Tag Archives: selling ebooks in India

Wattpad’s Global Data Mine

wattpad-global

Are you making the best of Wattpad’s data tools?

Wattpad is, increasingly, a valuable tool to get actual sales, and I’ll be looking at some of Wattpad’s new sales-orientated features over coming weeks.

But for me Wattpad is most valuable for its global reach and its data.

Take the image above. Obviously this is an inert screenshot, but the original in my Wattpad data dashboard is interactive and a click on each of the highlighted countries will tell me what percentage of my readers are coming from each country.

Wattpad will also break down my readers by gender and by age group, and a lot more besides.

  • This map shows me that for this particular title some 25% of my Wattpad readership is in the US. More than I would have expected, but then this is an English-language title.
  • The UK accounts for 11% and Canada and Australia account for 3% each.

But what matters to me with Wattpad is reaching the rest of the world and, again bearing in mind this is an English-language title, the stats are both revealing and occasionally surprising.

  • In Europe I’m finding readers in Germany and Austria. Surprisingly no traction yet elsewhere in Europe.
  • 10% of my Wattpad readers for this title are in India. That’s very useful to know as I really hadn’t considered India a likely market for this particular book. And 2% in neighbouring Pakistan and 1.5% in Sri Lanka.

But then come the real surprises.

  • Courtesy of Wattpad I’m finding readers in Africa for my English-language title – in South Africa, Kenya, Uganda, Ghana and Nigeria. In fact 5% of my readers for this title are in Nigeria, which gives me something to focus on.
  • In Latin America it’s not great, but I’m finding readers in Brazil and Guyana.

Across Asia it’s looking very promising.

  • The Philippines is delivering fully 10% of my readers, and while there are still far too many white spaces (0%) across Asia I’m doing the happy dance on seeing I’ve found readers in Georgia and Outer Mongolia.

Am I seeing sales from all this? Two points arise.

First, it’s impossible to make a direct link between the Wattpad stats and sales , but I suspect yes, I’m seeing some extra sales. Not many, but a few.

But, to come to point two, that’s not what I use Wattpad for. Wattpad is my route to connect with readers who for whatever reason cannot or are not looking at the big ebook retail stores we mostly rely on.

Wattpad is about finding my future core readers and establishing my brand in far-flung lands.

As per stats, there are clearly a couple of countries where it may pay off to start some focussed promotion. By which I mean focussed brand-building, not buy-my-book marketing, although of course that’s a welcome bonus.

For this particular title 49% of my readers are 13-18 age group and 80% female. Both figures could be higher as about 20% in each case have opted not to give that data. Given the title (YA aimed at girls) the stats are not surprising. A further 25% are 18-25, but I’m getting readers across all age groups.

For this sort of data alone Wattpad is worth setting some time aside, but there is much more to Wattpad than just data, as I’ll be exploring in future posts.

For 2017 I plan on getting ALL my tiles on Wattpad and trying to leverage some of Wattpad’s many promotional tools. More on that soon.

With 45 million users worldwide, and literally one new reader signing up every second of every day, Wattpad is potentially one of our most valuable internationalist-indie tools.

Are you getting the best out of Wattpad?

This post first appeared in the International Indie Author Facebook Group. See the original post and discussion here. (LINK)

◊ ◊ ◊

Other recent posts from the International Indie Author Facebook Group:

Google Play have introduced new discovery features to Google Play Books that might just bring us a few more sales.

With 75 global ebook stores GP is one of our most useful assets for global reach.

While still sadly indifferent to Africa (just South Africa and Egypt), Google Play is a strong player in Latin America, eastern Europe and SE Asia (inc. Thailand, Indonesia,Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, Philippines, etc, where Amazon and Apple are not available). .

Anecdotally Google Play is my best bet for sales across Latin America, out-performing Amazon in Brazil and Mexico, and even bringing sales from small countries like El Salvador.

Google Play’s self-pub portal is now closed to newcomers, and we have to be in one of the 75 GPB global countries to even see the store, but we can still get our titles into Google Play Books.

Sadly neither Smashwords nor Draft2Digital can help here, but StreetLib and PublishDrive can, and of course so can the pay-up-front aggregators like Bookbaby and Ebook Partnership.

See the original post and discussion here. (LINK)

◊ ◊ ◊

Another One Bites The Dust – Sainsbury Ebooks To Close.

I’ve not heard anything from Sainsbury yet but Kobo are reporting they are hoovering up Sainsbury’s customer base as Sainsbury opts out of the ebook business.

Sainsbury is a significant UK supermarket chain that, along with Tesco, took on the challenge of the UK ebook market.

Tesco fell foul of major issues unrelated to its digital ambitions and had to pull out of peripherals like ebooks.

No word yet as to what triggered the Sainsbury pull-out, but given Amazon UK’s overwhelming dominance of the UK ebook market this is disappointing but not surprising news.

For indies it will make no difference to our Sainsbury sales as Sainsbury was strictly trad-pub only. A handful of indies using Vearsa were there, but for the rest of us it simply was never an option.

This latest UK ebook store failure follows close on the heels of the Waterstone’s surrender. Waterstone’s too handed its ebook clientèle to Kobo. As did Sony UK before that. And of course Nook UK has left us. And somewhere in between Txtr UK left us and Blloon left us.

Apple and Google Play line up with Kobo to keep Amazon from total UK ebook dominance (small players like Blackwells and Hive are neither here nor there. Kobo has both a localized UK store and partners with the high street chain WH Smith.

I wouldn’t be that surprised if WH Smith conceded defeat next.

The sad reality right now is that if an indie has a very strong UK presence and isn’t faring well on other retailers at home or abroad then going KDP Select and focussing on the Amazon UK market would make perfect sense.

No doubt there will be rejoicing on the Zon-centric blogs these next few days (I suspect many are already planning street parties for when B&N goes down) but a healthy market is one with strong competition.

The UK ebook market is as close to an Amazon monopoly as they’ve got anywhere. It’s common sense, not anti-Amazon sentiment, to say this latest UK ebook store closure is not good news.

◊ ◊ ◊

India news – from Amar Vyas

Manasi Subramaniam, Commissioning editor and Rights Manager at Harper Collins India, conducted a master class on publishing rights during Publishing Next 2016. During the masterclass, she talked about translations, international rights, film and other rights for books. Manasi also gave examples of how the B2B books rights process works at Book Fairs.

You can listen to this very informative session here. (LINK)

◊ ◊ ◊

The future is never far away, and as regular readers of my Beware The Future posts will understand, if we plan on being in this game for the long haul we need to, if not predict the future, at least anticipate and be ready for it.

The 2016 Tech Trend report is out and while the whole thing is worth snuggling down in bed with, Joe Wikert has thoughtfully been through it and picked out a few key areas pertinent to the future of publishing.

Read Wikert’s summary here, where there is also a link to the full report.

Wikert’s perspective is of course that of Big Pub, not indie authors, but while we indies may not have the financial muscle of the big players we do have other advantages – speed and agility to experiment – and we can partner with third parties to get in on many of these future developments.

The future will happen whether we like it or not. Change and disruption will happen in our cosy indie-ebook-author lives whether we embrace it or bury our heads in the sand.

If we’re on our last legs and don’t plan on being a writer in the 2020s and beyond, then anticipating and preparing for the future is something we can afford not to do.

