile (global mobile)  New Renaissance unfolds, access to video – by which I mean mainstream film and TV, not just three-minute home-made footage of a playful kitten on Youtube – is moving to new heights, delivered by mobile broadband.

As the world goes globile (global mobile, don’t forget!) and internet speeds and reliability move to new levels, pretty much the entire globe is within reach of mainstream video, just as pretty much the entire world can now access our ebooks.

Netflix kicked off 2016 with an expansion into 130 new countries, including Pakistan, South Korea, Turkey and Russia, taking Netflix’s reach to 190 countries globally, and in twenty languages.

“In 2016 (Netflix) plans to release 31 new and returning original series, two dozen original feature films and documentaries, a wide range of stand-up comedy specials and 30 original kids series. Netflix will also work to make the rest of its content available worldwide, so it offers the same programming in each market.” (LINK)

So let’s be clear on this. Netflix will be showing classic film and TV from our western culture, making it available around the world to audiences eager to lap it up. And pay for the privilege.

Books are no different. We only have to look at the bestseller charts around the globe to see how translations of top-selling American and British books are being devoured by eager readers in countries are removed from the culture of the US and UK.

Don’t think you need to be a Stephen King or an E.L. James to sell well abroad. Indies can do it too. Those of us who have made the effort to reach out to global audiences have, both for our translations and English-language originals, found a positive reception. Number one on Kindle China, anyone?

But we don’t need to stop at books. Savvier indie authors will be looking at operations like Netflix and asking ourselves – “Can they use my content?”

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If the Netflix scenario were a one-off story, this would still be significant But it’s far from one-off.

A South Korean TV subscription player in January expanded across Asia, observing astutely, “Korean content travels well”.

Hard on the heels of HBO announcing (end 2015) plans to stream video in Spain later this year and the global expansion of Netflix in January, Spain’s Telefonica announced plans to create and broadcast eight to ten series a year, starting in 2017. While Spanish-language focused Telefonica also plans to team up with other major European studios for co-produced English-language works.

January also saw the news that UKTV is to launch a new flagship subscription service called ‘W’ (don’t ask!) laden with original shows.

Steve North, W’s general manager, said, “We have a treasure trove of compelling original commissions, our own crown jewels.”

The tagged report notes that “UKTV’s investment in original content has pulled in millions more viewers to its portfolio of channels”. (LINK)

These are just a few among numerous similar developments as the Global New Renaissance blossoms, allowing countless new players to not just distribute but to create original content.

Which means production studios around the globe are screaming out for new content that can bolster their catalogue. Not just the big Hollywood film and TV studios and their equivalent in other countries, but the upstarts like Amazon Studios, Netflix, HBO, etc and the perhaps less-well known but still big enough to pack a punch producers like UKTV.

No, we don’t need to be professional screenwriters to be excited by this.

Yes, we can stay as we are, fingers crossed, and dream. it’s always possible someone will stumble across our works and want to option them for a TV series or a film. It happens.

But savvy indie authors will be proactive, not trusting to luck.

As I’ll be exploring in detail sometime soon, there are a number of agents who specialize in licensing IP rights for other media. There are also a number of agencies operating IP databases where production teams go to search a database as an easy way to find good content that by definition is available for licensing.

And then of course we have the option to approach production studios ourselves with our titles and show why they would work in other media, or to partner with a third party to produce a script/storyboard/whatever that will get the attention of those production studios. Amazon has its own film storyboarding software available free to use!

Several big publishers are setting up units specifically to team with video-production studios to develop their book titles in other formats, and the only thing stopping indies getting in on the act is our own tendency to think of ourselves as “ebook authors”.

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Moving back to books, and potentially good news on the horizon for indies looking to reach Australia’s readers. Amazon is launching The Book Depository in Australia (LINK), possibly as a prelude to a wider Amazon AU store down the road to compliment the Kindle AU store.

The Book Depository sells print, so is not on the radar of most indies because of our unhealthy focus on ebooks even at “home”, let alone in markets in far flung lands like Australia.

Equally safe to say that for most indies the Australian ebook market is the Kindle AU store, although there are numerous other options to read ebook readers in Australia.

With ebooks accounting for about 7% of total book sales in Australia right now, and ebook take-up growing by 26% per year, it’s worth taking Australia seriously.

That means at the very least being available on Kobo AU, Google Play AU and Apple AU, while for the more ambitious among us there are plenty of other players.

Angus & Robertson, for example, which is supplied by Kobo.

While some smaller AU ebook retailers lost the battle for survival (JB Hi-Fi and Big W both called it a day) other players are holding their own.

Not least Booktopia.

Amazon’s The Book Depository is the biggest player in Australia for on-line print titles even before it sets up shop in situ, but the second largest on-line bookseller is Booktopia, which last year bought out Bookworld, previously owned by Penguin Random House.

Booktopia doesn’t give out ebook stats but it shipped ten million print books last year and expects that to increase now it’s absorbed Bookword’s customer base.

Booktopia expects to sell $80 million worth of print titles in 2016. Amazon, boosted by the Book Depository local-launch, is on target to sell $200 million of print titles.

How much of that $280 million Australian print market will indies be getting a share of?

Very little, no doubt.

As we all know, trad pub has an oh-so-unfair advantage because it can get books into bricks and mortar stores and we indies can’t. Or so the chant goes.

The reality, of course is that indies can, if we make the effort, get print books into bricks and mortar stores, at home and around the globe.

But that debate is academic here because that $280 million market being discussed is all on-line sales, not though bricks and mortar stores.

Very unhelpful for us looking for any excuse to take the path of least resistance. Great news for those of us who are serious about becoming international bestselling authors.

But let’s stay briefly with ebooks. For indies looking at Australia, aside from Kindle AU there is Apple AU, Google Play AU and Kobo AU, as well as the aforementioned Kobo partner store Angus & Robertson. Then there’s Booktopia’s ebook store and beyond that smaller but still significant players like QBD.

If our books aren’t in these stores then obviously Australian readers who frequent these stores will not be able to buy them. It’s that simple.

Being available is half the battle.

How to reach Australian ebook readers? Amazon, Apple and Kobo are easy enough to get into, of course. Google Play not so much, as neither Smashwords nor Draft2Digital distribute to Google Play. Luckily for us, both StreetLib and PublishDrive do.

To get into QBD we need to be in the Copia catalogue, and to get into Booktopia the Ingram catalogue is required.

