Something for the Weekend. An overview of the global ebook scene.

There’s a rumour circulating in India that Amazon will be launching the Kindle Unlimited subscription service for just 199 rupees per month.

The report in ETRetail (LINK) does stress this is just a rumour, but if it turns out to be true it could be a game-changer.

The minimum price indies can set on Kindle India through KDP is 49 rupees, so a subscriber would have to read just five minimum-price titles a month to be up on the deal. For more expensive titles it would be even more rewarding for the reader.

And possibly lucrative for the author. The India ebook market may be nascent but it’s not dormant. In time it will be the second largest ebook market in the world.

That’s a few years off yet, but India is already set to exceed the USA as the second largest smartphone market. And every smartphone out there could have our ebooks on.

Any author looking to the long-term will be looking carefully at the India market, regardless of what happens with KU.

See this post on the “globile” future to understand why. (LINK).

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I’ve posted on the phenomenon of adult colouring books a few times.

Mainly to stress that as indies we are already, to some extent, “outside the box”, and we should always be willing to take a few strides further and explore the incredible possibilities digital presents us.

With adult colouring books it’s been small press print outfits that have led the way.

This week it’s emerged that the “Secret Garden” adult colouring book has sold three million copies in the past three months… in China. It also sold a million in Brazil and a half million in South Korea. (LINK)

Both Brazil and China wildly outsold the US, and Korea outsold the UK.

Meanwhile in the US a self-published children’s book produced POD via CreateSpace and Ingram has sold over 20,000 copies in the US, topping the print charts.

In the latter case it was an indie author. In the former it could easily have been.

In this brave new world of the global New Renaissance the boxes we choose to live are largely of our own making.

We have unprecedented reach, unprecedented opportunities, and unprecedented possibilities to experiment.

Don’t waste them.

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The issue of the self-publishers’ ghetto at OverDrive came up again this week. The post has since been updated to say there was “initially” a ghetto. (LINK)

Comments on that post confirm that, while there is a sub-section within the OverDrive facility for librarians that just holds Smashwords titles, indie titles from Smashwords ARE available in the OverDrive public catalogue.

In fact there are 187,000 Smashwords titles showing in OverDrive right now.

So let’s be clear. There is no ghetto.

I’ve been getting titles into OverDrive libraries for almost five years with no problems, and lately have been using Smashwords to add some new titles to the OverDrive catalogue.

For those who assert I’m “anti-Smashwords” for complaining about what doesn’t work well at Smashwords, let me be clear.

IF… and that’s still a big if, sadly – but if you can get your titles into the Smashwords premium catalogue, and of course if you’ve opted into library distribution, your titles will appear in the OverDrive library catalogues worldwide in a matter of days.

The exceptions are erotica titles, which OverDrive does not accept from Smashwords, but for everything else Smashwords is a cheap (pay as you sell), quick and (relatively) easy way to get your self-published titles into the OverDrive global libraries.

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Sadly the same cannot be said for Flipkart. Smashwords has just announced they have cancelled the deal with Flipkart to get indie titles into India’s largest retailer.  (LINK)

Mark Coker makes some interesting, if controversial, arguments about how Amazon’s KDP Select is in part responsible for this decision. Coker argues indies wanting to jump in and out of Select were finding their titles not being removed from Flipkart in timely fashion, leaving indies in breach of Amazon’s exclusivity demand for participation in KU.

But here’s the thing: by cancelling the Flipkart deal, it is Smashwords that is penalizing the many authors that do not jump in and out of retailers chasing every new shiny dangled in front of them and are trying to build a global presence.

Surely it is not beyond Mark Coker’s ability to simply put a clear message on the site in relation to stores like Flipkart that indies cannot expect instant responsiveness from this particular retailer, leaving indies the option to list on Flipkart through Smashwords.

The very real danger for Mark Coker is that ,by removing options like Flipkart, he risks sending indies to rival aggregators like Xin-Xii who do offer Flipkart, along with Google Play and the Tolino Alliance stores that aren’t available through Smashwords. (LINK)

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The latest of Big Pub to sign an English-language deal in China is PanMacmillan UK, who have announced a deal with Trajectory at the Beijing Book Fair this week. (LINK)

Trajectory are leading the way in taking English-language titles to the new globile (global mobile) markets, and fully understand we who write and publish are sitting on a global goldmine.

Trajectory has no facility for (or interest in) indie authors, but it may at some stage come to an agreement with one of the distributors we can access. That could be a long wait. Meantime trad pub is raking in the cash from English-language readers in China and elsewhere.

I’ll be forwarding this latest report to Fiberead (LINK) in the hope of nudging them in the direction of making our indie English-language titles available in China, but as yet their focus is (understandably) on the translations market.