For the rest of us the future is our biggest challenge, because change and disruption will happen, and in a far faster and more furious pattern than we’ve experienced this past few years with the so-called ebook revolution, when the only big change was print to ebook.

The real digital revolution is still in first gear. (LINK to Joe Wikert post.)

◊ ◊ ◊

On a personal note, for those intrigued my my Third World life here in West Africa, my June and July Gambia Diaries are currently holding #1 and #2 place in category in the free charts on Amazon.

 

1-2-in-niche

These short essays are available free from all good ebook retailers.

Given these monthly ebooks are the only two free titles in this category I’m in the interesting position whereby over the coming months I’ll hold the top five, top ten and eventually top twenty spots in category. And in just over eight years I’ll have the top 100!

For anyone wondering, I am able to list on Amazon without price-matching or being exclusive by uploading via StreetLib.

 

For daily news and discussion about the global indie publishing scene join this lively Facebook Group.

 

 

Advertisements

And The Second Biggest Bookseller In The World After Amazon Is…

DiversifyIn2015

For those of us who are neglecting the India market as a place to find readers, take heed of this latest report which suggests Flipkart is way up there ahead of the likes of Barnes & Noble, Waterstone’s, Fnac,etc. (LINK)

A few caveats.

First off, the world’s second largest book market China is totally omitted from the survey.

Second, the survey is actually about the popularity of a store rather than how many books are sold. And it is the whole store, not just the book store.

So for Amazon and Flipkart we are actually looking at the overall popularity of the Amazon and Flipkart stores as opposed to just the bookstore element.

No surprise that Amazon came top therefore. As to whether or not Flipkart sells more books than Barnes & Noble, the jury is out. This survey shows Flipkart is more popular, but given the population of India, the scale of the Flipkart enterprise, and the trending unpopularity of Barnes & Noble, that’s no surprise either.

But we should be in no doubt Flipkart shifts a lot of books and is by far the biggest bookseller in India. Nieslen estimated their market share at 80% in 2013.

Ebooks? There is no breakdown of ebook sales per se for Amazon India and Flipkart, and ebook take-up is India is still in its infancy, so we are not talking massive numbers. But that will soon change as more publishers in India engage with digital, and Flipkart and Amazon will no doubt fight it out for top place as the country’s leading ebook provider.

Both stores are massive in India, although Flipkart by far the largest, but it has to be noted that since Jeff Bezos started taking India seriously last year Amazon has really begun to close the gap on Flipkart’s dominance. Stats for May indicate Amazon actually had more unique visitors than Flipkart, for the first time.

Of course unique visitors and regular paying customers are two different things, but it’s clear that, after a couple of years of seemingly going nowhere, Amazon has really got its act together in India, and is now a major player.

How much that will be reflected in book and ebook market share remains to be seen.

But one thing is clear. Indians love to read, and the Indian reading market, already massive, is growing by the day as more and more of the population engage with the e-commerce world thanks to the proliferation of smartphones and tablets and improvements in internet availability across the subcontinent.

The English-speaking book market in India is impressive. The local-language book market likely to be even more so.

Anyone not thinking about translations into the myriad Indian languages is going to miss out big time in the coming years.

So will those who do not engage fully with the myriad retailers operating in India.

Apple and Nook aren’t there, but Amazon and Flipkart are up against Google Play and Kobo, as well as local players ranging from the small (but very useful for local POD) Pothi to the two big mobile-only vendors Newshunt and Rockstand. There are others. Infibeam perhaps the most interesting as it prepares for its IPO (LINK) , and with a fresh influx of cash it may get back on track with its own ebook store.

India is one of the most exciting prospects on the planet right now for indie authors, and with Bookbub now sending out a newsletter with buy buttons for some of the key Indian stores, including Amazon and Flipkart (but sadly not Newshunt or Rockstand), we can expect to see a handful of western indies do very well here over the next twelve months.

If you fancy your chances check out the Bookbub blog which has a post on how best to discount ebooks in India. (LINK)

Don’t just be a witness to the global New Renaissance. Be part of it.

Ebook Bargains UK

Far more than just an ebook promo newsletter.

Far more than just the UK.

India Briefing. Amazon On Target To Become A Significant Player, But It’s Not The Only Show In Town.

DiversifyIn2015

 We’re working on a comprehensive overview of the India ebook market which we’ll be releasing in epub, mobi and PDF formats, but that will be a while yet, so meanwhile here’s a quick summary for those who can’t wait.

India is one of the fastest growing markets for both print books and ebooks, and English-language titles are experiencing renewed interest thanks to the easy access of ebooks on smartphones and to the big strides online retailers are making not just in their online presence but in their delivery capacity. This means that print books are now readily available to avid readers outside the big Indian cities where bricks & mortar bookstores are viable.

Flipkart remains the dominant player for both print and digital books, but Amazon is making vast strides, and lately has resolved many of the issues of accessibility and payments options we’ve previously expressed concerns about. Amazon is now on target to become a significant player in the Indian book and ebook market over the next few years.

Apple still has no iBooks presence in India and Kobo, while there, is not having any impact thanks to some very disappointing partnerships  thus far. Hopefully that will change now Rakuten are beginning to take the global ebook market seriously. Rakuten also has a finger in the India pie through OverDrive, which supplies Infibeam’s ebooks.

Nook of course is not there and nor is Txtr, leaving just Google Play and Magzter to fly the flag for the western ebook players.

Google Play is making big strides, but early days. You can go direct to Google Play or through the Italian aggregator Narcissus or the German aggregator XinXii. We expect Google Play to become significant player in India as they upgrade their payment options.

Magzter is holding its own in India, but is not easily accessible for indies. Those with the British aggregator Ebook Partnership will be there.

Local stores like Crossword (via Kobo) are minor players and Landmark recently closed its ebook store. It’s not clear if that is permanent.

Pothi is a small but friendly operator that will distribute both your ebooks and print titles across the subcontinent.

Of the many other local ebook players two are worth seriously getting involved with right now.

Rockstand and Newshunt.

Newshunt started out as a digital magazine vendor (75 million downloads to date) and took on ebooks about a year and half ago. Back in September last year we reported Newshunt had seen 4 million ebook downloads. Six months on and that figure has almost trebled, to eleven million.

Newshunt is a mobile-only ebooks store that is run by Ver Se. It has seen 50 million app installations, has over 14 million active monthly users and gets over 1.5 billion monthly page views. More importantly it expects to have 200 million active monthly users within two years, as m-commerce takes off in India.

Given India is expected to have 385 million smartphone users by 2017 (more than one for every man, woman, child and baby in the US) that kind of growth is probably conservative.

By 2020…

One of the reasons Newshunt is seeing such tremendous growth is that it offers payment options Amazon and co. do not, namely carrier billing. Newshunt even has its own micro-billing facility, iPayy.

Rockstand is owned by Handygo Technologies, and needless to say it too offers carrier-billing – via three Indian telcos: Airtel, Vodafone India and Idea Cellular.

As with Newshunt, getting in isn’t easy for indies.

But nor is it hard.

Last year Rockstand signed a deal with Ingram for ebook content, but of course only a handful of indies are in the Ingram ebook catalogue in the first place.

