While rumours abound that Amazon has a Kindle Netherlands store on the way, Google Play is busy doing what it does best: adding more international ebook stores to its already impressive global list.
Or at least it is about to. The Digital Reader reports (LINK) that Google Play has added the Baltic states of Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania to its list, along with the Ukraine.
The stores aren’t fully live yet, but when they are it will take Google Play’s total country-dedicated international ebook stores to 61 – substantially ahead of Apple’s 51, the twenty or so ‘txtr sites (Latin America additions still pending) and Amazon’s dozen Kindle stores.
Comparing the Apple and Google Play lists is instructive.
Apple iBooks stores:
Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bolivia,
Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica,
Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominican Republic,
Ecuador, El Salvador, Estonia, Finland, France,
Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Honduras, Hungary,
Ireland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg,
Malta, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua,
Norway, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Poland,
Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain,
Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom,
United States, Venezuela.
Google Play Books ebook stores:
Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bolivia,
Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica,
Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador,
Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Guatemala,
Honduras, Hong Kong, Hungary, India, Indonesia,
Ireland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malaysia,
Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Panama,
Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal,
Romania, Russia, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea,
Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand,
Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States,
Uruguay, Venezuela, Vietnam.
While Apple has a very solid presence in Asia, and its devices sell in the millions there, Asia is for some reason all but devoid of iBooks store. Across the whole of the continent, Apple has just one solitary iBooks store, in Japan.
By contrast Google Play serves Hong Kong, India, Indonesia,
Japan, Malaysia, the Philippines, Russia, Singapore, South Korea,
Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey and Vietnam.
Amazon obviously has Kindle stores serving India and Japan, and a token presence in China. but for the rest of Asia Amazon may as well not exist, as downloads are blocked there.
The only other easy access to Asian ebook stores for western indie authors are Kobo (but only for the Philippines and Japan), e-Sentral (direct upload, or via Bookbaby or Ebook Partnership) or Magzter (via Ebook Partnership).
Which makes Google Play the essential place to be for any indie authors wanting to reach readers on the world’s largest and most populated continent.
The much-rumoured Kindle Netherlands and Kindle Russia stores may, hopefully, yet materialize. Apple, Google Play, Kobo and ‘txtr have all long ago managed to come to an arrangement with Dutch publishers, and Google Play is already in Russia.
But as we’ve expressed before, Amazon’s Kindle stores run on print rails. And they do themselves little favour by imposing surcharges on ebook buyers in countries prior to opening Kindle stores.
The Netherlands already has a well-established domestic ebook store in Bol, and the recent partnership of Bol and Kobo will only strengthen Bol’s clear dominance of the burgeoning Dutch ebook market.
A market Amazon could have been nurturing by the simple expedient of letting international buyers download ebooks without surcharges.
Why doesn’t it? Ours is not to reason why.
But on the other hand, why not. Here’s one possible reason.
Trad-pubbed ebooks come to Amazon with strict territorial rights, reflecting the print editions.
As said above, Amazon Kindle stores run on print rails. The Kindle stores are driven by trad-pub interests, not indie ebooks.
Indie authors, as we see time and time again (how many years has it taken for us indies to get the pre-order option?), are an afterthought. Even when indie titles provide the bulk of a service, as with Kindle Unlimited, it’s the trad pubbed titles (and the Amazon imprint titles) that are showcased. The rest of us are just padding.
With its brand-recognition and international reach Amazon could have been bringing many indie authors a significant secondary income from international ebook sales outside the Kindle zone countries. Instead it surcharges readers, so most go elsewhere.
Your $4.99 ebook in the USA will cost a reader in the Netherlands or Poland or Sweden $6.99. Amazon will pay you just a 35% royalty on the $4.99 and pocket the rest. Your free ebook in the US will still cost a reader in these other countries $2. And no, you won’t see a cent of that either.
Curiously, as we’ve seen with Kindle France, Kindle Germany, Kindle Brazil, etc, as soon as Amazon gets a good deal with trad pub and has enough titles to open a Kindle store the surcharges miraculously disappear.
All the while it was just indie titles available in these countries Amazon was happy to deter interest, in the full knowledge readers will be signing up with rival stores.
So long as this policy remains in force Amazon will continue to be a bit player on the international ebook scene outside of the handful of Kindle countries.
‘Txtr is a plucky little store with ambition and stamina, but little hope of making a significant impact. Nice to be part of, but it won’t make any authors rich.
Kobo is broad in reach and lots of potential, but as yet Rakuten have not put their muscle behind it. When they do that will make all the difference
Until then, pending entrance of the eastern players like Alibaba, and the possible purchase of Nook next year, the global ebook market will be either carved up between Apple and Google, or left to Google. At the moment it looks like the latter.
No indications Apple is looking seriously at further global iBook stores. Which is tragic because there are literally hundreds of millions of iDevices out there globally that could have our ebooks on.
On the bright side iBooks stores are now coming as default installations on iDevices, which may be a precursor to a more serious approach to ebooks by Apple. Fingers crossed on that one.
But for now, even if Amazon pulls it off and launches Kindle Netherlands and Kindle Russia stores, Google Play remains the best bet for an international writing career.