Asia’s Emerging Ebook Markets.
When it comes to global ebooks sales we all need to think “globile”. That is, global mobile.
Much of the world have simply skipped the entire desktop PC and dumb-phone era and gone from no internet access to 3G and 4G smartphones, pretty much overnight.
With every single smartphone a device that could be carrying our ebooks the potential for authors and publishers is hard to exaggerate. But where to focus one’s strategic planning?
That graphic from Google at the top of this post may help decide.
For those unfamiliar with the international two-letter country coding:
- AU is Australia
- ID Indonesia,
- TW Taiwan,
- SG Singapore
- HK Hong Kong
- JP Japan
- KR South Korea.
Right now Korea is the tops and India and Indonesia are way down the list in terms of smartphone penetration. But it’s these two countries that are among my top priorities.
Not just because they are fast growing (India will likely be the second largest smartphone market next year) but because Indians and Indonesia, coming late to the internet world, are far more reliant on smartphones in their everyday lives than we in the rich west who use smartphones mainly as an add-on to our existing desktops, laptops, e-readers, dumbphones, landline phones, etc.
And given India is the nation that reads the most, and the sixth largest book market on the planet even before smartphones fully impact, it’s not hard to see why even the more cautious commentators are now joining me in predicting India will be the next ebook gold-rush.
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Africa Watch 1: Egyptian Book Store Chain Sets Up In UK.
In a sure sign of how the Global New Renaissance is taking hold, the Egyptian bookstore chain ALEF has opened a store in… London.
Read the linked post on Publishing Perspectives for the full story. (LINK)
Here just to extract the most pertinent point:
“We believed that people in Egypt don’t read because they don’t have access to books, and we turned out to be right…”
In fact ALEF is doing “booming business” in Egypt and the new London store is just the first step of their international expansion, selling not just Arabic-language books but Arabic books translated into English.
Yes, there are issues of (comparatively) low literacy levels in many countries across Africa, the Middle East and elsewhere. But the idea that people in these countries therefore don’t read is just ludicrous. The problem is, always, about availability and affordability.
And for indie authors and trad pub publishers alike the new “globile” markets where everyone and their dog has a smartphone in their hand, mean that we can, increasingly, reach readers hitherto completely beyond reach.
As we hurtle into 2016 the possibilities – and opportunities – ahead are unprecedented.
Don’t let them pass you by.
Go Globile in 2016 and build a truly international readership for your brand.
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33% Of French Commuters Prefer Ebooks
It will come as no surprise to learn that French train commuters, just like commuters in many countries, while away the journey reading.
The French railway operator SNCF estimate 75% of passengers read books on their journey. (LINK)
What may come as a surprise is that 33% of them e-read – either on dedicated e-readers or on smartphones.
SNCF responded by offering their own ebook subscription service with 100,000 French-language titles. Check out the SNCF store here. (LINK)
It’s not clear who is supplying SNCF, but that’s neither here nor there.
What is key for us as indie authors is the direction digital reading in France is taking.
Ebooks, may still be a tiny fraction of the overall French book market, but early days.
Hard to imagine though it is, just a few years ago the US and UK were nascent markets with only a handful of people reading ebooks.
And in those early years it was very easy for a handful of savvy, forward-thinking indie authors to be very big fish in a very small pond.
This is the true beauty of the global nascent markets right now. There are open goals out there. Major opportunities to be big fish in small ponds now and to grow into even bigger fish as those ponds grow.
Already this year we’ve seen western indies top the charts in China. We’ve seen India leapfrog the UK as the second-largest English-language book market. In Germany indie authors have been dominating the ebook charts for some while.
Across Asia, Latin America and eastern Europe the book markets – and especially the ebook markets – are seeing a new vitality as the Global New Renaissance takes hold.
No, none of these markets (except China) can compare to the US market today. But that’s to miss the point.
And more importantly to miss the opportunity.
Because many of these so-called nascent markets – China, India, Germany, Latin America, Indonesia, etc – are already as big, or bigger (much bigger in the case of China) than the US market was back in 2009-2010.
And back in 2009-2010 savvy indie authors like Amanda Hocking and John Locke were gigantic fish in a very small pond. Million-sellers at a time when hardly anyone in the US even knew ebooks existed.
When looking at the emerging global markets available to us now, don’t think “nascent – not worth bothering with”.
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Children’s Book Sales “Booming” In China.
The Shanghai Children’s Book Fair took place earlier this month, and reports emerging (LINK) show a very vibrant children’s publishing sector with keen interest in titles from the wider world.