Yeah, I know. It’s a cruel world. How dare they make life difficult for us over-worked, under-paid indies.

But here’s the thing. The retailers are responding to consumer demand. For some obscure and unfathomable reason consumers prefer to buy from stores that are convenient for them not for us.

Yes, it would be great if readers the world over were all thinking, “Those poor indie authors trying to do it all on their own… Why don’t we all buy from one store to make their lives easier and then they can spend more time writing and less time trying to maximise their distribution.”

But the reality is, our typical reader no more cares about us as authors of the books than we do about the screenplay writers who create the TV dramas and films we ourselves love to watch.

And let’s be honest with ourselves here. How many of us could even name, let alone care about, the writer or writers who wrote that TV drama we were enthralled by last night? Or the latest blockbuster film we watched at the cinema last week?

Exactly.

Bottom line is, it’s our choice. We can put consumers first or put ourselves first.

The path of least resistance is always there if we want to walk it.

But we wouldn’t be here reading this in the first place if that were the case, so take a deep breath and check out Ingram and Copia distribution if you haven’t already.

Australia, with urban populations separated by huge distances, is perfect online-store territory for both print and ebooks, and perfect long-term ebook territory now smartphones have replaced dedicated ereaders as the primary reading device.

Most Australians speak and read English meaning there’s no need for translations to reach this lucrative overseas market.

Yet indies seem largely indifferent to Australia’s charms. Even Australian authors seem to obsess more about the US market than building a fan-base at home. Which is crazy when a glance at any Australian bookseller – print or digital – shows the retailers obsessively promote home-grown Australian talent.

Whether Booktopia can hold its own when The Book Depository goes live in Australia remains to be seen, but the one certainty is the Australian book market – for English-language print, ebooks and audio alike – is worth taking seriously.

I am. How about you?

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Coming back to Amazon yet again, and Kindle Unlimited launched in China last month.

But don’t get too excited. Unless our ebooks are in the Kindle China store in the first place then we’ll not be there.

The good news, for those of us who are there, is that there is no exclusivity conditions so we can continue to reach reads on China’s many other and mostly bigger, ebook retailers while still getting the benefits of KU-China.

Kindle China is not part of the KDP set up, so there are none of the Kindle star names in KU-China to compete with.

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Finally for today, and staying with China:

More Than Half Of China’s Population Is Now Online!

Last summer I reported that India has more people online than the USA has people in it.

2016 kicked off with news that over half of China’s people are now connected to the internet.

688 million people (50.3% for fellow maths obsessives) are connected, and 620 million of those connect using mobile devices.

A reminder, if needed, that the world is going globile. That’s global mobile for anyone who’s not been keeping up.

And also for any newcomers, a mention that the Beijing-based aggregator Fiberead will translate, produce and distribute your titles in China at no up-front cost.

But let’s come back to going globile.

More Indians on the internet than the USA has people in it. Almost twice as many Chinese on the internet than the US has people in it.

Globile – global mobile – is enfranchising literally billions of people who previously had no access to books.

Now people almost everywhere on the planet have a device in their hands that can be used to read our ebooks. As I reported at the start of the year, even Easter Island, the remotest inhabited island in the world, has wi-fi.

The US is and will remain for a while yet the biggest book market in the world. But collectively the rest of the world will dwarf it many times over in coming years.

Already in 2015 India leapfrogged the UK to become the second biggest English language book market and the sixth largest book market overall.

Savvy indies will of course remain focussed on the US and UK markets that sustain us now. But we will also be sowing the seeds for future harvests in the now nascent markets.

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

Go globile in 2016!

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For daily news and views on the global ebook scene, and some great debate, join The International Indie Author Facebook Group. (LINK)

 

 

 

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The India Book Market Is Now Bigger Than The UK. The "Exploding New International Market Opportunities."

Nielsen’s latest report on the Indian Book Market confirms what I’ve been predicting for the past few years. India has leapfrogged the UK in the global book market stakes and is now the sixth largest in the world and the second largest English-language market.

With ebook take-up in India ready to bloom over the next couple of years watch out for India leaping up that World Book Markets chart.

A reminder. India now has more people online than the US has citizens.

 @ @ @

Staying with India, I still haven’t got any satisfactory Hindi translations sorted, but regulars will know the indigenous Indian languages (there are 22 official languages in India) are a top priority for me as we head into 2016.

This latest report on Quartz (LINK)

is only about Amazon’s Hindi sales, but a safe bet we are seeing the same enthusiasm for local-language titles in other retailers.

Some retailers specialise in local languages and the key mobile app operators Rockstand and Newshunt are very keen to have them available.

Google’s South Asia VP recently said that the next 100,000,000 internet users in India will be local-language, not English.

Whatever language a person chooses (or is brought up to use) in India, I want them reading my books.

India, along with China and Indnesia, are among the most exciting prospects on the planet right now for internationalist indie authors.

Exciting times ahead!

@ @ @

How exciting? Try this.

Rakuten-owned OverDrive said this week, “We are very bullish about the exploding new international market opportunities for publishers,” as they added 300,000 titles to their catalogue and increased their reach to 50 countries, with over 500 new outlets globally. (LINK)

Music to my ears.

@ @ @

Meanwhile Ingram is also stepping up its global game.

Ingram has expanded the roster of international digital printing and distribution partners in their Global Connect program.
They will work with China National Publications Import & Export (CNPIEC) in China; Repro India in India; and Rotomail in Italy.

Sorry – lost the link, but it was reported on Publishers :Lunch.

@ @ @

StreetLib adds Scribd to its distribution hub.

On this occasion Smashwords and Draft2Digital were ahead of the game, but now Scribd is an option in the StreetLib dashboard. They also have Bookmate and 24Symbols on board, which Smashwords and Draft2Digital have not.

Scribd is a US-based but crucially internationally-available subscription service.

If a reader downloads your book and reads 20% you’ll get 60% of list price from StreetLib. That’s 1.80 for a 2.99 list price, and 0.59 for a 0.99 list price.

Even for short stories and children’s books.

@ @ @

With Oyster set to close in the new year, Smashwords is set to lose yet another partner store, hard on the heels of its ill-advised and utterly ridiculous pull-out from Flipkart.

But the pending Oyster closure has been a gift to the ebook subscription nay-sayers, who have been having fun explaining how the model was doomed to failure from day one.

