Monthly Archives: March 2014

Ebook Stores Go Forth And Multiply In the Middle East.

GoGlobalIn2014_500Last month, in a post entitled How Much Water Does It Take To Make An Ebook? we took a look at the emerging Middle East ebook market.

So we’re delighted to report anew kid on the block. We heard rumour of this last month, but kudos to The Digital Reader for getting the scoop first.

Fibido.com is the latest ebook store in Iran. Or Persia for those old enough to remember.

Before you ask, we have absolutely no idea at this stage how indies might get their books in there, always supposing the site management wanted indie titles.

But there is an English language section if you look closely. For those who aren’t fluent in Farsi here’s a clue – it says English books. In English. And better still, the drop down menus for categories are in English too.

At the moment all the English-language books appear to be public domain titles, but that’s hopefully just for the launch. We’ll let you know more on that in our special Middle East feature, by when we hope we’ll have heard back from Fibido.

Meantime, do pop along and take a look. Be warned the search engine works from right to left and can be a little disconcerting for those unfamiliar, but you should be able to navigate the English language section easily enough.

Fibido

On its own, the Iranian Fibido store is just another small addition to the global ebook store line-up, and of no great relevance to us directly. But it is confirmation that nowhere is immune to the charm of ebooks, and plenty more will emerge from this region. Collectively they will make a difference to the savvy authors who can get their ebooks into them.

Of course, it would be great if we could just rely on the usual suspects to get our ebooks everywhere. But we can promise you you won’t be picking up many sales here from Amazon, as Iran is one the many countries blocked from downloading by Amazon.

True, other ebook retailers aren’t serving Iran either. Not Apple, nor Kobo nor Google Play. But no, we haven’t singled out Amazon because we are anti-Amazon. We’ve singled out out Amazon because if you go to your KDP dashboard and go to the World Rights option you get a drop-down list of a ton of countries all over the planet which an author ticks and supposedly gets distributed to.

In reality your ebooks only go to a handful of these countries for the 70% “royalty”, get just 35% elsewhere, and vast tracts of the globe – the Middle East, much of Africa, much of Asia, etc – are blocked from downloading at all. And of course outside the Kindle zones readers in those countries that can download face surcharges for doing so.

Which is why these small regional stores are so important to us. Relying on a handful of big retailers gets you a lot of key places, but it also keeps you out of a whole lot more. If you plan on Going Global In 2014 and having any hope of becoming a truly international bestseller then these micro-stores matter, if only because there are no other options.

Fibido may or may not open up to indies in the near future (if they do it will almost certainly be through a wholesaler), but you can be sure there will be plenty more Middle East ebook stores coming online that will give us the opportunity to reach new readers.

As we like to say here at EBUK, being available is half the battle.

 

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Which Country Reads The Most?

GoGlobalIn2014_500Which country reads the most? You won’t be surprised to learn it’s not America. In fact, the USA kicks in at an embarrassing #22 on the list.

This side of the pond you can probably hear the guffaws of laughter and see the knowing smiles from us Brits, Obviously we’re in the top five. Probably at number two after some boring European country like Belgium, where they have nothing better to do all day than read.

Yeah, we all love cliched national stereotypes. But as anyone who’s actually been to Belgium will tell you, It’s great little country and full of surprises.

One surprise is that while France is at number six on the list of countries that read the most, Belgium doesn’t even make the top thirty.

The UK? if you’re British and thought #22 was embarrassing for America, prepare to hang your heads in shame. Britain ranks even further out than the US, at number 26.

As for the rest, here’s the top thirty. Be prepared for some surprises. Or maybe not. if you read the EBUK regularly you may find some very familiar names hogging the top twenty most readerly nations.

Average time spent reading each week.

1. India — 10 hours, 42 minutes
2. Thailand — 9:24
3. China — 8:00
4. Philippines — 7:36
5. Egypt — 7:30
6. Czech Republic — 7:24
7. Russia — 7:06
8. Sweden — 6:54
8. France — 6:54
10. Hungary — 6:48
10. Saudi Arabia — 6:48
12. Hong Kong — 6:42
13. Poland — 6:30
14. Venezuela — 6:24
15. South Africa — 6:18
15. Australia — 6:18
17. Indonesia — 6:00
18. Argentina — 5:54
18. Turkey — 5:54
20. Spain — 5:48
20. Canada — 5:48
22. Germany — 5:42
22. USA — 5:42
24. Italy — 5:36
25. Mexico — 5:30
26. U.K. — 5:18
27. Brazil — 5:12
28. Taiwan — 5:00
29. Japan — 4:06
30. Korea — 3:06

Let’s spell it out. Twenty-one countries spend more time reading than America does. Twenty-five countries spend more time reading than Britain does.

