Tag Archives: \middle east ebooks

Google’s Android One Launches In Africa. Thoughts On Arabic Translations.


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.

• Algeria
• Bahrain
• Chad
• Comoros
• Djibouti
• Egypt
• Eritrea
• Iraq
• Israel
• Jordan
• Kuwait
• Lebanon
• Libya
• Mauritania
• Morocco
• Oman
• Palestine
• Qatar
• Saudi Arabia
• Somalia
• South Sudan
• Sudan
• Syria
• Tunisia
• 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.

Mark Williams international

Kobo Kicks Off The Race For The Middle East.

Go Global In 2014

Those indies frustrated by the difficulties presented reaching readers in the potentially lucrative Middle East market have reason to be cheerful today, with news that Kobo is making a concerted effort to become a player in the region.

Neither Apple nor Google Play have ebook stores in the Middle East (although Google Play is in Turkey, which is bloody close!), and Amazon famously blocks downloads to anyone who hasn’t got a pre-existing western Kindle account. Great for expats and westerners working in the region. Not so great for local people.

We reported on the developing interest in ebooks in the region back in March in a post entitles Ebook Store Go Forth And Multiply In the Middle East (LINK), and before that, in an article entitle How Much Water Does It Take To Make An Ebook? (LINK) we looked at the climate factors that have meant many areas of the world have been no-go areas for print books but are now opening up to digital reading.

More recently, in July, we predicted Google Play would be the first major western operator to open ebook stores in the Middle East. (LINK)

We stand by that. Kobo isn’t launching a localized store for any of the Middle East countries. But what it is doing is making a concerted effort to get Kobo devices into bricks & mortar stores in the region, with the knock-on effect that device-buyers will buy from the Kobo international ebook store.

It’s a BIG step forward for e-reading in the region, and a big opportunity to find new readers for those indies in Kobo looking to extend their global reach.

Kobo have partnered with regional operator Lionfish to get Kobo devices into 34 stores across the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) states, including Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates. (LINK)

While the Kobo ebook store has previously been accessible in the Middle East it was pretty much unknown, so this move will help build awareness of the Kobo store not just for Kobo device buyers but also for readers with smartphones or iPads who can download a Kobo app.

So far it’s just a handful of the GCC countries, and no localized store, but it’s a welcome start.

We hope Kobo will be looking to expand its presence in the rest of the Middle East and the Arabic-speaking states across North Africa in 2015, but our money is still on Google Play to be the first to actually set up dedicated stores there.

The Digital Reader, also covering this story (LINK), mentions the Arabic-language store Kotobi (LINK). Kotobi is on our “investigate” list, but so far we haven’t made much progress. If anyone out there is familiar with the store, do let us know.

And as a final thought, for anyone with the knowledge or contacts to get Arabic translations of their works, this move by Kobo could make the endeavoiur worthwhile.

Ebook Bargains UK.

Far more than just an ebook promo newsletter.

Far more than just the UK.

Ebook Stores Go Forth And Multiply In the Middle East.

GoGlobalIn2014_500Last month, in a post entitled How Much Water Does It Take To Make An Ebook? we took a look at the emerging Middle East ebook market.

So we’re delighted to report anew kid on the block. We heard rumour of this last month, but kudos to The Digital Reader for getting the scoop first.

Fibido.com is the latest ebook store in Iran. Or Persia for those old enough to remember.

Before you ask, we have absolutely no idea at this stage how indies might get their books in there, always supposing the site management wanted indie titles.

But there is an English language section if you look closely. For those who aren’t fluent in Farsi here’s a clue – it says English books. In English. And better still, the drop down menus for categories are in English too.

At the moment all the English-language books appear to be public domain titles, but that’s hopefully just for the launch. We’ll let you know more on that in our special Middle East feature, by when we hope we’ll have heard back from Fibido.

Meantime, do pop along and take a look. Be warned the search engine works from right to left and can be a little disconcerting for those unfamiliar, but you should be able to navigate the English language section easily enough.


On its own, the Iranian Fibido store is just another small addition to the global ebook store line-up, and of no great relevance to us directly. But it is confirmation that nowhere is immune to the charm of ebooks, and plenty more will emerge from this region. Collectively they will make a difference to the savvy authors who can get their ebooks into them.