Regulars will know I’m a big fan of the subscription model, and see a bright future for it.

That said, there’s no question Oyster failed, of course.

But let’s bear in mind that is started out with just an iOS app, so was only being used by Apple device owners. By the time it got around to expanding to Android Amazon had entered the game with Kindle Unlimited, yet instead of expanding globally Oyster remained obsessed with the US market.

So does Oyster’s imminent closure mean the subscription model is unviable?

Not a bit of it.

Russia’s Bookmate is doing rather well. So is Germany’s Skoobe, Spain’s 24Symbols, and a host of other global subscription services that aren’t US-focused. Skoobe has been going since 2012, 24Symbols since 2011.

There’s a great post on Skoobe over on Publishers Weekly. (LINK)

@ @ @

Selling Foreign Rights In France Is Easier Than You Think!

So said Publishing Perspectives this past week. (LINK)

There’s a popular misconception in the wider world (and especially in the Anglophone world) that France is somehow insular and elitist when it comes to literature, and not worth bothering with.

Which is kinda sad if true, as France is the fifth largest publishing nation in the world. Bigger than the UK, and second in Europe only to Germany.

Yes, they do speak French, which is extremely inconsiderate of them, so the big question for us indies is, is it worth pursuing French translations?

You just know I’m gonna say yes, so I’ll strengthen my answer by noting my flagship title Sugar & Spice sold 50,000 hardcovers in France. Not quite mega-star sales, of course, but If that isn’t worthwhile I don’t know what is.

 Anne-Solange Noble in the afore-linked post points out that the French editorial market is actually “extremely curious and open to the outside world…”

I’ve got three French translators on board right now, and while the short-term focus is on ebooks I’m looking out for another French publisher that can get me into the lucrative bricks and mortar stores in France and Belgium, not to mention Canada, and for ebooks my focus is on the nascent  digital market in France and Belgium and the embryonic digital market in the wider Francophone world.

French is the sixth most widely spoken language in the world, with well over 200 million speakers, not least here in West Africa where, despite popular misconceptions that Africans don’t read and that the internet only exists in the rich west, books are highly sought-after and free-reading sites like Wattpad are very popular.

I’m investing time and energy in finding partners to reach the Francophone world, and strongly recommend you do too.

 Would I recommend paying up-front for a translation into French?

Not if you only intend to sell ebooks. The French ebook market is just beginning to shift. My ebook sales, for a proven bestseller in print, are disappointing to say the least.

But it’s early days. My digital titles in France right now are slowly gaining traction and are I’m looking at the future, not fretting about tomorrow’s lunch.

Ebooks are a great place to start in France. Take a look at Babelcube as a great place to find translation partners.

 But don’t blinker yourself to the wider possibilities.

As I’ll be exploring in an in-depth post soon, indie authors really need to think of themselves as *content providers* pushing valuable intellectual properties, not just *ebook authors* pushing mobi and epub files, if they want to make serious headway globally as we head into the second half of this decade.

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

For daily news and discussion about the global indie publishing scene join this lively Facebook Group.

 

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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300+ Global Ebook Outlets? It's As Easy As One-Two-FREE!

Go Global In 2014

We all know the ebook market is going global. But for most indie authors it seems we’re still partying like it’s 2009. Many of us are still exclusive with one store, or in so few other outlets that we may as well be.

Meanwhile that international ebook market just keeps getting bigger and bigger.

So just how many global ebook stores can we indie authors get our ebooks into without taking out a second mortgage and busting a blood vessel?

How does over 300 sound?

 ~

 Amazon has eleven Kindle sites, but readers in Ireland, Belgium, Monaco, St. Marino, Switzerland, Austria and New Zealand can buy from neighbouring Kindle stores without surcharges, as can South Africans. So effectively nineteen outlets covered there.

NB In theory many other countries (by no means all – over half the world is blocked totally) can buy from AmCom, but sending readers to Amazon US only to be surcharged will reflect badly on the author, as readers won’t know that the $2+ surcharge (even on “free” ebooks!) goes to Amazon, not to you. For that reason we’re counting just the above-mentioned countries for Amazon.

f you are with Apple you can add another 51 countries to the list. Apple is the second largest ebook distributor by dedicated-country reach. Extensive coverage of North America, Latin America and Europe. Not so hot in Asia or Africa.

Nook is kind of in limbo right now. Apart from the US Barnes & Noble store and Nook UK (a reminder: it’s NOT called B&N in the UK) there are another thirty or so countries served by Nook with a Windows 8 app.

At some stage they will all become fully fledged stores, maybe, but for now, let’s discount those and just add the two key Nook stores to the list.

19 Amazon stores, 51 Apple stores and 2 Nook stores means you already have easy access to 72 global ebook stores.

If you are with Kobo then in theory you’ll be in the localized Kobo stores in US, Canada, Australia, Japan, South Africa, India, UK, Netherlands, Germany, France… You’ll be in Kobo partner stores like Bookworld, Collins, Angus & Robertson and Pages & Pages in Australia, in PaperPlus in New Zealand, in National Book Store in the Philippines, in Crossword in India, in Indigo in Canada, in Fnac in France and Portugal, in Mondadori in Italy, in Livraria Cultura in Brazil, and probably a few more that aren’t springing to mind right now.

Okay, so twenty-two more retail outlets right there, taking you up to 92.

Then there’s the Indiebound stores. Indiebound is a Kobo partner project whereby bricks and mortar indie stores have a Kobo ebook store integrated with their website. As an example, checkout Poor Richard’s in Kentucky. Or The Velveteen Rabbit Bookshop & Guest House in Wisconsin. Or Octavia Books in New Orleans.

We haven’t done a full appraisal of all of the Indiebound stores yet (soon!), but there are well over FOUR HUNDRED b&m indie bookstores selling ebooks via Kobo. Some just send you to the main Kobo store. Others have a fully integrated ebook store as part of their website.

We discount the first lot here and just include those with an integrated Kobo store. Let’s play safe and say there are, very conservatively, just 50 integrated Indiebound stores with your ebooks in (more likely well over 200!).

Suddenly we’re looking at 142 retailers with your ebooks in.

If you are in ‘txtr that’s another twenty stores right now, and with six more in Latin America about to open.

162 global retail stores.

If you are with Smashwords then as well as ‘txtr you ought to also be in Blio and Versent, and in the Indian megastore Flipkart.