How any of those countries are your ebooks and POD titles in? If you’re a tweet-and-FB-five–times-before-breakfast indie, how many of those countries are you actively marketing in?

It’s time to Go Global In 2014.

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Around The World in 80 Ebook Stores 2 – PaperPlus

GoGlobalIn2014_500

New Zealand is a small country with an even smaller population It clocks up less than five million people, only a tiny fraction of whom will be reading ebooks. On the other hand it’s a key English-speaking market, so has the attention of the key western ebook players.

Until recently New Zealand was one of a handful of non-Kindle countries that were allowed to buy from Kindle US without surcharges. Late last year that position was entrenched when New Zealanders were unilaterally “assigned” (Amazon’s term) to Kindle Australia, although at this stage it seems they can opt to buy from either Kindle US or Kindle Australia.

Apple of course has long provided New Zealanders with their own iBooks store, and New Zealanders can also choose to buy from the Berlin-based ‘txtr New Zealand store and Google Play New Zealand. Other options include Fishpond (a significant online regional player across Oceania but not really taking ebooks seriously) and of course the international stores like Smashwords, AllRomance/OmniLit, Diesel, Blio, the Australian based EbooksCom, etc.

paperplus logo

While there are no sensible, let alone reliable, figures our guess is that while many will be buying from Amazon, many more New Zealanders are taking the patriotic option and buying from local stores like Whitcoulls and PaperPlus. Kobo saw a 40% increase in sales last year and safe to presume the New Zealand and Australian partner stores were key players in that surge.

Both the Kobo New Zealand partner stores are local book/stationary chains so have good domestic brand recognition (the biggest problem facing rival ‘txtr).

We’ll look more closely at Whitcoulls another time. Here just to say both partner stores carry Kobo titles at (99% of the time) identical prices, but your titles appearing in one does not mean they will be in the other.

PaperPlus was declared Music / Book Store Of The Year 2013, which is both good and bad for us indies. Good in that the store obviously is liked by the locals, and good that by stocking a variety of products it will attract people to the store who may not have planned on buying a book but might just end up with a couple in their shopping kart.

The downside to that is books, let alone, ebooks, are not the store’s primary focus. That said, from what we’ve seen they obviously are book-lovers. Ebooks? At the moment ebooks are still a sideshow, but as ereading widens and the PaperPlus management adjust their priorities so will the scope of the PaperPlus ebook store to deliver for authors.

That might be a while off. At the moment a cursory inspection of the PaperPlus site gives no indication whatsoever that they sell ebooks. Only when you search for a book title does, if available, an ebook selection come up, and only then do you find its a Kobo-supplied ebook.

For those who know PaperPlus does sell ebooks, albeit behind closed doors, finding the title they want still poses challenges.

The default search engine category is stationary – forget to select the books category and you will get a null result. The search parameters are strict. A simple typo will deliver null results, so type carefully! Often title and author together will bring zero results but if you put in one or the other the title will come up. And some days nothing will show in the search results even though you can see the book is available when you go by direct link.

Whether these are faults at the PaperPlus end, at the Kobo end, or a simple issue of integration is unclear. What is clear is it’s rather unhelpful for readers wanting to buy and authors wanting to sell. If you are with Kobo and all your titles are showing in PaperPlus then congratulations. Sadly for a large number of authors that isn’t the case.

And it gets worse.

Here at EBUK we run several different titles through several different Kobo partner stores every day, checking price and availability, and – sorry, Kobo, there’s no polite way of putting this other than to exclude the expletive – it’s a nightmare.

Not just PaperPlus, but pretty much all the partner stores exhibit the same pattern. An author may have a series of five titles and Books 2 and 4 might be there but the others not. An author’s flagship title may not be available, while lesser titles are. For authors with just one or two titles to their credit it can be the difference between having a presence in store and not being available at all.