Hardly surprising given there are 370 million under-eighteens in China right now – more than the entire population of the USA. And that number could grow rapidly with the new two-child policy.
Incredible opportunities emerging in China across all genres, not just children’s books.
So far Fiberead remain the easy option for accessing this massive market, but I’m watching carefully for more direct opportunities alongside.
China is potentially the most lucrative of all the markets – the China market alone will dwarf the US market very soon – and it will rapidly expand over the next five years. But access is always going to be awkward. Not impossible, by any means, but not without its challenges.
Awkward it may be, but China should definitely be on the watch-list for any author serious about global reach.
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New Distribution Channel’s For Audio Books.
While Amazon’s ACX is effectively the only show in town for indie audio, we should never rush to put all our eggs in one basket, because alternatives will be along soon enough.
- Xin-Xii recently started distributing indie audio to German retailer.
- Now, say hello to Author’s Republic (LINK), courtesy of AudioBooks(dot)com. (LINK)
I’ll investigate this further, but so far it looks like we now have a real alternative to ACX for distribution, although we’ll still need to get our audiobooks made first, which means ACX still has the advantage.
Author’s Republic does have some sort of iOS tool for making our own, but ACX clearly holds all the aces in this respect.
The Author’s Republic will distribute not only to Audiobooks(fdot)com but also to:
- Barnes & Noble
as well as library providers such as
And presumably they will expand further on that as we head into 2016.
Perhaps more importantly, this will be the first of many. A matter of time now before other retailers open up audiobook self-pub portals themselves or ebook aggregators follow Xin-Xii’s lead and start distributing audiobooks.
Those locked into exclusivity with ACX for their audiobooks may be getting slightly better royalties (although Author’s Republic will supposedly be paying a competitive 35%) but could be missing out on reach, especially with Author’s Republic ‘s access to key outlets like OverDrive and Findaway which ACX will deny you.
And don’t forget good old-fashioned CDs. CDBaby can your audiobooks widely distributed for the majority of audiobook listeners that have not yet embraced digital.
Beyond that, another reason to avoid exclusivity is radio. Global radio is an exciting opportunity for indie authors converting their works to audio. More on that in another post.
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Africa Watch 2: One Billion Reasons To Take A Second Look At Africa.
For authors and publishers, Africa remains the Dark Continent (which BTW meant and means “unknown”, not something derogatory) for book sales and discovery.
But for me it’s THE most exciting of the long-term prospects for indie authors, and one I’m following closely, although little chance of any significant sales there in the very near future.
But a new report confirms my anecdotal observations that Africa is embracing smartphones and 3G-4G mobile internet just like everywhere else on the planet.
Mobile subscriptions across Africa are expected to pass the one billion mark in 2016. (LINK)
That’s one helluva lot of people with devices that could have our ebooks on.
Contrary to popular opinion Africans love to read. Their problem is access to affordable books.
For authors, reaching African readers is the big challenge.
- There is not a single Apple iBooks store anywhere on the continent.
- Amazon blocks downloads to most of the continent and surcharges the rest, including South Africa.
- Even Google Play, from whom you’d expect better, are only in South Africa so far.
- Kobo is sort of available, but there is only a localized Kobo store in South Africa, and you need a bank card to use Kobo, so that makes it pretty irrelevant to most Africans.
Right now, South Africa aside, the African continent is not a friendly place for authors. But make no mistake – that’s an issue of distribution and accessibility, not a cultural indifference to books, ebooks and reading.
And there are a few bright spots on the horizon, as I’ll be reporting soon in an in-depth analysis of the state of play across my favourite continent. Meanwhile, check out further posts on Africa below.
I’m very excited by the emerging prospects for authors here in Africa. When I talk about the Global New Renaissance unfolding I really do mean Global, and I intend to be selling across many countries in Africa before this decade is over.
I’m a six-continent content-provider.
How about you?
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$10 Smartphones At Wal-Mart.
With The Next Generation social media like Instagram and Pinterest, and messaging apps like Viber and WeChat getting hotter and hotter by the day, it’s a real PITA that you need a smartphone to participate. Even though many, like Viber, have desk-top access, you still need a smartphone number to sign up in the first place.
And some people, quite understandably, do not want the expense of a new phone, a monthly payment plan, etc just to join Instagram or Viber.