But, in mind the current mess at Smashwords with Flipkart, Fiberead, or whoever steps forward to make China accessible to indie E-L titles, will have to include a clear contractual commitment to keep titles in for a sensible length of time, and that hopping in and out every five minutes will not be an option.

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Globile up 55% year on year!

A new report from Ericsson estimates there are three billion mobile broadband users across the globe right now, (LINK) and the vast majority therefore have potential access to our ebooks.

Globile (global mobile) is still in its infancy in much of the world, but the growth areas are worth looking at. The US, unsurprisingly, but also India, Myanmar, Bangladesh and Nigeria.

I’m adding Myanmar (Burma, for those who last looked at an atlas when they were at school) to my watch-list in view of the latest data, which confirms the trend I’ve been watching this past year for Myanmar.  There’s been a massive investment in broadband recently and its beginning to pay off big time.

It’s a pattern we’ll see repeated very soon in countries like Pakistan and Nepal, and across the globe.

I won’t bore you with details of the countless 4G licences I’m monitoring being auctioned right now globally, but my globile map is lighting up in places even I, the eternal digital optimist, thought were unlikely before the end of this decade.

As Google’s Loon balloon project and Facebook’s Aquila drone project go live over the next few years (the former already underway in Sri Lanka) we’re going to witness an explosion in globile traffic and global engagement that will be truly, truly remarkable.

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In mind the previous item ponder this, for of such things as this is our future as global authors made.

The Pacific Caribbean Cable System (PCCS) has just started commercial operations. It links the USA, via Florida, with the Caribbean nations, Central America and northern South America as far as Ecuador, meaning millions more people across the Caribbean and Latin America have access to 4G-standard internet service. (LINK)

This in turn will accelerate the take-up of smartphones across the region, which in turn will build awareness of the benefits of the internet and so accelerate smartphone adoption even more.

Just one of the many reasons I am so excited by the Latin American market right now.

Here’s another.

The Russia-based subscription service Bookmate now has a carrier-billing deal with Tigo Mobile in Guatemala and Paraguay. (LINK)

Tigo Mobile is one of the big telcos in Latin America, and safe to assume this will be the first of many carrier-billing arrangements, not just with Bookmate but almost certainly soon with Google Play.

For those unfamiliar, carrier billing is where you pay for online purchases like ebooks from your mobile phone credit.

For Third World countries like these it is hard to exaggerate the significance of this. Most people across the world do not have bank accounts, let alone credit cards. But trying buying from Amazon or Apple without a card… Try subscribing to Scribd without a card…

Carrier billing enables the cash-paying reader to pay for ebooks online instead of relying on free-reading sites like Wattpad.

Study after study shows that, around the globe, the biggest hindrances to e-reading on smartphones are

a) that the retailers aren’t accessible and

b) where, as with Kobo, they are, local people simply have no method by which to pay.

Indian app-based stores like Newshunt and Rockstand shift millions of ebooks every year thanks to carrier billing. People who have no way whatsoever of paying Amazon India, for example, can simply buy a mobile credit scratchcard with cash, top up their mobile, and buy and download an ebook from Newshunt or Rockstand. No wonder these two stores are the fastest growing ebook stores in India.

In Latin America carrier billing plays a similarly crucial role in allowing people to pay for goods online. But it requires the retailer to come to an arrangement with the telco.

This service is already offered by some “domestic” Latin American retailers, but this move by Bookmate is the first by an outsider. I understand Google Play is also in talks with Tigo and other telcos to offer carrier billing.

Bookmate is a global subscription service that cleverly focuses on markets Amazon neglects, and it’s doing rather well. As well as being one of the biggest Russian services (along with LitRes – but watch out for a possible Kindle Russia store in the future – there are indications Bezos is trying to get a foothold there) Bookmate is a global operator, and big in key countries like Turkey (Amazon blocks downloads to Turkey).

The move with Paraguay and Guatemala is believed to be the first of a wider campaign by Bookmate to embrace Latin America. Just one more sign that Latin America is now firmly on the radar of the global retailers.

I get my titles into Bookmate through the British aggregator Ebook Partnership, but it’s a pay-up-front service and not one I could recommend just now, as the global landscape is changing so fast, and other routes are opening up.

Bookmate recently launched its own self-pub portal. I haven’t had the chance to investigate this yet, but it’s on my To Do list.

Bookmate is not going to make anyone rich with its payouts, but as a vehicle for global discovery and laying the foundations for the future, Bookmate should definitely be a consideration for any author going global.

One final word on Bookmate – they’ve just launched this past week in Indonesia. I can’t tell you how exciting that is. I’ll be doing an in depth post on the Indonesia scene shortly to explain why.

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Here in West Africa the ACE cable linking Europe and the west coast of Africa finally went live in The Gambia just over two years ago.  While meaningful reach is still limited to the coast because the relay infrastructure is not in place yet across the country, the transformation has already been remarkable, with pretty much everyone having a smartphone of some sort in their hands.