Of course, it would be great if we could just rely on the usual suspects to get our ebooks everywhere. But we can promise you you won’t be picking up many sales here from Amazon, as Iran is one the many countries blocked from downloading by Amazon.

True, other ebook retailers aren’t serving Iran either. Not Apple, nor Kobo nor Google Play. But no, we haven’t singled out Amazon because we are anti-Amazon. We’ve singled out out Amazon because if you go to your KDP dashboard and go to the World Rights option you get a drop-down list of a ton of countries all over the planet which an author ticks and supposedly gets distributed to.

In reality your ebooks only go to a handful of these countries for the 70% “royalty”, get just 35% elsewhere, and vast tracts of the globe – the Middle East, much of Africa, much of Asia, etc – are blocked from downloading at all. And of course outside the Kindle zones readers in those countries that can download face surcharges for doing so.

Which is why these small regional stores are so important to us. Relying on a handful of big retailers gets you a lot of key places, but it also keeps you out of a whole lot more. If you plan on Going Global In 2014 and having any hope of becoming a truly international bestseller then these micro-stores matter, if only because there are no other options.

Fibido may or may not open up to indies in the near future (if they do it will almost certainly be through a wholesaler), but you can be sure there will be plenty more Middle East ebook stores coming online that will give us the opportunity to reach new readers.

As we like to say here at EBUK, being available is half the battle.


Ebook Bargains UK

Far more than just an ebook promo newsletter.

Far more than just the UK.

How Much Water Does It Take To Make An Ebook?


Here in the UK we’ve had more than our fair share of water lately. It hasn’t stopped raining since forever, and hundreds of thousands of Brits are still dealing with the consequences of devastating floods across the country.

Back in the summer of ’76 we had six entire weeks without rain. Californians might not find that too remarkable, but it was a big deal in the UK. Roads melted, water was rationed, people queued up in the street with buckets to fill up from tankers, and industry ground to a halt.

What’s this got to do with ebooks? Simply that print books, newspaper and magazines all have something ebooks don’t have. Paper.

And to make paper you need copious amounts of water. No big deal for your typical industrial nation in North America or Europe, but in some parts of the world water shortages are a major problem for publishing industries who  are forced to import paper or have books printed abroad and shipped in.

Factor in poor infrastructure (electricity supply, roads, bricks & mortar stores, etc) and it’s easy to understand why reading is less common in places like Africa, the Middle East and vast tracts of Asia. Even those lucky enough to have received an education will struggle to find – and afford – books.

We’ll be coming back to Africa later this spring, with some in-depth reports on what we believe is going to be one of the biggest growth markets for ebooks over the coming decade. But we can get a foretaste of things to come by looking at North Africa and the Middle East.

Next month we launch the Ebook Bargains Middle East newsletter. Coincidentally an Arabic-language ebook store has recently set up business, although the emphasis is on Arabic. So far as we can tell they are not taking on, or looking for, English language ebooks at this stage.

We stress at this stage. That will change, and other ebook retailers will soon get in on the act.

Bizarrely none of the big western ebook retailers – not Amazon, not Apple, not Kobo – serve North Africa and the Middle East. We hope Google Play will grasp this particular nettle in 2014. It’s very unlikely the others will.

But if they don’t some forward-thinking new retailer from the Far East will step in and fill the distribution vacuum, as Middle East publishers embrace digital more fully.

For those of us able to get our works translated into Arabic, Hebrew, Farsi and the myriad other languages of the region the opportunities are immense. If not, we always have our fall-back position. The English language.

Do they read English in the Middle East? We’ll have a guest post shortly by an ex-pat in the region (to mark the launch of our Ebook Bargains Middle East newsletter in March), which may surprise you.

But it’s not just ex-pats and a handful of academics that speak English there. Here’s the Egyptian Daily News. And the Saudi Gazette. And the Iran Daily. Then there’s dual-language Israel. Here’s Israel’s English-language Haaretz. Nor is just newspapers. Here’s the website of the Bank of Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates. English is the lingua franca of the world, even if we haven’t got an English word for lingua franca.

English-language books have never taken off in a big way in the region because the problems outlined above that make print books an expensive proposition are exacerbated by English speakers being fewer and further between.

Digital levels the playing field.

The English-language is your greatest asset. Don’t waste it by only targetting your books at a handful of English-language countries.

It’s time to Go Global In 2014


Ebook Bargains UK

Far more than just an ebook promo newsletter

Far more than just the UK