As we love to remind you here at EBUK, every single smartphone and tablet around the world is a potential recipient for your ebooks, and the number of people who have them is getting bigger and bigger by the day.
Currently almost TWO BILLION people on the planet have smartphones.
And that number is about to get even bigger as Google launches its Android One programme – with a mission to bring affordable smartphones to the FIVE BILLION people on the planet currently without a device.
Over the next couple of years the potential readership of your ebooks is going to grow exponentially as Android One partners – including some of the biggest device manufacturers on the planet, such as Lenova, HTX, Acer and Asus – to bring affordable smartphones to the developing world.
As we often say here, we regard India and SE Asia – and in particular China, Indonesia and the Philippines – as key growth areas for ebooks we should all be targeting. And as we reported here (LINK) the demand for English-language books in these countries is clear.
It’s no coincidence that Google’s Android One launched this week in India, and next on the list is Indonesia and the Philippines, with Pakistan and Bangladesh to follow, as well as Sri Lanka and tiny Nepal. And an Android One roll-out globally in 2015.
But hold on. Did we say “tiny” Nepal? This wonderful country may indeed be a tiny smudge on the world map, but with a population of 28 million it has more people than Australia, and almost as many as Canada!
Sri Lanka? Just behind Australia, but still five times more people than New Zealand!
The Philippines? The Philippines has more English speakers than the UK has people!
So has Pakistan, where English is the official language. Total population in Pakistan is 180 million.
Bangladesh comes in just behind Pakistan with 160 million people. English is not so widely spoken here but still very widespread.
Indonesia has 250 million people. Twenty per cent of Facebook users in Indonesia conduct their business in English, suggesting the English-language is very widely used in this beautiful country.
Smartphone penetration is still low is many of these countries. But even so, the numbers are surprising. Take this snapshot of SE Asia:
33m people in Vietnam are already using smartphones (LINK). 32 million in Thailand. 15m in the Philippines. 23 million in Malaysia. In Indonesia only 23% of the population currently use smartphones, but that’s almost 60 million people – close to the entire population of the UK!
Apple is big – very big – in Vietnam and Indonesia, but until they open iBooks stores in these countries it’s not relevant to us as indie authors. Fortunately for us the big growth in smartphones across the region is Android-driven, and that means Google.
Obviously global Google’s mission isn’t primarily about ebooks, but as Google have already shown with their rapid expansion of the Google Play Books store to 57 countries, ebooks are a key part of the equation. Google Play already has ebook stores in Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore and the Philippines. Expect Google Play ebook stores for Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal in the not too distant future.
As Google said on their blog this week (LINK)
“Knowledge is a game changer. I’ve long been inspired by the Internet and how it opens the doors to opportunity. It provides access to knowledge, no matter who you are or where you are. For instance, it doesn’t matter if you’re a Nobel Laureate at a world-class research center or a young student at a rural school in Indonesia, with Google Search, you have the same information at your fingertips as anyone else.”
Of course, the difference between the Nobel Laureate in the world class research centre and the student in a rural school in Indonesia is that the former will be able to buy your ebooks very easily from a western retailer. But apart from Google Play there are no western retailers who will even give Indonesian readers the time of day.
Amazon completely blocks downloads to most of SE Asia. Even Apple, which is hugely popular in the region, has yet to make its iBooks store available in Asia apart from Japan.
Tim Cook, wake up and smell the coffee! Apple and Google are the only two companies currently capable of creating truly global ebook retail franchise, but Tim, you seem happy to hand the opportunity over to Google. Take the iBooks store seriously!
Pending Apple getting their act together, there are other options for indie authors to reach the SE Asia market. Malaysian-based E-Sentral, for instance, which serves not just Malaysia but also Singapore, the Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam and tiny Brunei. And there are many “local” retailers like Ookbee and Scoop, though getting into these is not easy at this stage.
For the record, you can go to E-Sentral direct, or use Bookbaby or Ebook Partnership.
But for most of us Google Play remains by far our best bet for reaching readers not just in SE Asia but also across the vast regions of the world that Amazon either blocks, surcharges or makes payments difficult.
Payments are one of the key sticking points for global expansion, and Google understands this. Expanding their range of payment options to suit local needs (glocalization) is a top priority for Google (LINK), who already offer a diverse range of payment options quite aside from credit cards, which most of the world’s population do not have. Carrier billing, Paypal, gift cards and other options and local payment processing such as over-the-counter payments are all on the Google agenda.
And these will all help potential readers buy our ebooks. If they are available.
At risk of sparking another bout of “anti-Amazon” cries, it needs repeating here, because so many indie authors think that when you tick world rights box in the KDP dashboard, that huge list of countries means that your ebooks will be available in all these places. It doesn’t.
The simple fact is if you are exclusive with Amazon you are not going to reach digital readers in these exciting nascent markets because Amazon – the “world’s biggest bookstore” – blocks downloads to these countries. And no, there is absolutely zero chance Amazon will be opening Kindle stores there in the future.
But here’s the thing. Unless you are in Select you can sell on Amazon and still enjoy the reach of Google Play.
And for those who have tried and given up because of the frustrating experience that was the Google Play self-pub portal, note the use of the past tense there. Google Play has just upgraded their self-pub portal to make it a far easier experience.
Get your ebooks in the 57 Google Play stores (LINK) and grab a ride on Google’s Android One programme.
We often talk about a New Renaissance. That we are witness to, and participating in, a global renaissance unparalleled in human history.
Just take another glance back over the countries mentioned above. Five years ago smartphones, for all practical purposes, did not exist. Digital reading was, for all practical purposes, non-existent outside of a handful of rich western nations, and the limited availability and high cost of print books meant reading was a privilege of the elite.
The chance of any author finding a readership for their English-language tiles in Vietnam or Indonesia was limited to having print books left by tourist when they headed homes.
Digital has changed everything.
Digital democratizes the world, and for those indie authors willing to grasp the nettle, we can now reach readers almost anywhere on the planet.
And with every new smartphone out there that’s another device they could be reading your ebooks on.
If you are available.
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