Bookbaby will also get you into Blio and Flipkart, and if you are with Bookbaby you can be in eSentral. E-Sentral is based in Malaysia but also has stores in Singapore, Indonesia, Vietnam, the Philippines, Thailand and Brunei.

Bookbaby will also get you into Ciando, one of the key retail outlets in Germany. And as per this link – http://www2.ciando.com/ – the Ciando ebook store in Germany is in English!

For those who haven’t been keeping count that’s 173 global ebook retailers.

Throw in All-Romance and OmniLit, which is free-access, to make that 175.

American and British indies often don’t look beyond Smashwords and D2D, and maybe Bookbaby, totally ignoring the free-access aggregators in Europe like Xin-Xii and Narcissus. We do so at our peril.

Xin-Xii will get you into the seven key Tolino Alliance stores (Hugendubel, Weltbild, Thalia, etc) that devastated Amazon market share last year. Essential places to be if you want to make it in Germany.

But Xin-Xii will also get you into Donauland in Austria, Casa del Libro in Spain, Family Christian in the US, Otto in Germany, and Libris in the Netherlands. It will also get you in the ebook stores of the mobile phone operators O2 and Vodafone.

Lost count yet? We’re talking 189 global ebook stores already.

So let’s see if Narcissus can push us over that 200 mark. Narcissus is based in Italy, and little known outside, but it a gem of an aggregator.

Quite apart from many of the stores already covered above, Narcissus will also get you in Ultima, in LaFeltrinelli, in IBS, in Net-Ebook, in Libreria Rizzoli, in Cubolibri, in Book Republic, in Ebookizzati, in DEAStore, in Webster, in MrEbook, in Ebook.it, inLibrisalsus, in Libreria Fantasy, in The First Club, in Omnia Buk, in Il Giardino Dei Libri, in CentoAutori, in Excalibooks, in Hoepli, in San Paolo Store, in Libramente, in Ebook Gratis, in Libreria Ebook, in Byblon Store, in Libreria Pour Femme, as well as numerous specialist and academic stores. Narcissus also distribute to Nokia. Yes, as in the phone company. Ebooks are still widely read on Feature phones, and Nokia leads the way.

But just those 26 examples from Narcissus take us to 215 global ebook stores.

And then there’s Google Play. You can go direct to Google Play or free (pay as you sell) through Narcissus.

Google Play have 57 global ebook stores (and more on the way).

Which takes us up to 272 ebook stores. And counting.

On top of this we can add the ebook subscription services like Oyster (US only) and Scribd (global), accessible through Bookbaby, Smashwords and (in the case of Scribd) D2D.

Then there’s digital libraries. Even leaving aside the as yet unresolved mess that is the Smashwords-OverDrive saga, indies with Smashwords or Bookbaby may be in libraries through Baker & Taylor.

Bookbaby also distribute to the wholesale catalogues Copia and Gardners, which supply libraries and also a ton more retail stores over and above those listed above.

Throw in the Copia and Gardners outlets and we EASILY cross the 300 retailer mark.

Remember, ALL these are accessible free of charge (you pay a percentage per sale).

There are other options, like Vook. IngramSpark and Ebook Partnership, which would substantially add to this list, but these options either have up-front costs or offer a very poor percentage return for free-access.

But worth noting that players like Ebook Partnership can get you not just into the OverDrive catalogue, which means an appearance in key stores like Books-A-Million, Waterstone’s, Infibeam, Kalahari and Exclus1ves, as well as the myriad OverDrive library partners, but also other key up and coming outlets like Magzter, like Bookmate in Russia, and so on and so on.

 ~

 The global ebook market is growing by the day. There are huge new markets opening up in Latin America, in India, in China, and across SE Asia right now that most indies are not a part of.

In the near future Africa will take a big leap forward as retailers make ebooks accessible to the hundreds of millions of Africans currently locked out of our cozy ebook world.

Make no mistake. The global ebook market will dwarf the US ebook market many, many, many times over as it gains momentum.

No, there won’t be many overnight successes, yes it will take time, and yes it will require a good few hours of effort to make sure you are in all these stores in the first place.

Sorry. There are no magic wands to wave. No just-add-water instant solutions.

No pain, no gain.

But you only have to upload to these stores once, and a handful of aggregators can do most of them for you in a couple of rounds, planting the seeds for future harvests. Then you just need to pop back now and again to tend the garden. It’s a one-off effort now that will pay back over a life-time as these global markets take off.

That list of 300+ stores above is just going to grow and grow and GROW as market fragmentation and international expansion gather momentum. The global ebook market has barely left the starting line!

The savvy indie author thinks about the next five years, not the next five days. Don’t get lost in the minutiae of your every-day ebook life and miss the bigger picture here.

Because we are all privileged to be part of something that is way, way bigger than just selling our books. We are witnessing – participating in – the early stages of a New Renaissance quite unparalleled in human history.

A New Renaissance on a global scale that will not just make accessible existing art forms to every single person on the planet, but will create new art forms as yet unknown, but in which we can be sure writers will play a key role.

Be part of it.

What Are The Top Five Countries For Romance Ebook Sales?

GoGlobalIn2014_500

We all know romance is a very, very popular genre and many ebooks authors are doing exceptionally well, but we also know most only focus their attention on two countries – the US and UK – and of course therefore only see results from two countries.

We’ve been arguing a long time now that the global market is worth the effort, but very few indies are taking this seriously. We ran a post here back in February stressing the significance of the Indian market for romance writers. Again, it fell on largely deaf ears.

This week there emerged some new data that shows how wrong you are to be ignoring the wider world.

What are the top five countries for romance ebooks? Obviously the US and UK take poll positions.

But in third, fourth and fifth place in order are…drum roll please…India, Australia and South Africa.

And the stores are worth looking at. Obviously it goes without saying Amazon is top, and Apple and Nook close behind. But this report from Epub Direct also cites the following stores as performing well with romance titles.

Quote:

Other sales channels that are quite virile are ebooks.com, Flipkart, Kobo, Sainsbury, Txtr, Asia Books, Fishpond and Libri.

Unquote.

For the UK, read W H Smith for Kobo, and for Australia Angus & Robertson and Bookworld.

Ebooks.com is an Australian store (the oldest ebook store still going in fact!) that sells in US dollars. Supplied via Ingram.