The good news is, both stores WELCOME western indies and if you get in touch with them they will walk you through their direct-upload process.

Better still, Newshunt CEO Virendra Gupta tells us Newshunt will be launching a fully-fledged self-publishing portal later this year. We’re hoping to get an exclusive interview with Virendra on this soon for the EBUK blog.

But enough of ebooks. Let’s talk print books.

No, don’t switch off. Dump the kneejerk reaction that print and indies are somehow different planets and never the twain shall meet. Indies need to take print seriously.

Most indies treat print as an afterthought, but print is BIG business globally and it may surprise you to know that your POD print books actually have even wider distribution than your ebooks.

If you have POD titles through CreateSpace then, if you elected for Expanded distribution (it’s free!) then your paperbacks should be available from Amazon India. (LINK       )

But readers in India can also order them from Amazon’s other India store, Junglee. (LINK)

Or from Flipkart. (LINK)

Or from Landmark.(LINK)

Or from Rediff Books. (LINK)

Or from BookAdda. (LINK)

Or from…

And on and on and on.

CreateSpace distribution. If you have your titles through Ingram, or are using the Indian distributor Pothi you’ll have even better reach (and with Pothi far faster delivery times).

And of course it’s not just in India. We indie authors have global print reach quite inconceivable just a year or two ago. When we talk about a global New Renaissance we mean exactly that. A Global. New. Renaissance.

What is happening is quite unprecedented in human history. Digital isn’t just enabling us to sell digital books, it’s enabling us to reach the far bigger percentage of the world that hasn’t yet embraced digital.

We can’t begin to exaggerate how significant this is.

The internet has been around for many decades now, but for most of the world it was a novelty or a luxury of the rich in a handful of big cities.

You not only needed an unaffordable computer, but you needed reliable electric to run it and for the internet you needed a cable to connect to the ISP and you needed an ISP in your country in the first place.

Suddenly everything has changed. Mobile has transformed the world in ways most of us are not even beginning to come to terms with.

Not just the literally billions who can now e-read. But a sea-change way beyond access to digital content.

Amazon India is an ideal example. Pre-mobile India was just another struggling foreign market for Amazon. Only the rich could afford to buy from Amazon and Amazon could only ship effectively to a handful of big cities.

Now the e-commerce giants like Amazon and Flipkart are investing staggering sums of cash into India’s e-commerce infrastructure. Warehouse, delivery, etc. Because suddenly, in the space of a couple of years. Amazon and Flipkart and all the other e-commerce sites are able to reach hundreds of millions of people previously not on their radar.

And that includes making books – both print and digital – available to literally hundreds of millions of people who previously had no access to such things.

But despite the huge numbers of people now using smartphones to e-read on, print is still king.

Bear in mind that, the US and UK aside, pretty much every country in the world has digital reading adoption at below 10%. The inverse being, 90% or more are still reading print.

And damn and blast, we indies can’t be bothered with print because, well, we’re indies.

Step outside the box. Digital access to print is transforming our prospects not just as ebook authors but as print authors.

Don’t treat your POD endeavours as an afterthought. Make print part of your career strategy. And not just at home, but globally.

We’ve said before and will say again, India, Indonesia and China are the most exciting prospects on the planet right now for indie authors willing to step outside their comfort zone.

The global ebook market is going to dwarf the US market many, many times over as it blossoms, and counter-intuitively the print market is expanding at a rate of knots too. This truly is a global New Renaissance.

As ever, those who get an early foot in the door will have best chance to reap the rewards.

No, there will be no instant successes and no instant rewards.

But think about how hard it is now for new authors to gain traction in the US and UK markets. And how much harder it’s getting, by the day.

The nascent global print and ebook markets aren’t quite open goals, but there are myriad opportunities for savvy authors to become big fish in small ponds overseas. And then to grow to be even bigger fish as the pond gets bigger.

No, it won’t be easy. Yes, it will take time, effort and probably some costs if you really want to make an impact.

So start small. Focus on one country – say, India, since that’s the focus of this post – or maybe two, and get things in place, and then move on to the next. Build a readership base and then move your focus to the next country.

No-one can do it all at once. Don’t try.

But don’t take the path of least resistance. Amazon is a great starting point for India, but make it just that. A starting point.

Amazon can play a key role in your path to becoming a truly global bestselling author, but it won’t do it on its own. Period.

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

 Ebook Bargains UK

Far more than just an ebook promo newsletter.

Far more than just the UK.

Amazon Prime In India By End Of The Year?

DiversifyIn2015

Nothing official, but it seems Amazon is sizing up the prospects for launching Prime in India, with digital content streaming as a key attraction.

Film and music are being explored, in keeping with the current Prime offering, but of course a big boost to Prime’s appeal – in India as at home -would be to add ebook streaming.

Nothing will happen in India this side of summer, but we would expect Amazon to be pushing this venture to be live for the Indian festive season in the autumn.

Amazon is facing lots of local difficulties in India but is making progress despite. Shopping at Amazon is something of a status symbol for the lucky few who can afford to. One more example of eastern interest in western culture, that none of us should ignore.

Flipkart will remain the largest e-commerce player in India for a long while yet, and that goes for ebooks too. Remember, you can get into Flipkart through Smashwords with no up-front costs.

But anyone thinking the Indian ebook market is a two-dog fight needs to think again. Apple still aren’t there, and Kobo totally dropped the ball with this one, with a token presence that does no-one any favours.

But Google Play are there and making good ground. We expect Google Play to become the dominant ebook service in India in the not too distant future thanks to a combination of brand recognition, availability on Android devices, and carrier billing.

Landmark’s experiment with ebooks was short-lived, for reasons not yet clear, and players like Infibeam and Crossword are never going to amount to much.

But keep an eye on the magazine turned ebook purveyors like Rockstand, Newshunt and Magzter, all growing in importance as India goes mobile.

What we would love to see is the big western aggregators like Smashwords and Draft2Digital team up with these three, but as yet no sign. British aggregator Ebook Partnership do supply Magzter, and are looking at Rockstand and Newshunt, but that’s not a cost-effective option unless you plan to use EP’s wider distribution network.

Looking at the wider region, expect Pakistan, Bangladesh, Burma, Bhutan and Sri Lanka to open up to ebooks this year, with Google Play leading the way.

Ebook Bargains UK

Far more than just an ebook promo newsletter.

Far more than just the UK.

India’s Fast-Growing Ebook Market Is About To Become A Lot More Lucrative For Indie Authors – If You Are On Google Play.

Go Global In 2014
The Kindle India store is, unquestionably, the easiest option for indie authors to gain access to the burgeoning Indian ebook market. But it’s by no means the most effective.

As reported before, Amazon does not allow local currency payments on many items, and does not accept local payment methods for most.

India may have just put a spacecraft in orbit around Mars, and it may have a bigger smartphone market than the USA, but it is also a land of desperate poverty, where most of the population have no access to the credit cards Amazon expects to be paid by.

Countless millions of Indian consumers now have a device in their hand that could have your ebooks on, and yes, the Kindle app is free, but if you cannot pay for the ebooks in the Kindle store, why bother? Go to another retailer, like Flipkart, that understands customers living in India and buying products in India want to pay in Indian currency with local Indian payment methods.

