The View From The Beach
Mark Williams At Large
Pray that you never get quite as obsessed about the global markets as I am.
Awoke this morning about 4.30 am (living in a Muslim West African country it pays to be awake before the dawn chorus call-to-prayer shakes you from beneath the mosquito net) and settled down to check the overnight emails while the water heated for my kickstart coffee.
But who needs coffee when there’s a report on publishing in Vietnam in the in-box?
Now that may be enough to send any normal person straight back into bed, but for me the outside world may not have existed for the next ten minutes, and I came back to reality only when my water pan boiled dry.
Vietnam is not on my recommended list right now because of state controls and other difficulties facing “foreign” authors, and for ebook-reliant indies only Google Play among the Big 5 retailers has an ebook store serving Vietnam, although you can get in through regional micro-aggregators like e-Sentral.
But while I’m not recommending Vietnam should be anyone’s priority target, I have to confess Vietnam is a personal priority for me, a) because I love a crazy challenge, and b) because I sincerely believe in the global New Renaissance. I’ll be making strenuous efforts to get at least some of my titles translated and available to Vietnam’s 90 million pepulation before 2016 is over.
The other priority for me is Africa. Not just because I live here, but because there are over a billion people on this continent and in the new globile (global mobile) world every one of them is a potential reader of our books.
So I had just refilled the water pan and was looking forward to my first coffee of the day when I felt that all-too-familiar adrenalin rush as another email in the in-box caught my eye. Google’s Android One has finally launched in Africa!
Cue second Happy Dance of the morning. 🙂
I’ve long said Google would lead the way in bringing the internet and western ebooks to Africa beyond the borders of South Africa (where currently Kobo and Google Play operate but there is no iBook ZA store and Amazon surcharges South African readers).
While a Google Play Book store has yet to happen, the new Android One initiative brings it a big step closer, with Google Android One phones (in partnership with Hong Kong’s Infinix) now available in Nigeria, Morocco, Egypt, Ghana, Ivory Coast and Kenya – which by no coincidence whatsoever are among the wealthiest nations on the continent, and the ones I identified would be Google priorities a year or so ago.
There are ebook stores in Africa already (notably South Africa via OverDrive, and in Nigeria) but these are not easy access for western indies. But this latest move by Google is a big step forward, presaging not just Google Play Books stores in the not too distant future, but also laying the foundations for the rest of the Big 5 to look more closely at the continent.
Of those six countries Android One has just launched in, three are English-speaking – Nigeria, Kenya and Ghana – and English is of course widely spoken in the others. The first language of Ivory Coast and Morocco is French, so an easy target for our French translations, and Morocco and Egypt are of course also Arabic-speaking nations.
I’ve spoken often about the prospective opportunities in the Middle East and North Africa as the Arabic-speaking world gets noticed by the Big 5 retailers, and Google and Kobo are leading the way.
And while Arabic translations of your works are unlikely to bring you great rewards any time soon, don’t rush to dismiss Arabic as a worthwhile investment.
Arabic is the sixth most widely spoken language in the world, with over twenty-five Arabic-speaking countries. Total population over 400 million.
• Saudi Arabia
• South Sudan
• United Arab Emirates (UAE)
In all these countries smartphones are widespread, and many of these countries have wealthy and literate populations. The biggest hindrances to our ebook reach here are the usual twin-fold problems of availability (I think it safe to say Amazon blocks downloads to all these countries and Apple has no iBooks stores here) and accessibility (ie readers being able to make payments without credit cards).
Over the next five years we’ll see those issues confronted and solved as some of the Big 5 western retailers rise to the challenge.
And be prepared for an eastern operator to emerge in the nascent markets like these and run with the ball, rolling out ebook accessibility on a truly global scale.
The global New Renaissance is real. It’s happening right now.
Already we have reach quite unimaginable just five years ago. In another five years it’s a safe bet most of these countries, along with most of the rest of the world, will have both availability and accessibility to our titles.
Chasing Arabic translations right now might seem like a waste of time and energy. But get real.
The savvy author prepares for the future, and the future is globile. A global mobile market where digital products are accessible to everyone, everywhere on the planet.
Don’t wait until the train has left the station before you buy your ticket. Think about the next five years, not the next five weeks.