Sainsbury is off limits to indies, but make no mistake Sainsbury (and lately Tesco – too early for any stats for Blinkbox) are doing very well.

Txtr gets a mention. Remember Txtr has twenty global stores, and you can be sure most of Txtr’s sales are not coming from the Txtr US and Txtr UK sites… Txtr are not in India, which means Txtr sales will be coming from Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and mainland Europe. If you are with Smashwords or Ebook Partnership you will be in the Txtr stores.

Flipkart is well up there, of course. See our Valentine’s post to understand why Indians love western romances.

Then there’s small players like Libri, Asia Books and Fishpond that indies just love to write off as a waste of time.

Of course Epub Direct, who compiled this report, supply a ton of other retailers too. In fact they have the best reach of any distributor, including getting titles into the key UK stores WH Smith, Sainsbury and Tesco Blinkbox, all off limits to indies.

No, Epub Direct don’t deal with indies (logistical, not philosophical – they are not anti-indie, just not set up to cater for individuals) but what they don’t know about ebook distribution and selling probably isn’t worth knowing.

If you are with a publisher make sure they know about Epub Direct and (if they are big enough) demand they sign up. For the rest of us… Well, for now they are off limits, but we’re hoping someone from Epub Direct will come and share with us their thoughts on how things migt pan out in the future.

Meanwhile, a few other key points from this report:

Subscription services are performing well for romance. Ditto for libraries except for erotica, where many libraries filter titles or – as with OverDrive and Smashwords – simply don’t want to know.

Romance titles see less blockbusters so the market is far more evenly spread and self-pubbers have a better chance of getting in. Look at any best-seller chart where indies are to see this is true.

Romance titles do well in series and are less affected by seasonal buying, so a good year round bet.

Nor is it just India. Michael Tamblyn, Kobo’s president said this week “For e-book retailers like us, it has helped Romance become a huge part of our business.” As we all know, Kobo is not amajor player in the US, so these sales are coming from elsewhere.

But to finish this post a reminder- India is the third biggest market for English language romance titles according to one of the world’s biggest ebook distributors. And no, you don’t need to write about Indian characters in Indian settings to appeal to Indian readers, as we said in the EBUK post in February, and as the new Epub Direct report shows.

 

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Digital Libraries, Subscription Services and Post-it Notes

GoGlobalIn2014_500You may think Post-it Notes – those delightful little yellow squares of paper that stick just where you need them but never where you don’t – have little to do with ebooks. But the ebook world is always stranger than you think.

POSTIT LOGO

We’ve mentioned in previous posts that the wholesaler OverDrive saw over one hundred million digital downloads in 2013, and that five million of those came from just five libraries in the US, and another million from a single library in Canada.

Indie authors largely dismiss libraries as irrelevant to their private little world, where readers are expected to pay cash up-front to a big retailer like Amazon that’s easy for the author to upload to, or go to hell.

But libraries have been at the forefront of literacy and book discovery pretty much since books were invented. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries in the Sahara Desert in West Africa one library in Timbuktu (yes, it’s a real place!) had more books than the prestigious university libraries of Renaissance and Enlightenment England.

In the twenty-first century, in England and America and pretty much everywhere else, libraries, far from becoming redundant as books go digital, are experiencing a whole new lease of life providing digital content to a public with an insatiable appetite for more.

Not just by making books available from established authors and publishers, but by publishing their own books and ebooks, and helping local authors do the same.

One library in Tennessee is leading the way, having partnered with IngramSpark to set up its own library self-publishing platform – both print and digital. The primary aim is to make the new books they create available in the library, with all the revenue coming back to the library. But of course they will also be putting these new titles out for sale on retail platforms, and for borrowing through other libraries.

Early days, but this is one more example of market fragmentation shifting reader focus away from the handful of mega-retailers that most indies are almost exclusively focussed on.

Too many indie authors have their heads in the sand about the way things are developing out there. Wake up and smell the coffee! Subscription ebook reading and library ebook reading are the new black.

Why pay Amazon, or B&N, or Kobo, or Sony for every single ebook you read when you can pay a token fee at the library or a monthly subscription and read as much as you like, with exactly the same ease and convenience as from an online retailer?

That may not be your thinking, but as the OverDrive numbers show – one hundred million digital downloads last year – it is the thinking of a growing number of people. We can expect the OverDrive numbers to at least double this year. More likely they will grow multi-fold.

Here’s the thing. You don’t own the ebook from Amazon or Sony or Google Play, any more than you owned a print book borrowed from the local library. Not convinced? Read the small print in the Kindle user agreement, for example.

Upon your download of Digital Content… the Content Provider grants you a non-exclusive right to view, use, and display such Digital Content an unlimited number of times, solely on the Kindle or a Reading Application… and solely for your personal, non-commercial use. Unless otherwise specified, Digital Content is licensed, not sold, to you by the Content Provider.

An Amazon ebook (or from any other big retailer – their T&Cs are almost identical) is licensed to you. It will never be yours, to lend, sell or otherwise recycle. It’s just an expensive way of borrowing ebooks long term.

The reasons most people progress from libraries to buying print books from bookstores are a) ownership and b) convenience. Digital libraries and ebook subscription services level the playing field.

As more and more readers come to this realization so more and more readers will gravitate to digital library and subscription services.

Don’t let these exciting opportunities to reach readers pass you by! These outlets are not going to cannibalize your beloved Amazon sales. They are going to compliment them.

In the USA it’s Oyster, Scribd and Entitle that are leading the way with ebook subscription services. Yay! Go, Go, USA!

Though actually ebook subscriptions have been around in Europe for several years.

Denmark does them. Germany does them. Even Russia does them. Spain’s 24 Symbols has been going for several years and – you’ll like this – it has an English-language portal and offers English language ebooks!

Like we said at the top, the ebook world is always stranger than you think.

OverDrive and Ingram got a brief mention above. Just two of the big wholesalers that supply ebooks to libraries (and retailers) around the world. There are others.

If you are with Smashwords then you may be getting into some libraries through Baker & Taylor. If you are not with Smashwords, which also gets you into the Oyster and Scribd subscription services, then you really need to take a second look at your distribution pattern. Smashwords is far from perfect, but the above outlets, along with Flipkart, India’s biggest online store, are places you could be gaining new readers for your titles, and Smashwords is an easy route in..