For those in America it seems salvation is at hand. Over at The Digital Reader Nate Hoffelder reports that Wal-Mart now offering a smartphone for just ten bucks, and on a Pay As You Go plan so no crazy monthly payments for a phone you may rarely use. (LINK)
Perfect to buy, along with a separate sim card and phone number, and use exclusively for social media like Instagram and messaging apps like Viber, Facebook Messenger, WeChat, etc.
As per previous posts, Instagram is now bigger than twitter. Messaging apps are reaching close to two billion people. An updated post on messaging apps this coming week.
Don’t get stuck in the past for the sake of ten bucks. Move with the times.
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Africa Watch 3: Nigeria.
When it comes to global ebook sales Africa remains the last frontier as western ebook retailers continue to ignore this vast and exciting nascent market.
After all, Africa is still in the stone-age when it comes to digital, right? There’s no internet there, so no-one knows what smartphones are.
And as well know, nobody in Africa reads.
The latter point, however widely believed, is of course so laughable as not to bear further consideration.
But let’s take another look at the first point – that Africa is has yet to realise the internet even exists.
Leaving aside the above report, that Africa will have over one billion mobile subscribers in 2016, ponder this report on what Ericsson is up to in Nigeria.
Subscription video on demand.
Ericsson’s NuVu will launch in early 2016 offering some 3,000 local and international TV and films to eager Nigerian subscribers eager to use their smartphones for entertainment. (LINK)
Ericsson is working with leading international distributors to acquire content ranging from Hollywood to Nollywood (Nigeria has a thriving film industry).
How long before a dedicated Nigerian ebook subscription service pops up? Well, it certainly won’t be KU – Amazon has zero interest in Africa. But it will happen.
And just as Nigerians love Hollywood films so they do and will love western books (Nigeria is the largest English-speaking nation on the continent) – IF they are allowed access to them, and IF they are affordable.
Nigeria presents a great opportunity to start building a pan-African readership beyond the usual suspect, South Africa.
More on how soon. Here just to remind everyone that, as always, we should keep the third tier nascent markets like Africa firmly in mind when looking at the next five years.
No, absolutely no point anyone rearranging their schedule to prioritise Africa right now, but do keep Africa on your radar, and do lay the foundations there now for future development.
Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana and Tanzania are close to the tipping point where smartphones will become the main everyday access point to the internet for millions of English speakers. And there are plenty of other English-speaking nations in Africa not far behind. Malawi, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Liberia, Sierra Leone, etc. And even here in tiny The Gambia (yeah, The Gambia is one of only two countries in the world where the definite article is officially part of the country’s name).
And of course this is not some uniquely Anglophone phenomenon. French-speaking Cote d’Ivoire and Senegal, to name but two, are right up there in the globile (global mobile) stakes too.
Watch out for more reports on Africa below, and an in-depth report on Africa soon. The way things are shaping up here may well surprise you!
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British Comedian Russell Howard’s Pending 2017 Global Tour.
No, not a book tour, but this isn’t as off-topic as it may at first seem.
Russell Howard is a British stand-up comedian who rose to fame in the UK on the back of the early days of the digital TV transition, when cheapskate TV productions flooded the myriad new broadcasting channels then emerging.
From being a largely unknown British comedian doing bottom-of-the-barrel shows for late-night TV micro-audiences Howard has, thanks to digital reach, built up a worldwide audience, in English, that goes far beyond the English language countries.
Yes, the tour is focussed on the UK, USA, Australia and New Zealand, but also Finland, Iceland, Sweden and Norway, and of course his wider reach through digital extends globally.
Howard already knows where his paying audience will be in 2017.
The key throughout all this is digital. Digital reach is global, and that goes every bit as much for books as it does for stand-up comic TV shows.
Yet many of us indie authors still treat ebooks as simply cheap versions of print books, to farm out to the same home-market audience as print books, and then to wonder why it’s such hard work actually finding an audience.
Far from thinking about 2017 many of us indies don’t even have 2016 on our radar, even though it’s weeks away.
I’ve no idea how much Russell Howard actually understands or cares about all this, or how much his success is down to having a great manager and Howard is just sitting back and enjoying the ride.
But I do know most of us indie authors don’t have managers to think outside the box for us and spot the opportunities unfolding as the Global New Renaissance gets under way.
That’s down to us.
We have unprecedented opportunities to expand our reach and our modes of delivery.
We have unprecedented opportunities to step out of our ebook novelist boxes and become global content-providers across formats, across multi-media and across multiple nations far beyond the usual suspects.
Don’t look on 2016 as just a new year.
Look on 2016 as a new opportunity to break new ground and reach new audiences quite unthinkable back in 2009-1010 when the “ebook revolution” began.