Flipkart is currently the e-commerce titan of India, with an estimated eighty percent market share. It recently raised $1bn in a funding round to expand further.

Enter Amazon.

Days before the Flipkart funding was announced Jeff Bezos had laid out Amazon’s plans for India, with investment in new warehouses, etc.  Then Flipkart announced the new $1bn extra funding.

Not to be outdone, Jeff Bezos was there the next day saying he would be investing $2bn. No mention of this days earlier in the announcement on Amazon India. Bezos just magicked two billion dollars out of the air to play one-upmanship with a rival store.

Which is fine if the company has money to throw around. But this is a company that, on its own guidance, is about to report a half billion dollar loss for just one quarter!

No surprise then that just weeks after Bezos publicly stated he would throw another $2bn into India Amazon went cap in hand to Bank of America to borrow, wait for it… $2bn. Two billion to add to the already heavy debt Amazon is carrying. (LINK)

No surprise either that the news was snuck out after business hours on a Friday…

But let’s get back to India. Because weeks after saying he would splash the cash on the subcontinent Bezos hit another hurdle. Actually, make that an obstacle course.

India’s authorities clamped down first on western companies (not just Amazon, let’s be clear, but also Google, eBay, etc) not using local payment processing and to stop them demanding payment in US dollars.

This amid a wider investigation into Amazon’s conduct in the country, amid widespread reports that Amazon wasn’t playing by the rules.

Then as September drew to a close the Indian authorities stepped up their investigation. The Enforcement Directorate has issued orders to over 100 Indian business telling them to stop using Amazon to store goods in Amazon Fulfillment warehouses. (LINK)

In response Amazon warned it may now have to close some warehouses on the sub-continent, but casually explained it was all India’s fault.

“We understand this to be a case where the laws have not kept pace with the new-age online business models,” Amazon said.

So that’s alright then. Who cares about a country’s laws when they conflict with Amazon’s business model…

Google, on the other hand, has responded to the Indian authorities’ concerns in typical fashion: glocalization.

It’s not signed, sealed and delivered yet but Google is about to ink a deal with India’s biggest telecom operator Aircel to allow carrier billing for its products bought through the Google Play India store. (LINK)

For those unfamiliar carrier billing is simply where anything you buy online is added to your phone bill or deducted from your phone credit. No need to have a bank account or credit/debit card, or to share those details with the seller.

It’s a bitter irony that Amazon should be criticizing India for failing to keep up with new-age on-line business models when Amazon is still stuck in the last century when it comes to payments options on its own sites.

America is way behind the rest of the developed world in still using credit cards as the norm, and even at home that poses a problem for online retailers as many millions of Americans are without banking facilities thanks to credit checks and similar conditions. Wal-Mart has just this past week stepped in to help solve that problem with its new Go Bank checking account.

But for the less-developed nations the ability to pay by credit/debit card is a luxury even fewer enjoy. Which seriously hinders the development of on-line retail around the globe.

Vietnam, for example, sees just 1% of financial transactions made by card. In the Philippines it’s just 5%. 12% in Thailand. 37% in Singapore. Not that indies in KDP Select need be concerned, as Amazon blocks downloads to these countries anyway. No, that’s not anti-Amazon, simply fact. Google Play is in all of them. Not pro-Google. Simply fact.

Even for key nations like the BRIC countries, which are the current focus of the western retailers’ attention, it’s not good news for those stores that can’t be bothered to glocalize.

Amazon is rumoured to be edging closer to a Kindle Russia store. Great news if true, but less than 40% of Russia’s urban young people use credit cards. For the general population the figure is negligible.

Amazon will find in Russia that, just as in India and Brazil, by refusing to glocalize it will hinder, not encourage, consumer interest.

In India credit card penetration is just 2%. Give the size of the population that’s no small number of people, but it effectively excludes 98% of the population from buying from the Amazon India store at all. And for those who do have cards they are likely to get lumbered with extra costs from currency exchange fees, etc, because many purchases can still only be made in US dollars.

The carrier-billing deal between Google Play and Airtel will mean every one of Airtel’s 40 million data users with a smartphone will be able to access anything in the Google Play store and have the payment taken from their cash-purchased Airtel credit top-up.

Easier than One-Click. Especially since Amazon doesn’t offer One-Click in India.

Google Play currently offers carrier-billing in 26 countries – almost half of the Google Play stores – and is actively working to reach more.

That said, Google Play is late to the game in India. We’ve mentioned before that the real ebook players in India are likely to be the upstart start-ups focussed on m-commerce, like Newshunt (LINK) and Rockstand (LINK).

Neither of these stores are currently easily accessible to indies, but keep an eye on them and jump in as soon as it happens. Or stick around and we’ll take a look at some “back door” options in future posts.

Newshunt, which of course offers carrier-billing for its readers in India, has seen over 4 million ebooks downloaded in the past six months, and almost all paid for with carrier-billing.

Given the Indian ebook market is barely off the starting grid, and there is so much competition, that’s an impressive initial foray, and a sure sign of things to come.

Not to mention a sure sign of which companies are in the running down the road.

Microsoft, for instance, is planning on offering carrier-billing in India in the near future for its Windows phone app.

Looking beyond the region briefly, Microsoft also has carrier-billing arrangements in the Middle East, and Google Play just introduced carrier-billing in the United Arab Emirates. As we’ve said before, Google Play is the only likely candidate for an easy-access western-retailer-operated Middle East ebook store. (LINK) Hopefully we’ll see that in 2015.

Rockstand too offers carrier-billing. More on both Newshunt and Rockstand below.

Amazon? Amazon famously keeps all its payments in-house, and while there’s little hope Amazon will offer carrier-billing in India any time soon, there are indications that the Amazon wall is, if not quite crumbling, then having a few gates reluctantly put in.

Offering carrier-billing for the Fire phone was unavoidable, of course, but lately Amazon has been very quietly signing up to a carrier-billing scheme in Germany of all places.

Amazon has joined with Bango and Deutschland Telefonica’s O2 mobile network to allow German buyers to pay for Amazon apps through their phone bill instead of paying Amazon direct. (LINK)

In fact Amazon initiated this over three years ago, but only now has taken the plunge, slowly facing up to the reality that carrier-billing is the only way the company can hope to maintain, let alone grow, market share in overseas markets.

The cost to Amazon is of course two-fold. First, revenue sharing with another party (but don’t worry, they’ll just tighten the screws on the content-providers all the more to make that up), and second because they won’t have the customer data. For these reasons carrier-billing will always be a last resort.

Across Europe, according to Jupiter Research, there are some 280 million adults who have no debit or credit card to pay on-line. (LINK) This is by no means just a Third World problem.

Amazon will have no choice soon but to look at carrier-billing in India, Brazil and Mexico, but at this stage it doesn’t appear to be on the agenda, leaving an open goal for Google Play among the western ebook retailers.

For the record, there are no Apple, ‘txtr or Nook ebook stores in India.

Kobo is there via W H Smith India (not that we indies are invited, so forget that) and Crossword (but only as a link to the Kobo localized store).

OverDrive are represented via Landmark (also the country’s biggest b&m book chain) and Infibeam.

Other options include Magzter and Pothi, and the aforementioned Flipkart, Newshunt and Rockstand, as well as a growing number of niche players.