The number of digital libraries is going to expand rapidly over the next few years, at home and abroad, soaking up readers who might otherwise have gone to the big retailers we all know and love. Those OverDrive numbers will go from hundreds of millions to off-the-scale in the coming years.  Will any of them be your ebooks?

It’s not 2009 anymore. You need to be in the wholesaler catalogues and as many distribution channels as possible, if you want to stay ahead of the game. And that means not just the obvious places.

We began this post with a mention of Post-it notes. Post-it notes are made a company you’ve possibly seen the logo for but have never given a second thought to. Take a look at the bottom right hand corner of the Post-it logo above.

3M LOGO

Never heard of them? Don’t worry. They’ve never heard of you.

But here’s the thing. 3M don’t just make Post it notes. They are a global production and services operation that have a surprisingly diverse portfolio. Among the many strings to their bow 3M one of the leading suppliers of ebooks to libraries in the US through the 3M Cloud Library eBook Lending System.

If your local library uses the 3M Cloud you can download ebooks from the library direct to your Nook, Kobo, iPad or iPhone, or your Android device. But as their site says, “The 3M Cloud Library is not currently supported by Amazon.” Draw your own conclusions…

This week 3M took their first tentative step abroad with a foray across the border into Canada. Given 3M’s impressive global reach across a diverse range of products we can safely assume 3M has further international expansion in the pipeline.

The ebook world is changing by the day, getting bigger, better, faster. It doesn’t care for geographical boundaries, myopic indie authors unwilling to step outside their comfort zone, or how many of your ebook sales currently come from Retailer A or Retailer B that make you dismiss the rest as irrelevant.

The ebook market is driven by readers, not writers. It’s something a lot of indies seem to have trouble grasping. So let’s spell it out.

We authors only supply the content.

Readers supply the demand.

If your titles are not in the outlets where the readers are getting their ebooks from around the world – be it Uncle Joe’s 24/7 Mini Ebook Store & Car Wash, the latest ebook subscription service, or the digital library at the end of their digital road – they will just read another author’s books instead. It’s your loss, not theirs.

it’s not rocket science. Being available is half the battle.

Go Global In 2014.

Or be left behind.

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Which Country Has The Most Ebook Stores?

 
Which country has the most ebook stores?
 
The answer may surprise you. It’s Poland.
 
Outrageous, or what?! Poland hasn’t even got a Kindle store. How do they know ebooks exist?
 
Yeah, it’s a funny old world.
 
In fact Poland has been selling ebooks since 2004, three years before the first Kindle was launched, and five years before KDP appeared on the scene, and now has an ebook store on every street corner. Well, not quite, but how does twenty-five “local” ebook retailers grab you?
 
That’s in addition to the international players like Apple, Google Play and ‘txtr that have also set up shop there.

And then of course there are the  big international stores like Amazon and Kobo that Poles can buy from via their central sites, and the small international stores like Smashwords, Diesel, All-Romance/OmniLit, Blio, etc, that Poles can also buy ebooks from.
 
We’ll come back to Poland in another post, as there is much we can learn from them. But most of the Polish ebook outlets are local-language only, or at least only accessible by local-language portals, so not of great interest to us right now.

~

 
So which English-language country has the most ebook stores?
 
Before you read on, have a quick count-up and make an educated guess.
 
No, it’s not the USA (unless you count the many indie book stores with ebook sites through Kobo and IndieBound).
 
It’s Australia.

 
Yep, Down Under are way up top when it comes to places to buy ebooks from.

But how many Australian ebook stores are you in? How many can you even name?

Try these:

  • Amazon Australia
  •  
  • Apple Australia
  •  
  • Kobo Australia 
  •  
  • Google Play Australia
  •  
  • ‘txtr Australia
  •  
  • Sony Reader Store Australia
  •  
  • Nook Australia
  •  
  • Angus & Robertson
  •  
  • Bookworld
  •  
  • Collins
  •  
  • Australian Publishers Association
  •  
  • Booktopia
  •  
  • Dymocks
  •  
  • QBD
  •  
  • JB Hi-Fi
  •  
  • Big W
  •  
  • Fishpond Australia
  •  
  • Pages & Pages

 
To which we can add the smaller international-access stores like:

  • Smashwords
  •  
  • All Romance / OmniLit
  • Blio
  •  
  • Versent
  •  
  • Ebooks Com
  •  
  • Scribd
  •  
  • Diesel

 
And no doubt a good many more we’ve overlooked.
 
There are also a number of other small indie bookstores in Australia experimenting with. or with plans for. ebook stores. Some, like Big W and JB Hi-Fi, have no prior association with books, but have opened an ebook store anyway. Expect many more bandwagon-jumpers like these to set up ebook shop in Australia (and worldwide) over the next year or two.
 
But just in that list above Australians have a choice of some twenty-five or so retail outlets to buy their ebooks from.
 
Why so many? Geography plays a key role here. In a land as vast and empty as Australia book stores are few and far between, and if you live outside the big cities even fewer and even farther. For print books distribution was (and currently is, but that will change – see our forthcoming post on why POD is going to grow in importance) a logistical nightmare, severely limiting what books Australians could choose from.
 
No surprise then that when Amazon came along, distributing print books far and wide by kangaroo mail, Australians were quick to spot the opportunity to have, after a short wait for delivery, access to far more print books than any local bookstore could offer.
 
And no surprise either that when the Kindle appeared on the scene Australians were especially keen to get them, given they (unlike most of the world) could buy ebooks direct from Amazon US without surcharges. 


Amazon Up Top Down Under – But For How Long?

Back in 2009 there were very few rival devices about, and even less that were affordable, so the Kindle got off to a flying start. Just like in the US and the UK, Amazon snatched about 90% of the ebook market.
 
Which of course put Amazon in an unassailable position, so indies don’t need to bother about being in the Johnny-come-lately club, right?
 
If only…
 
What’s important to understand is that, as the new Kindle Australia site finally went live last month (Nov 2013 for anyone reading this long after it was posted), Amazon’s market share is estimated at between 60%-70%, which means that as many as four out of ten readers may be buying elsewhere.
 
Admittedly those four out of ten are spread over a fair number of outlets, as per the list above. And yes, we know what you’re thinking. All that extra hassle just to get four sales?  You’ve got more important things to do.
 
But try thinking of it as forty sales out of every hundred. Or four hundred out of every thousand. And for the big hitters, four thousand out of every ten thousand.
 