Don’t let these unfolding opportunities pass us by.
Think about the next five years, not the next five weeks.
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Africa Watch 4: Google Play Is Rolling Out Youtube Offline Across Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya and South Africa.
No, it’s not ebook stores, but the direction is clear. Google is focussed on the wealthiest English-speaking countries in Africa.
So far Google Play only has one ebook store on the continent – in South Africa.
It’s a safe bet that, some time soon, Nigeria, Ghana and Kenya will follow suit.
Google Play already has more global ebook stores than any other retailer. Some sixty or so. We can expect that to increase next year.
Currently the Google Play Books self-pub portal is closed to newcomers – although existing clients can still upload direct.
For the rest of us will need to use an aggregator.
Sadly neither Smashwords nor Draft2Digital supply Google Play Books.
Luckily both StreetLib and PublishDrive do, and can get your titles on Google Play within 24 hours.
NB: Other aggregators like Ebook Partnership also supply Google Play Books, but they have up-front fees. StreetLib and PublishDrive are pay-as-you-sell aggregators.
Google Play is a tiny player in the US, and if that’s where you are focussed, don’t expect too much action. But elsewhere around the world Google Play can and should be a key part of your global strategy.
But do be aware that Google Play pretty much automatically discounts our titles to make them more appealing to its customers. Which is great, except…
This will inevitably put you in conflict with Amazon’s price parity clause which dictates you cannot sell cheaper on another retailer than on Amazon.
So to avoid being punished by Amazon for Google Play trying to offer customers a better deal, you’ll need to price higher on Google Play when you first list.
But don’t let that put you off. Google Play is an invaluable place to be if you plan on going global.
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Africa Watch 5: ACE Soon To Reach South Africa.
Okay, so quite a lot on Africa here today, but that’s just an indication of how Africa is fast gearing up to become a significant part of the global publishing scene.
Still not convinced? Consider this news just in.
Phase 2 of the ACE (Africa Coast Europe) project is about to begin. (LINK)
Now that may mean absolutely nothing to most readers, so let me offer some background as to just why this is so significant.
I’m writing this from The Gambia, West Africa. One of the poorest nations on the planet.
Five years ago, when Kindle UK launched, I had to partner with someone in the UK just to get my books uploaded, because there was, for all practical purposes, no internet here. Just a ridiculously expensive connection in the hotels, at dial-up speed.
Today I’m on a 4G connection quite unimaginable just a few years ago.
All thanks to ACE, a submarine cable which connects France and Portugal with :
- Canary Islands (Spain)
- Guinea Conakry
- Sierra Leone
- Cote d’Ivoire
- Equatorial Guinea
- Sao Tome & Principe
In addition two landlocked countries in the middle of the Sahara Desert, Mali and Niger, are connected via a terrestrial extension.
Hundreds of millions of people have suddenly, in the past few years, gained access to the internet in West Africa, completely by-passing the desktop and dial-up telephone line era, and are now enjoying 3G and 4G internet on smartphones.
As Phase 2 of ACE rolls out the submarine cable will extend all the way down the west coast of Africa, bringing European-standard internet to:
- Democratic Republic of Congo
- South Africa
- as well as an extension to Cameroon
reaching almost a quarter billion people.
As reported above, the number of mobile subscribers in Africa is already expected to exceed one billion in 2016.
And that’s before Phase 2 of the ACE rolls out.
Unless you’ve actually been to a seriously Third World country it’s hard to imagine just how transformational the internet can be in terms of education, health and economic development. Or how much it can transform entertainment.
Ebook sales are probably the last thing the ACE team are thinking about as they roll out Phase 2, but indie authors looking at the global picture should be in no doubt about the new opportunities unfolding.
The global digital reading scene in 2020 is going to be far bigger than anything we can envisage right now.
I’ve said before and will say again – the global ebook markets will collectively dwarf the US market many times over in the coming years.
If you doubt that, just consider the projection for 2016. Over one billion mobile subscribers in Africa as soon as next year. That’s over one billion subscribers in Africa using a globile device that could be holding our ebooks.
That’s a billion people almost all of whom are completely off the radar of the big western ebook retailers right now.
That’s a great excuse for just ignoring Africa. But if we’re serious about becoming global bestselling authors then we can’t afford to ignore any prospective market. Least of all one with the potential of Africa.
Think about the next five years. Not the next five weeks.
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NB These posts have appeared previously over the past week or two on The International Indie Author Facebook Group.(LINK)