We identified Newshunt and Rockstand above as ones to watch, so let’s end on those.

Newshunt is a mobile-only ebooks store that is run by Ver Se.

Newshunt has seen 50 million app installations, has 14 million active monthly users and gets over 1.5 billion monthly page views. More importantly it expects to have 200 million active monthly users within two years, as m-commerce takes off in India. (LINK)

Given India is expected to have 385 million smartphone users by 2017 (more than one for every man, woman, child and baby in the US) that kind of growth is probably conservative.

By 2020…

Make no mistake, India is a place all indie authors should have their focus on. And none should close their eyes to what a deal with a local publisher could bring to the table in terms of access and translation to India’s local languages (both Newshunt and Rockstand specialize in offering ebooks in multiple Indian languages).

As well as carrier-billing Newshunt also allows customers in India to pay using its proprietary payment option iPayy. No, nothing to do with Apple, because that’s not a typo.

What is it is one more way in which local ebook retailers on the subcontinent have the edge over the western giants trying to barge their way in, and one more reason why western indie authors wanting to share in the action need to look beyond the convenience of their home-grown distribution options.

Rockstand is owned by Handygo Technologies, and needless to say it offers carrier-billing – via three Indian telcos: Airtel, Vodafone India and Idea Cellular.

As with Newshunt, getting in isn’t easy for indies.

In March Rockstand signed a deal with Ingram for ebook content, but of course only a handful of indies are in the Ingram ebook catalogue in the first place.  (LINK) We’ve thus far been unable to determine if indie titles in Ingram are actually available among the 2 million ebook titles on Rockstand, but there’s no reason to suppose they are not.

We’ve said before and will say again, India, Indonesia and China are the most exciting prospects on the planet right now for indie authors willing to step outside their comfort zone.

The global ebook market is going to dwarf the US market many, many times over as it blossoms, and those who get an early foot in the door will have best chance to reap the rewards.

No, there will be no instant successes and no instant rewards.

But think about how hard it is now for new authors to gain traction in the US and UK markets. And how much harder it’s getting, by the day.

The nascent global markets aren’t quite open goals, but there are myriad opportunities for savvy authors to become big fish in small ponds overseas. And then to grow to be even bigger fish as the pond gets bigger.

No, it won’t be easy. Yes, it will take time, effort and probably some costs if you really want to make an impact.

So start small. Focus on one country – say, India – and get things in place, and then move on to the next. Build a readership base and then move your focus to the next country.

No-one can do it all at once. Don’t try.

But don’t take the path of least resistance. Amazon is a great starting point for India, but for all the reasons above it is not going to give you much reach in that country, and none at all across much of the globe.

Amazon can play a key role in your path to becoming a truly global bestselling author, but it won’t do it on its own. Period.

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

Ebook Bargains UK

Far more than just an ebook promo newsletter.

Far more than just the UK.

the BBC Is Now On Line. No, Not On-Line. On LINE!

Go Global In 2014

The BBC Is Now On Line.

No, not on-line. On LINE.

As in, Line, the Japanese messenger service we mentioned here a few days ago (LINK) as an ideal way to promote your ebooks in foreign lands.

In the past week the BBC has begun using Line to promote news in countries including India, the Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Germany, France, Italy and Spain.

In just said past week the BBC has already picked up over 80,000 followers. And yes, the BBC is messaging to all these countries is in English.

The BBC has also been using the hugely popular social media services WeChat and WhatsApp in India for nearly six months.

The BBC thinks these messaging and social media services are a great way to reach people overseas. So do we.

And for reasons explained in the previous post (linked above), your existing Facebook and twitter accounts are not best suited to finding readers in foreign lands.

The global ebook market is already bigger than most people imagine, and is growing by the day.  But we indies need to be willing to step outside our comfort zones if we want to be part of it.

Just like with selling ebooks back home, being there is unquestionably half the battle.

Letting readers know you are there is a big part of the other half.

Ebook Bargains UK

Far more than just an ebook promo newsletter.

Far more than just the UK.

Bookbaby Looks East – Why Indie Authors Should Too.

GoGlobalIn2014_500First, a quick word for those wondering where we’ve been lately. The blog has fallen behind partly because our main Features Writer has been lazing about pretending to be sick, but what really hurt us in April – and also disrupted the daily promo newsletters – was something quite beyond our control. Blackmail attempts by criminal gangs attacking the newsletter providers, demanding money in return for leaving them alone.

In mid-April we lost all access to Mailchimp’s design features for the daily newsletters. In desperation we switched to an alternative newsletter service, Get Response. Just as we were about to go live again, Get Response disappeared completely.

Criminals blackmailing cyber-companies is sadly a reality. Many prefer the public not to know about it. Get Response were more open. You can read their statement here, including the blackmailer’s demands.

Okay, excuses over. Time to put April behind us. But it was a busy month on the global ebook scene, so we can’t just ignore it. So, at risk of a rather long post this time we’ve strung together some of the many smaller items that would have gone out last month, updated with the very latest news.

~

We were saying last year that the ebook world of 2014-16 will be as different from 2013 as 2013 was from 2009. So with the first quarter of 2014 behind us, just how is 2024-16 shaping up?

Bookbaby now delivers to Oyster.

Mark Coker’s Smashwords came under pressure yet again in April as rival aggregator Bookbaby added Oyster to its already impressive distribution range.

Oyster is the second largest ebook subscription service in the US, after Scribd. Some observers count Amazon Prime’s one free ebook a month as a subscription service, but of course no-one is signing up to Prime for the free ebook, so no real comparison). At the moment Oyster only supports Apple devices, but word is Oyster will be expanding to Android soon.

As we’ve reported elsewhere, Scribd is doing rather well, with over 300,000 titles, and at the time of this post there is a free three-month subscription on offer. Try it out!

Scribd have also just issued an infographic showing where their readers are, what they are reading, how much they read and even how fast! The infographic doesn’t have much detail, but even from this brief glimpse we see signs of international reach the big retailers can only dream of, ranging across the continents from Uruguay to Nigeria to Indonesia. Scribd still needs to address its payments options (see below) but is potentially the biggest global player out there. Already more than fifty per cent of Scribd subscribers are outside the US.

Smashwords led the way giving indie authors access to Scribd’s subscribers, but Bookbaby soon followed suit. Bookbaby also now has a free-to-upload option, where they take a percentage of sales like Smashwords, so no up-front costs. For indie authors who eschew Smashwords for whatever reason (many do, for many reasons – we’ll be taking a close look at the good, the bad and the ugly of Smashwords soon) Bookbaby can now get you into both Scribd and Oyster. Indies now have an excellent opportunity to grow their readership as the ebook subscription services grow, not just in the US but internationally.

Inkbok’s subscription service went live at the end of March, and Entitle have just brought down their price and upped the number of books you can read each month. There are a good few other options readers can choose from, including specialist children’s subscription ebook services like Epic! and iStoryTime. Sadly most are not indie-friendly right now. But watch this space…

Just as we were about to post this the following headline went live over at The Digital Reader: Publishers Are Signing Up With Subscription Services In Droves. Nate thinks 2014 will be the year of the ebook subscription service. Us? Well, we were saying ebook subscription services are the new black back in January.