Exactly. You cannot afford to ignore the smaller stores as we move to the second stage of the digital transition. We’ll discuss just what the “second stage” involves in another post, but for now just be assured the second stage means more ebooks being bought from more ebook stores than you can even conceive of right now.
 
Let’s be clear. We’re not saying Amazon sales will decrease. Just the opposite! But even as the volume of Amazon ebook sales increases so their market share will fall further over the coming years. 
 
Why? Because of market fragmentation, glocalization and the proliferation of smaller ebook stores.

And remember, this is a global phenomena, not just Australia. It’s already happening in the US, and it’s about to happen in the UK.
 
More on that in another post. But for now, back to Australia.

Amazon Australia
 

The Amazon Kindle Australia store is of course a welcome new addition to the Amazon camp, but it is a new addition in name only. In reality Amazon Kindle Australia is just an Amazon Dot Com sub-domain site, and brings little new to the table. And what is new may not be that welcome.

Local authors can load up to KDP direct and get paid direct, and local readers can now see the prices and pay in Australian dollars, but for authors it doesn’t open up any new markets as Australians were already able to buy from Amazon US without being surcharged.
 
And as with Amazon Canada, this late arrival in a market where, paradoxically, it was doing well,actually hinders as much as it helps. Indie titles appearing in the new Amazon AU store kick off with no ranking and no reviews, and of course it is another site to promote, for those OCD types among you who can’t go an hour without tweeting your title, and another web address to add to your promo page.
 
At this stage Amazon Australia pricing also seems pretty erratic, but teething problems are to be expected.

That said, we are hearing disturbing reports from authors in both Australia and New Zealand that these may not be teething problems, but part of Amazon policy. It would seem New Zealanders have been told they are now Australians so far as Amazon is concerned, and both Australians and New Zealanders are being charged significantly more than the US$ list prices for ebooks – prices that bear little relationship to the currency exchange rates. More on this in a forthcoming post when we have further clarification.
 
Meanwhile, for those of you who pay attention to fine detail and like to run a tight ship, it’s worth checking into your KDP account and setting the Australian list price to a fixed sum – ie 0.99 or 3.00 or whatever, otherwise you’ll end up with those horrendous “just over” prices like $1.03 and $3.07, because Amazon will by default set your Australia price based on the exchange rate for the US dollar.
 
And by the way the same goes for all the other satellite sites. Prices like 167.83 rupees on Amazon India don’t just look unprofessional – they will likely put off potential buyers. More on international pricing in a forthcoming post.

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So, thanks to their head start Amazon held around 90% of market share for ebooks in Australia, just as it did in the USA and UK. Best estimates now are that it’s nearer 60%-65%, and as the competition gets serious we can expect that probably to level off at around forty percent in the coming few years. The biggest still – it’s hard to imagine Amazon being dethroned soon in this particular market – but nowhere near a monopoly.

And the runners-up are…

Thanks to its partnership with a number of Australian retail stores and chains Kobo is likely to be a big contender for second place over the next year or two, although it’s generally agreed Apple Australia has that honour at the moment.

With over fifty international ebook stores Apple is an essential place to be seen. Given Apple have over 200 iTunes stores worldwide it’s just a matter of time before they roll out more iBooks stores alongside. Though a note of caution there – it seems many Apple iBooks store, such as Apple Malaysia, only stock public domain titles.

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So, back to Australia, and the other big player, Kobo.

Kobo has a “glocalized” Kobo Australia store, but unless you are in Australia you probably won’t be able to access it easily, and to be honest most Australians don’t know it exists, even if they use Kobo devices.

The reason being any Australia Kobo users will likely as not be buying their ebooks from either Angus & Robertson, Bookworld or Collins, which are the three key Kobo partner stores, each with their own fully-fledged ebook stores.

Those of you in Kobo will find many of your titles in these stores. If you are in Angus & Robertson you can be pretty sure you are also in Bookworld at the same price. Collins is a bit more hit and miss.
If you are with Kobo and not showing in any of these three stores then you need to get on to both Kobo and the individual stores. The stores will tell you it’s Kobo’s problem and hat Kobo haven’t sent them the titles in question. Kobo will tell you they send everything but the ebook stores pick and choose what they stock. But amid the mutual blame what usually happens is the missing titles miraculously appear.
Another, much smaller Kobo partner store is Pages & Pages, which is an indie book store with a link to Kobo Australia. Pages & Pages have only just partnered with Kobo, and at this stage do not have an online store of their own, but send buyers to the Kobo Australia site direct. That may change. We’re waiting to hear back from them on their plans. But if you are with Kobo then Pages & Pages customers will be able to buy your books.

Pages & Pages certainly won’t make you rich, but don’t go thinking they aren’t worth the effort. Micro-stores like these should be acknowledged and encouraged by indie authors, not dismissed as irrelevant. They have small but loyal customer bases. Readers, to you and me.

And not just any readers. These are readers who have kept these indie bookstores in business until now, rather than buying at lower prices from Amazon or a local chain store, and they are unlikely to suddenly start buying their ebooks elsewhere.

The Pages & Pages team are fiercely patriotic and miss no opportunity to tell Australians how buying from Amazon sends money out of the country, creates no local jobs, etc. For some while now Pages & Pages has been running a Kindle Amnesty programme, offering cash in return for Kindles being handed in and exchanged for Kobo devices.

It’s not known how many (if indeed any) might have taken up this offer. The wider world has cottoned on to the story in the past week or so as if it is something new, but those with good memories will know we mentioned this a month or two back, and the Amnesty has been going on since April 2013.

Other ebook stores, while not quite so open in their dislike of the mighty Zon, also loudly trumpet their Australian credentials. Angus & Robertson declares itself “Proudly Australian”. Booktopia claims to be “Australia’s local bookstore” and reminds us all it is “Australian owned and operated”, while QBD is “Aussi owned and operated”. And so so and so on.

Don’t underestimate the power of patriotism to influence buying patterns overseas as the digital market expands. Look on Australia as a barometer indicating the way the wind is blowing for the rest of the world.

Outsiders On the Inside
Of course Amazon is not the only international player targeting the Australian ebook market.  Google Play and ‘txtr both have dedicated Australian ebook stores, as does Sony and Nook.

As we’ve said before, Google Play and ‘txtr are ones to watch. Google Play has 44 stores worldwide, ‘txtr 17.  Neither are making a huge impact in Australia (or anywhere else) right now, but don’t let that lull you into complacency about the future.