When we say unavailable we mean either not there at all, or listed as “Not In Stock”, with blank rectangles where the tiles were once available but no longer are. And not through any choice of the authors, who are more than a little annoyed at this mess.

When indies contact PaperPlus (or any other partner store) they are told they can only list what Kobo sends them. When authors ask Kobo they are told the partner store chooses what gets in.

Who to believe? Sorry, Kobo, but as one (unnamed) partner store told us, “Why on earth would we want to stock random titles in a series and not all of them? It’s a bad experience for the reader and reflects badly on us.”

~

This situation has always been with us, but got dramatically worse following the W H Smith UK porn scandal last year, when Kobo was found to be distributing wholly unsavoury titles to its partner stores. Both W H Smith UK and Whitcoulls NZ closed shop while Kobo cleaned up the mess. Whitcoulls relented and let indie titles back in afterwards, subject to Kobo’s scrutiny. W H Smith took the opportunity to ban indies outright.

At that time Kobo pretty much removed all indie titles from all partner stores and has since been filtering them back in with varying degrees of inefficiency. Obviously it’s impossible to check every title individually so Kobo use a clunky and very unhelpful software system to decide what gets back in and what doesn’t. The resulting mess we see now, where totally innocuous titles are caught up in the Kobo net and prevented from reaching partner stores, is quite unacceptable.

This isn’t happening to trad-pubbed titles and, much as we’d like to think otherwise, it’s clear indies are not high on the list of Kobo’s priorities right now.

If you go to PaperPlus or any other Kobo partner store and find all is not rosy, do contact the store direct and get their take on the situation. It may be something they can resolve.

But if they can’t sort the problem, don’t shoot the retailer! The whole point of having Kobo handle their ebook store is so the retailer doesn’t have to.

Check out as many of the Kobo partner stores as you can, identify which titles are an issue in which stores, and tell Kobo. If Kobo tell you it’s the partner store that is to blame (Kobo’s default response, it seems) send Kobo’s email direct to the partner store and see what they say. When the partner store writes back saying it’s still Kobo’s problem, send that response back to Kobo. Nine times out of ten the issue will miraculously be resolved.

For all their faults Kobo are an essential place to be for any indie wanting global reach. Don’t give up on Kobo. But don’t stand for second-class treatment just because you’re an indie author.

Retailer Round-Up

Needless to   you need to be in Kobo to have any chance of appearing in the Kobo partner stores. Kobo is best approached direct through Kobo Writing Life, which will give you maximum control over your titles, subject to Kobo’s whim. Alternatively pretty much any aggregator will get you in.

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Fifty Shades Of English-Language Best-Sellers In Germany

GoGlobalIn2014_500The Hollywood Reporter announced this week that the Fifty Shades series by EL James just sold its one hundred millionth copy.

One hundred million sales!

Time was the indie blogs were proudly proclaiming EL James as a fine example of how trad-pub was exploiting this oh-so foolish indie who signed away her chance to make real money when Random House came calling. You can do far better on your own, they cried.

Even when Fifty Shades hit the fifty million mark there were still some indie blogs carefully explaining how James could be earning ten times as much if only she’d stayed indie.

As the Indie Old Guard love to tell us, with ebooks indies can match “legacy” distribution anywhere in the world and you get 70% royalties.

None of them have explained yet why, in that case, their ebooks are absent from so many international ebook stores, and completely unavailable in so many countries. And they are all remarkably reluctant to discuss the reality that the 70% royalty only applies to a handful of countries. As for surcharges… More tea, Vicar?

The reality is, of course, no indie can possibly match the reach of a big publishing house when it throws its weight behind a title. Indies can’t get their print books into stores in their own country in an effective manner, let alone abroad.

Indies have better luck with ebooks, but still cannot begin to match the reach of the big publishing houses, who are way ahead of the game, and raking in the cash as a consequence.

Yes, most of that global market is still print, but pretending print doesn’t matter just because we indies can’t get our share is not a sound basis on which to plan our future careers. Print matters big time, whether we like it or not.

Here’s the thing: Print and ebook sales work in tandem, pulling one another along, both contributing to discoverability, both contributing to reader interest. An avid print reader may recommend a book to a digital-only reader, and vice versa. Which is one reason it’s so important to make sure your POD titles are out on as many platforms as possible, as well as your ebooks.

