For those looking at the bigger picture, Publishing Perspectives this week (LINK), in the wake of the New Delhi Book Fair, runs a post on India reporting on the success of local authors writing in local languages.
As I’ve long been saying, the rise of globile (global mobile) means previously disenfranchised readers across the globe are for the first time being given the opportunity to read, listen and watch books, audio-books, video, etc, that were previously off-limits to them due to the restrictions (accessibility and affordability) of analogue content.
As the Publishing Perspectives posts notes, in India there are 22 official languages and over 100 more major spoken languages in dozens of communities from the Himalayas to the Bay of Bengal. ”The emergence of smartphones and tablets — enabling so-called “mobile reading” — promises to make India a nation of translations.”
The post reports Prashasti Rastogi, director, German Book Office in New Delhi as saying, “Lately in India, there’s a huge concentration in publishing on Indian languages. Technology is deep-seated in the market, and we’ve seen the rise of reading apps which cater to Indian languages.”
Rastogi adds, “…hordes of people flock to book fairs in Patna or Kolkata to look for books in Hindi or Bengali.”
Print books that is. A reminder that we indies venturing into the India market should not ignore print.
Ebooks? If only.
But the simple fact is local-language Indian ebooks are not taking off in a big way because of retailer indifference.
Take Amazon, for example. With a whole 100 Hindi ebooks available in the Kindle IN store and zero titles on other Indian languages that’s hardly an incentive for publishers to start getting their local-language titles into mobi format.
But there’s always Apple and Kobo, right?
Sadly, no. There is no IBooks IN store, and Kobo treats India as an afterthought. Kobo has a disappointing partnership store with Crossword and the Kobo international store is available, but there is no localized Kobo India store and like Amazon, Kobo doesn’t want to know about local-language ebooks.
Having just absorbed Flipkart’s customers, that’s tragic. Kobo, wake up and smell the coffee!
There are two key local-language players in India right now – Dailyhunt and Rockstand.
Both are doing rather well, not least because they not only offer local-language titles, But also because they offer local-payment options too – another big fail for the western retailers in a land where only a tiny fraction of its people have bank cards.
Both Rockstand and Dailyhunt are in theory accessible to authors outside the country, but the hoops you need to jump through to go direct are not going to have western indie authors queuing up to clamber aboard.
Late last year the Hungarian aggregator PublishDrive signed a distribution deal with Rockstand, but that aside the big western aggregators, like the western retailers, seem determined to stick to the easy option English-language market in India.
“Languages (other than English) are really thriving, and in fact, there is an increased readership that we see in a lot of local languages,” says Meera Johri, head of an Indian publisher of Hindi classics.
In the tagged Publishing Perspectives post Jori adds, “There is a renewed interest in buying Hindi books and reading Hindi books. (Indian languages like) Marathi has always been very vibrant. Malayalam and Bangla, too… One reason is that these languages have a very strong culture of reading.”
Getting my titles translated into multiple Indian languages in multiple formats – ebook, print and audio – is a priority for me this year as the Indian book market – already the sixth largest in the world – transforms into a dual analogue-digital market.
The opportunities in India right now, for those playing the long game, are hard to exaggerate.
Stake you claim now for the India goldrush to come.
Think about the next five years, not the next five weeks.
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