Google Play has a self-pub option in the loosest sense of the word. Expect a proper self-pub portal in 2014.
‘Txtr have a pending upload agreement with Smashwords (not yet official), Meanwhile you can get into the ‘txtr stores, including ‘txtr Australia, through an aggregator that deals with the wholesaler catalogues. Likewise Sony. Smashwords gets you into Sony US and Sony Canada but not the other Sony five stores (Australia, Austria, Germany, Japan and UK).
Unless you live there you’ll probably have difficulty accessing Google Play Australia, due to stringent territorial controls, but ‘txtr Australia and the Australian Sony Reader Store are easily viewed, easily signed up to, and well worth being in.

Nook Australia? As we’ve reported previously, Nook had an international expansion programme on the cards and, probably alone among the industry commentators, we’ve been upbeat about it actually happening. Last month Nook finally rolled out across much of Europe and also Australia (32 countries is their claim), with a restricted platform (Windows 8 app required) ebook offering.

You can get the Windows 8 app for Nook at the Nook Australia site – http://www.nook.com/au/windows. Yeah, read that bit again: the Nook Australia site.

Okay, it’s not quite as grand as it sounds, but it’s early days. We’ll be reporting in full on the Nook expansion in the New Year. Just remember not to take too seriously the doom and gloom mongers who have been gleefully predicting B&N’s and Nook’s demise.

We leave the subject of Nook for now with this from Softonic:

NOOK for Windows 8 blows Kindle for Windows 8 out of the water. Barnes & Noble has done an excellent job of creating NOOK for Windows 8 and definitely ramps up the competition between it and Amazon.”

Bear that in mind next time you read an industry piece saying Nook is the walking dead.

Another small international player is Ebooks Dot Com, which prices in US dollars and sells around the world, but is actually an Australian company, and one of (if not the) oldest ebook stores still in existence. Ebooks Dot Com actually started selling ebooks last century! Not a big player, but another option for readers. Not many indie titles there, but those that are get in through Ingram.

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Meanwhile, back to the many smaller local Australian ebook retailers you simply cannot afford to ignore.

Take QBD – Queensland Book Depot if you must know. With fifty or so bricks and mortar stores across Australia they are no outback bookshop.

Accessible for indies? Absolutely. QBD ebooks are supplied by the wholesaler Copia. So are Dymocks. We mentioned Ingram above. Ingram also supply Booktopia.

Being in the wholesaler catalogues (Ingram, Gardners, Copia, OverDrive, Baker & Taylor, etc) is ESSENTIAL if you want to reach the international markets in any serious way, and that includes Australia. Taking just a few more from the list at the top of this article – Fishpond, Big W, JB Hi-Fi, etc, are all accessible to indie authors if they are in the wholesaler catalogues.

They can even get you into stores which at first glance seem distinctly indie-unfriendly. Take the Australian Publishers Association, for example. Obviously that’d exclusively for Australian Publishers, right?

Well, that may have been its original intention, but their ebook store is fed by Copia, and that means indies who have made the effort to be in the Copia catalogue may well be in the APA store.

No, you probably won’t see many sales each month from the APA, or QBD, or Dymocks, but that’s not the point. We are just at the beginning of an incredibly exciting journey into global ebook sales, and these  stores are just the tip of the iceberg.

Copia, along with Ingram, OverDrive, Page Foundry and other companies far too many to mention, are offering so-called White Label solutions. Put simply, they provide a ready-made ebook-store filled to the rafters with big name ebooks from big publishers. You just sign up and slap your company logo on the front of the box then sit back and watch the money roll in.

It means that pretty much anyone anywhere with the inclination and some web space can set up an ebook store of their own, filled with anything from tens of thousands to literally millions of ebooks, all being sold under their own brand label.

Check out Big W or JB Hi-Fi in the Australian list above – fine examples of White Label stores, and also fine examples of how retailers with no previous connection with books are getting in on the act. Expect lots more of the same.

And in case you need reminding, yes, there are indie titles in them. But only indies who are in the wholesaler catalogues. The wholesaler catalogues don’t have self-pub portals as such, although individuals can set up accounts. But the ideal is to have one or two aggregators who do have accounts with them and do all this work for you, leaving you to write your next book.

At the moment Smashwords only gets you into Baker & Taylor, and D2D into none, but there are other aggregators about, and more will soon appear. 

The British aggregator Ebook Partnership has an excellent track record and can get you into all they key wholesaler catalogues. That’s a pay up front option, but you get 100% of net royalties. 

Untreed Reads also has a good range of outlets, and offers a pay-as-you-earn option, similar to Smashwords.

Bookbaby
 has just this month started a new “free” distribution option (like Smashwords and Untreed Reads it’s not actually free – they will take a percentage from your sales revenue). Bookbaby doesn’t get you in all the key wholesaler catalogues but does get you into Copia and Gardners, and also Scribd and eSentral. Well worth checking out.

We’ll be looking in depth at both aggregators and the wholesaler catalogues in the New Year.

Aggregators should be your best friends. Don’t underestimate what they can do for you, now and in the future. They can get you access not only to stores you never knew existed, but into stores that don’t yet exist.  A presence in hundreds – soon  thousands – of ebook stores around the globe.

If you’re thinking all these micro-outlets aren’t worth bothering with, think again. A sale is a sale. When your Amazon or Apple Australia reader likes your book and tells their friend who has an epub ereader and an account at Big W, or only ever shops at QBD, or is a loyal customer at Booktopia, you may just have made another sale.

More importantly, when that Amazon or Apple customer tells that friend and said friend with the epub ereader goes to their preferred ebook store and you’re not there, you’ve probably just LOST a sale.

Quite aside from which, as we’ll explain in a forthcoming post, “glocalization” and market fragmentation mean these myriad small and micro-stores are going to collectively be very important players. And because they will be supplied by the wholesaler catalogues it means the said wholesaler catalogues are about to become far more important than you would ever imagine.

As we’ll be explaining in a forthcoming post, the wholesaler catalogues have reach way beyond anything Amazon, Apple, Kobo or Google Play can match. Put simply, the wholesaler catalogues are the new black.

As we hurtle into 2014, and the international ebook market grows ever bigger, ever faster, how many ebook stores will you be in?

Don’t get left behind.

Go Global In 2014.