Bear in mind this is one of the poorest countries on the planet.

People who two years ago did not know the internet even existed, and still have no access to running water or electricity, now watch youtube videos, use skype and Facebook, and would be lost without their (probably counterfeit, they are so cheap) smartphones.

Do they e-read? Most definitely, yes. But mainly on free sites like Wattpad because, quite simply, there is no mechanism for them to make payments even if the big retailers actually let them download.

But that will come, and with it will come a surge in global e-reading on an unprecedented scale as the global New Renaissance gets into second gear.

It won’t happen overnight, and it won’t happen everywhere at the same time, but it will happen. It is happening.

And those authors who have positioned themselves well now, and are using sites like Wattpad to establish a global presence where they have no commercial reach, will reap the benefits.

The PCCS cable mentioned above is just one of myriad similar projects happening right now around the globe that, along with the Google Loon project and Facebook’s Aquila drone project, is creating an internet-connected world that within ten years will net-enfranchise well over 95% of the world’s population.

Already our potential audience is well over two billion people. That’s how many people have a smartphone, tablet or similar e-reading device in their hands right now.

More than two billion people.

Yet the majority of indie authors are so busy fighting each other to grab a share of the fraction of the couple-hundred million US market that they don’t even know the wider world exists.

Their loss. And less competition for the rest of us.

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Google’s fleet of self-driving cars now numbers twenty, averaging 10,000 miles a week. (LINK)

Over the past six years there have been eleven minor accidents and all have been the result of human-driver error in other vehicles – even a super-duper computerised self-driven car that can simultaneously see every other vehicle and pedestrian on the road can’t stop some idiot driving into the back of you because they were on their phone.

One day these vehicles will be everywhere, and will save countless lives.

Driverless cars, books with no paper, watching films on a phone, 3-D printers… My childhood science-fiction is today’s reality.

5G is almost with us, and at the current rate of accelerated innovation it’s impossible to guess what even 6G, let alone 10G, will bring, but I plan on living forever so I can find out. 🙂

That way I might even get time to finish a few more books.

~~~

Not everyone is enamoured by the idea of serialization of works, but I’m having great fun with it, and I’m not alone.

This report from the Bookseller is well worth reading to see how trad pub is engaging with serialization and seeing great results. (LINK)

Of course in the case of Transworld and Headline all the serialized parts were professionally edited to meet the requirements of serialization and put out well-formatted on all retail platforms, and then strung together professionally in a print version also made widely available.

Sadly indies going the serialization route often seem more focused on short-term gains (as with the old KU system), but serialization has much more to offer the savvy author.

One of the problems with serialization, of course, is that a serialized novel (or indeed non-fiction works, which is where my serialization focus is) is not a stand-alone book simply chopped into equal pieces.

A thoughtfully serialized work needs to a lot of careful consideration to balance the parts. So while it may allow you to get to market sooner and start building an audience for the project, it may well prove to be not just as much, but more work than slogging away at a single full-length project.

I’m certainly finding that with my serialization of the West Africa travelogues. In theory part two and three could have been live by now, but as I work through parts 4-5 I keep finding cause to go back and make adjustments to parts 2 and 3. While that’s easy enough with digital, it’s not a sensible option once the early parts are live, because early readers will not know of the re-writes and be lost if they impact on later parts.

So if you do go down this route take a leaf from Transworld’s and Headline’s book and make sure you have several parts firmly in place before you launch.

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The Madrid-based digital-library supplier Odilo (LINK) is ramping up its game, and shifting to more English-language titles alongside its Spanish-language range.

No easy way into Odilo right now, but definitely one to keep an eye on, both as possible outlet in the future and as a barometer of the way things are shaping up.

Globally digital libraries are still pretty embryonic, but they present a fantastic opportunity for discovery and reaching new audiences.

Odilo is gearing up to challenge the long-established players like OverDrive, and its focus is worth watching.

While Spain is of course its core market, Odile is taking big strides in the US, and is in Peru, Colombia and Mexico right now, and will soon be in Chile. It’s also, intriguingly, in Australia.

And it’s handling titles in Italian, Russian and Chinese as well as Spanish and English, suggesting global ambitions and, for authors, global opportunities ahead.

Odilo isn’t geared to indie authors yet, but I’m making tentative enquiries about third-party routes in.

Even if we can’t get into Odilo this year or next, we should all be looking at operators like this, because they show clearly the way the global markets are developing. Latin America, for instance, is getting more exciting by the day.

If we’re not taking the global markets seriously and getting into translations and extensive distribution right now we’ll only have ourselves  to blame in years to come when other authors are seeing global success while we’re still struggling to get noticed in the ever more overcrowded market at home.

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

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One response to “Something for the Weekend. An overview of the global ebook scene.

  1. Every day, the possibilities increase exponentially. 😀

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