As we’ve reported elsewhere, ebook subscription services have been popular in Europe and Latin America for some years now, and just as US-based operators like Scribd, Amazon, Google Play et al are sending ebooks out across the globe, so international retailers and ebook subscription services are eyeing the American market.

Israel’s subscription service Total Boox, for example, is providing ebooks to American libraries. Both the Latin American ebook retailer BajalLibros and the German operator ‘txtr have dedicated US ebook stores. Brazil’s Movile, which is now getting into children’s ebooks, has operations in 26 countries including the US and Australia.

It’s important to understand ebook distribution is not a one-way street, and while it may seem like America is the centre of the digital universe, don’t be too sure.

As market fragmentation accelerates so more and more overseas players will target the key western markets like the US, UK and Germany. Expect Chinese, Indonesian and other operators to be offering ebooks where you live in the not too distant future.

Not convinced? Smartphones and tablets are proliferating globally at an incredible rate. To take but one example, China’s Xiaomi (which beat Amazon to having a stream-to-TV set-top box by a year) are delivering affordable smartphones across the globe. This year Xiaomi will be shipping smartphones to Brazil. Turkey, Russia, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia and India.

In November 2013 Xiaomi launched its own ebook store in China. Once the infrastructure is in place – and there’s no reason why the Xiamoi ebook app can’t come pre-installed on all these devices – it’s a small step to start looking around for local content. As said above, expect Chinese operators to be offering ebooks in your homeland in the not too distant future.

Plenty of Far East players are already getting devices into the US markets. Go to any smartphone and tablet price comparison site – or even look on Amazon – and you’ll find unpronounceable cheap devices ($100 and lower) alongside the big names we all know and love.

The tech geeks will tell you nobody would touch these with a barge pole. But here’s the thing. Most people aren’t tech geeks. They just want affordable devices that do the job. Fact: In America Amazon’s KindleFire market share fell last year – thanks to cheap Chinese tablets flooding the US market.

To put things further into context, check out this chart over at The Digital Reader. Apple accounted for 40% of tablets shipped in the last quarter. That’s 19 million units. Samsung 17% – 8 million units. Asus and Lenova are at third and fourth place, but what’s really significant is that “Others” – sixth place and below – comprising small players most of us will never have heard of, accounted for 31% of US shipments, or 15 million units.

The KindleFire, since you ask, only comes in at fifth, having seen shipments fall off a cliff in the first quarter, down from 5.5 million to just 1 million units.

When it comes to eastern penetration into western markets we expected the South Korean colossus Samsung would be leading the way, but the Samsung ebook store seems to be permanently in beta, and given Amazon has recently teamed up with Samsung to have the Kindle app pre-installed on Samsung devices it’s unclear where Samsung is going with ebooks.

Japan’s Sony has of course been there, got the t-shirt and found it didn’t fit. Sony have just pulled out of North America, but remember it still has ebook stores in Europe and Australia, and Sony Reader Store UK has been running some great promotions this year.

As we’ve reported before, apps for ebook stores like Blio come pre-installed on many smartphones and tablets. We understand Blio is a feature on many devices sold in India. No data handy on how Blio are doing, but in April the Aldiko ebook reader app (complete with Aldiko ebook store) surpassed twenty million downloads.

That might be small beer compared to Kindle app downloads, but multiply these numbers across the countless less well known apps out there on those even more countless tablets and smartphones nobody’s ever heard of but that are still selling, – many of which are available in places where the apps of Amazon, Apple et al are redundant –  and these “obscure” apps matter.

Many of these apps will originate in the east, not the west. Indonesian app-based stores like Scoop are already heading west and targeting the lucrative India market, which brings us neatly to Flipkart.

Bookbaby now delivers to Flipkart.

It seemed Smashwords had an exclusive on their hands last year when they began delivering indie titles to India’s Flipkart, but not satisfied with joining Smashwords in Scribd and Oyster, Bookbaby now delivers to Flipkart too.

This is great news for all indies, not just those who were excluded from Flipkart because they chose not to use Smashwords. Bookbaby’s entry into the Indian ebook market will bring a further flush of low-priced titles to India’s biggest ebook-store, helping breed interest in digital reading among the subcontinent’s vast population.

For indie authors Flipkart is their second entry-point into the Indian ebook market. Amazon of course is the first, and far too often only point of access, but there are others to clamber on board with. We’re seeing increasing numbers of indie titles in Flipkart’s rival online store Infibeam, and with the revamped Landmark website now live (Landmark has actually been selling ebooks since 2012) many indies are now in the Landmark ebook store.

Flipkart is by far the biggest on-line retailer in India and by far the biggest ebook store. Bookbaby puts Flipkart’s ebook market share at a staggering 80%. We’re not totally convinced by that (our understanding is Flipkart has 80% of the overall online market, not specifically the ebook market).

At the London Book Fair in April Nielsen’s Andre Breedt was explaining how things are shaping up, using a “Wheel of Global Consumer Confidence” to show just how the international book and ebook markets are being transformed. India came in at third place. Regulars here at the EBUK blog perhaps won’t be too surprised to learn that the top two countries were Indonesia and the Philippines.

In Breedt’s words: “India has shown huge growth. You can divide the Indian market into two areas, the “organized” and what you might call the “disorganized.” And in fact, the disorganized is growing even faster. Among retailers, Flipkart is an interesting online player. They’re very successful, with an unusual model in which you order the book and pay the delivery man in cash. Amazon are by no means dominant in India.”

Read that last sentence twice. If you want to make an impact in India, the world’s second largest English-language country, you need to be available where the readers are buying.

Where might that be? Well, there’s no Apple India store, leaving Amazon to fight for runners-up with Google Play, Kobo and the local retailers, of which there are several. As well as the aforementioned Infibeam and Landmark, other Indian ebook stores include Aircel’s Bookmate, W H Smith India, and Crossword (the latter two are Kobo partners stores). Then there’s the smaller stores like iMusti, which added ebooks to its digital collection in December, and Swftboox, although they concentrate on local talent.

And not forgetting two relative newcomers to the ebook scene that we predict will dwarf the others in the not too distant future: Newshunt and Rockstand. Newshunt and Rockstand already have seriously formidable customer bases from their news and magazine subscribers, so are off to a great start.

Back in January we mentioned the possibility that Magzter might get into ebooks. It’s happened. Magzter’s president Vijay Radhakrishnan told EBUK in April that Magzter now has the first slew of ebooks on its app, with several thousand more being added. We love Magzter’s global vision and are hoping Vijay will find time shortly to give us an in-depth interview about Magzter’s e-magazine and ebooks aspirations.

Meanwhile, here’s an indicator. Magzter recently entered the India market with its digital magazines, already has a six-million strong user base there and is seeing 35,000 downloads a day. More interestingly Magzter earlier this month signed a deal with Groupon India to sell even more e-magazines.

One quick thought on Groupon. Groupon can be used to sell ebooks. And not just in India. We’re not aware of any indie authors who have done this, but if anyone has, do let us know.

If you still need evidence that India is the place to be right now, consider Encyclopedia Britannica, in the news in April for calling time on the print edition of the famous 32-volume set. With time and resources on their hands they turn to… ebooks in India. They’ve teamed up with Indian children’s publisher Kathca to turn some 300 print titles, translated from over twenty local languages, into ebooks.