Print isn’t dead. Bookstores aren’t dead. Sadly many indies seem to wish it were otherwise.

We saw that with the closure of Borders, and we see it now with the current problems with B&N and Nook. In most industries fellow-workers would be doing all they could to support a struggling business upon which livelihoods depended. Can you imagine any other industry where fellow workers revel in predicting and encouraging the demise of a business?

But wishful thinking won’t alter reality. The closure of Borders had nothing to do with ebooks, and the rise of ebooks since has yet to imperil the print industry.

Print is doing just fine, thank you very much.

~

 

Fifty Shades of course has been translated into countless languages and has sold in more countries than most people even know exist. Go to pretty much any non-specialist book site or ebook site and you’ll find EL James there alongside the likes of Patterson, Grisham, Brown, Roberts, King and all the other mega-sellers.

But the original English-language version has also sold extremely well globally. The hype helps, of course, but be in no doubt readers are out there, across the globe, looking for good quality English-language books and ebooks.

Check out Amazon Germany, for example. As well as the main charts Am-De also has a top 100 chart for English-language books. It’s worth keeping an eye on to see what’s capturing the interest of English-language readers in Germany.

Kindle Germany is the third largest of the Amazon ebook stores, after the US and UK. Nowhere near as big as the UK yet in terms of sales, but that will come in time.

The German book market is actually bigger than the UK’s. True, most of the book sales are German language, but there are an estimated 45 million English speakers in Germany. If you haven’t got your POD titles in a ton of German online book stores you could be missing out.

As for ebooks… If you haven’t got your ebooks in a ton of German ebook stores you are definitely missing out. We’ll be back with an in-depth look at the German ebook market. But here’s few numbers to ponder this weekend.

Fifty Shades – the English-language original, is currently at 250 in the entire Kindle Germany store. Of course it’s been much, much higher, but then this book is in a sales league of its own, so no surprise there. Can English-language indie titles in Germany even hope to compete?

The top ten bestsellers in the Kindle Germany English-language charts are not – as best we can tell – indie titles. Two of them are Amazon imprints (and there are several more in the top 100 – draw your own conclusions…) but what’s important is this:

The number one best-selling English-language title in Germany is (as we write this – it may have changed by when you check the charts) at number twenty-five in the entire Kindle Germany store. The second best-selling English-language title is at eighty-four. That’s two top-100 titles on Kindle Germany that are English-language originals. Yes, #2 is a Thomas & Mercer title, but still the English-language original.

The top ten English-language titles on Kindle Germany are all within the top 320 in the Kindle store as we write this. The details may have changed by when you check it out, but the overall picture is clear. There is a vibrant market for English-language books and ebooks.

No, there’s nothing unique about German Kindle users that makes them want to read in English. Check out the Tolino Alliance store Bild. This image (one of several of similar theme in a very prominent slide show) will greet you.

bild100Eng

If you just want to see the chart, this link takes you directly to the Bild Top 100 English-language rankings.

Many other German stores are likewise giving English-language titles a high profile. More on that soon.

Obviously there won’t be any Amazon imprint titles in the Bild store or any other German ebook store as they are Amazon-exclusive. On which note, pause for thought. Amazon has, depending on which estimate you prefer, at best 65% and at worst just 50% of the German ebook market. Bild may be a small-player on its own, but collectively these other stores pack quite a punch.

While Amazon imprint and White Glove titles may be getting special treatment in the Kindle DE store they certainly aren’t selling anywhere else in Germany. That’s a huge chunk of market to be missing out on. Titles just in regular Select will be seeing even less of the action.

It also means the non-Amazon platforms in Germany are a much more level playing field. The fact that so few indies are showing in the top charts in stores like Bild is quite simple to explain. There are so few indies there.

As we’ve possibly mentioned before, being there is half the battle.

 Retailer Round-Up

An in-depth report on the exciting German ebook market very soon. For now, one more example.

Bild is one of the Tolino Alliance stores. You may be able to get into Bild through Xin-Xii. Xin-Xii appears to be feeding several Tolino Alliance stores, but in a haphazard fashion. We hope to have heard back from Xin-Xii on this by when we run our full report on the Germany ebook market. Meantime we know the aggregator Ebook Partnership will get you in, though the wholesaler catalogues.

There may be others. As ever, if you know better, do let us know.

 

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