Card payments – how western retailers are stifling international growth.

Indie authors should also bear in mind that readers in India can buy from US stores like Smashwords, All-Romance/Omni-Lit and Scribd, and from European stores like ‘txtr international, which do not have territorial restrictions on downloads or payments.

That said, payments remain a big issue for western operators like Amazon and Kobo wanting to gain traction in places like India and the Far East. We’ve covered before the many hoops buyers in Indian need to jump through to buy from Kindle India because Amazon only accept internationally enabled cards and do not accept local currency on many items they sell in the Amazon India store, meaning extra charges for dollar payments.

Compare Landmark and Flipkart which sell print books and ebooks among many other products, and offers free delivery and a range of local payment options including COD. Flipkart is also prepping its own payments wallet, Payzippy.

Across Asia carrier-billing (whereby your purchases are added to your monthly ISP charge) is common, and a key reason Google Play is so popular in Japan. A fine example of the “glocalization” we often talk about here.

In countries like Indonesia and Vietnam credit cards account for just 1% of transactions. Across the region Singapore peaks at just 37% and Thailand at 12%. The Philippines just 5%. For companies like Amazon with a twentieth century fixation with card payments the region holds little hope for the future.

As m-commerce (online purchases via smartphones and tablets) accelerates in SE Asia options like carrier billing, Smart, GCash and Alipay (see below) are essential for any operators wanting to get a decent share of the developing world’s digital markets. And not forgetting over the counter cash payments. MolPay, a big Malaysian payments operator, has just rolled out MolPay Cash allowing Malaysians to pay for their online purchases at the local 7-11.

~

But enough of payments. Let’s get back to India, and selling.

For those of you who believe FB and twitter can boost ebook sales, targeting the international markets like India is eminently sensible. If you’re wondering if India has enough Facebook users to make it worth the effort, try 100 million for size. Yes, as of April India has over one hundred million active Facebook users.

What’s more, 84% access Facebook on mobile devices which could potentially have your ebooks on!

Incidentally there’s a ton of other social media platforms in India. One is called WhatsApp. It hit 48 million active users in April. And over half of those – 25 million – have signed up in just the past six months! WhatsApp is actually owned by Facebook.

Okay, one final India statistic to savour. Some time this year India is expected to reach the milestone of a quarter billion internet users. And most of those will be on ebook-friendly mobile devices.

We’ll be taking a closer look at social media platforms in India and across Asia in another post. Here just to say while our familiar favourites like Facebook and twitter are big across Asia there are “local” social media platforms like WeChat and Ten Cent which are even bigger.

China’s twitter rival Sina Weibo claimed 148 million active users in March. WeChat in China has 350 million active users each month. That’s more than the entire population of the USA!

Sounds impressive until you consider that Tencent has 800 million active monthly users. At one point in April Tencent had an incredible 200 million users online at the same time!

Imagine. If you could tempt just half of one per cent of those 200 million simultaneous Tencent users to buy your ebook you’d have made 100,000 sales!

Okay, that’s not gonna happen, obviously. But our point is, the online world beyond the US-UK axis we all know and love is way, way, way bigger than anything we’ve seen so far. And it’s just beginning.

Would you believe Vietnam is Apple’s fastest growing market? And that the number of Facebook users in Vietnam is increasing at the rate of one million a month?

It probably won’t surprise you by now to learn China Mobile is the world’s biggest telco. It may surprise you just how big. China Mobile alone has over one billion subscribers!

Over 40% of the world’s current internet users are in Asia. Online shopping in Asia will exceed half a trillion dollars this year.

These numbers may seem astronomical now, but it’s just the tip of the iceberg. Most of the world isn’t online yet!

Mobile commerce is still in its infancy, but its reach is already global in a way no form of commerce has ever been before. And as delivery, consumption and payment-processing technology advances there is no corner of the earth that won’t have access to digital content. Will yours be part of it?

Don’t get hung up on what you know and feel at home with. If you want to be a globally acknowledged ebook author you need to step outside your comfort zone and go to where your prospective readers are. The potential rewards are staggering.

Promoting ebooks in India? Do it in the afternoon. Their afternoon.

Stepping outside your comfort zone might be something as simple as tweeting links to more than one retailer. Or it might be something as simple as tweeting at the right time of day.

We Brits have problem enough making sense of America’s time zones, but for global SMP you need to keep a close eye on the world clock. To find out what time it is in India (or any other country) try this great little site.

Obviously if you’re tweeting to the Indian market there’s no point in sending out your tweets in the middle of their night. But you can further improve your twitter efficiency by tweeting on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday afternoons (their time), which is when most Indians shop online. It seems noon ‘til 3pm-4pm is best for Amazon India and Flipkart. Curious eBay India gets the heavy traffic between 3pm and 6pm. Bear that in mind when eBay finally gets on board with ebooks, as it surely will.

Weekends, it transpires, are the quiet times for online shopping, when buyers prefer to go to the big stores in person. The weekdays of course reflect India’s current online dominance by office desktop computers.

This is an important point for all international markets, and one we indie authors need to grasp, because it directly impacts on our future sales.

The New Renaissance.

For most of the world getting online is not easy. Most people in most countries do not have home computers. What we in the west take for granted are still unimaginable luxuries elsewhere. Not only is a desktop hugely expensive, but it needs a reliable mains power supply. Laptops perhaps a little less so, but still off limits to most people.

Feature phones (which can read very basic ebook files) are hugely popular in many parts of the world. Nokia is the biggest brand in the Philippines and in many other countries thanks to its feature phones, but it’s noteworthy that as smartphones begin to impact most Filippinos intend to buy cheaper domestic smartphones rather than the big-name brands. We’ll be watching with interest to see which, if any, ereader apps come pre-installed.

The point is, smartphones, tablets and phablets are taking over from feature phones everywhere. And that change everything. For us in the West mobiles are just one more addition to our already luxurious lifestyles. To people in the developing world they are life-changing devices often making available for the first time the delights of cyberspace we westerners can’t imagine life without. Portable, quickly and easily recharged, and able to do pretty much everything a clunky old desktop could do, and much, much more.

As we’ve reported before, India has basic tablets like the Aakash selling for silly money, and cheap smartphones are everywhere too. They may not have all the fancy extras of your latest i-Device, but they can manage all the basic functions, including reading ebooks and listening to audio books.

Having said that, the next tier up is a raft of cheap but very powerful smartphones and tablets that are being bought up by Indians as fast as the Chinese manufacturers can deliver them. Here’s food for thought. The Indian smartphone market is expected to exceed the size of the US smartphone market this year.

It’s hard to overstate the significance of these developments for authors and publishers, and why indie authors especially should be excited by this. We’ll be looking at the phenomenon we call the New Renaissance in depth soon, but here just to summarise:

In the West ebooks, while not quite replacing print, could not be said to be bringing many new readers to the table. New titles, no question, but not so much new readers.

In the developing world it’s very different. In developing and “Third World” countries where print books are largely unavailable or unaffordable, mobile technology is expanding existing markets and opening up vast new markets hitherto un-mined by booksellers and publishers because of the logistics of print production and distribution.

Already in Asia 67% of all books are purchased online. As more and more people get internet access to buy online so book purchases will soar. But that’s only an option if you can afford the deliver fees on top of the list price. And if you have a delivery address. Many parts of the world don’t even have street names and house numbers, let alone a postal system.

But they don’t need one with digital.

Not just in India, but across eastern Europe, Latin America, the Middle East, Asia and Africa publishing markets are being revitalized, reinvigorated and in many instances created where no market previously existed.

As this UNESCO report shows, ebooks are helping boost literacy in many developing countries. UNESCO surveyed seven countries – Ethiopia, Ghana, India, Kenya, Nigeria, Pakistan and Zimbabwe – and found more and more people are reading ebooks on feature phones.

Most significantly, the UNESCO survey shows the biggest hindrance to people in the developing world reading on phones is not the cost of mobile devices, the cost of mobile use or even connectivity.

The single biggest obstacle to ebook reading in the developing world is the limited content available.

So as smartphones, tablets and phablets take hold in these countries don’t expect too many extra sales in the near future. With the exception of India all these countries are ignored by the western retailers right now.

No speaka da forrin lingo? Nada problem.

But let’s return to India. We mentioned e-magazines above. This link will give you some idea of what’s on offer. Go on, have a poke around on the Groupon India site and check out just how many books and magazines are in English.

For those of us who won’t be having our titles translated into India’s myriad languages (Hindi, Gujarati, Bengali, Marathi, Kannada, Malayalam, Oriya, Sanskrit, Telegu, Urdu, Manipuri and Punjabi to name but a handful), it’s worth keeping in mind India is the world’s second largest anglophone market after the US, with an estimated 150 million people speaking English.

But if you’re guessing the UK is next, think again. Nigeria and the Philippines both have more English speakers than the UK has people, coming in at fourth and fifth place, with Britain only sixth in the anglophone rankings.

Sadly Nigeria is not on the radar of any of the big western ebook retailers right now. Our guess is Google Play will be the one that does go there, eventually. This year? We’d love to see it happen, but don’t hold your breath.

Bizarrely Amazon and Apple aren’t in the Philippines either. Both these ebook giants limit their Asian interest to India and Japan (and China, but not with any significant ebook presence there), leaving vast tracts of Asia off-limits. Kobo is the biggest ebook player in the Philippines, thanks to a flagship partnership with the National Book Store, which is also the Philippines’ biggest bricks and mortar book chain.

For indie authors wanting a token presence in SE Asia try Bookbaby, as they distribute to the Malaysian ebook store eSentral. The eSentral team in turn gets ebooks into the hands of readers not just in Malaysia but also in the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia.

But eSentral is a small player. Potentially much bigger, but still new to the region, is Google Play, commanding a growing share of the ebook market not just in Japan and the Philippines but also in Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Taiwan, South Korea and Vietnam.

Local competition is fierce. The Thai ebook giant Ookbee (85% of the Thailand market) opened a Philippines store in December. Ookbee also has stores in Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam, and just this month reported substantial new investment from Japan to expand further. Ookbee is also an example of an ebook store expanding beyond ebooks. They’ve just launched their own social gaming platform.

Other key operators include Indonesia’s Scoop, which we’ve reported on before. Then there are smaller domestic retailers across the region, like Dtac ReadEver and Flipreads.

Moving up towards Japan, now and at the tail end of 2014 the Japanese ebook store Fantasista joined with Japanese ebook operator mixPaper to launch what is believed to be the first ebook store on Facebook. Nate at The Digital Reader reports mixPaper for Facebook is currently only in Japanese but will be adding English this year.

In December 2013 Japan added another ebook innovation to its credit with the launch of the Nintendo 3DS ebook store and reading app.

And don’t forget Kobo, which began Canadian but is now opened by the Japanese retail giant Rakuten.

Okay, we’ve said some harsh words about Kobo recently. But Kobo has the potential to surprise us all. Westerners may not realize it but Rakuten is a significant player in Asia (and elsewhere, but let’s stick with Asia here). Take but one example – Rakuten Tarad. You may never have heard of it but if you live in Thailand it will be familiar. Rakuten’s Thai operation has seen growth of eighty per cent this year already, and almost all m-commerce (mobile device) driven.

It’s just a matter of time before Rakuten starts integrating Kobo’s ebook stores into its online retail infrastructure. Our guess is the new guy in charge at Kobo is looking at exactly that.

But to wind up today let’s go back to that list of top English-speaking nations. Those of you keeping count will remember that the USA and India held the top two places, with the Philippines, Nigeria and the UK at four, five and six.

Number three? India’s neighbor Pakistan, no less, with upwards of 90 million English speakers.

Now Pakistan may not be your first, second or even forty-ninth thought as a place to sell ebooks, and you’d be right. Ebooks are still very much unknown in this colourful country. The few that are being read will be on feature phones. But that will soon be changing. Very soon.

In April Pakistan auctioned three 3G and two 4G licenses enabling Pakistan telecom operators to roll out serious internet connectivity at last.

Pakistanis are no strangers to mobiles – there are a 133 million subscribers to the current 2G network – but broadband reaches only about 3 million people. By 2020 that figure is expected to be around 45 million, and it goes without saying most of that expansion will be smartphone and tablet driven. That’s 45 million people in Pakistan who will have an ebook-friendly device in their hands for the first time.

In fact smartphone sales are expected to exceed half a million per month over the coming year as Pakistanis embrace the new digital opportunities. And needless to say tech firms are already busily preparing for this exciting new market.

But there’s absolutely no indication that any of the big western ebook retailers are looking at Pakistan right now. We can safely rule out Amazon and Apple for the foreseeable future, leaving Kobo and Google Play as the only plausible contenders from our part of the world.

But you can bet your last dollar/pound/euro/bitcoin that S.E. Asian operators are already making arrangements to enter the Pakistan ebook market.

Go East, Young Man.

As we approach the second half of the second decade of the twenty-first century be warned. The centre of gravity in the digital markets is shifting away from America and towards the east.

As a cautionary tale, keep an eye out for Alibaba. You may think Alibaba is just an oriental folk story, but in China and much of the Far East when people think Alibaba they think a giant Chinese company selling online, with big designs on the wider world. We’ll be looking at the exciting Chinese market more closely in the near future.

For now, just ponder this: Alibaba is already bigger than Amazon and eBay combined. It has its own online payments system Alipay (technically separate due to Chinese regulations), which recent reports suggest is three times bigger than Paypal and Square together, and Alipay has just tied up with Kobo’s owners Rakuten. Alipay also provides payments options to merchants in the USA.

No, Alibaba is not selling ebooks. Yet. But in April it got into video-streaming. Alibaba already has its own TV set-box and even its own Smart TV OS. Can ebooks be far behind?

A final thought on the titan that is Alibaba. Alibaba is about to launch in the US financial markets. “Bankers and analysts say Alibaba’s IPO could raise more than $15 billion, possibly surpassing Facebook’s 2012 market debut as the largest technology IPO in U.S. history.”

Savvy indies will be keeping a close eye on developments in the orient and laying the foundations now to reap rewards later.

That means not just making sure you’ve a presence in the east through the easy-access western players like Kobo and Google Play, but also climbing onboard with the new generation of cyber-retailers emerging in India, SE Asia and the Far East.

Go Global In 2014.

 Ebook Bargains UK

Far more than just an ebook promo newsletter.

Far more than just the UK.