One E-Book World?

I’m still following the Frankfurt Book Fair reporting on TV. Tonight there was another mention of the indie publishing phenomenon on aspekte, a well respected cultural magazine program. This mention was shorter and a lot more negative than yesterday’s.

Basically, they compared the challenges facing the publishing industry in the wake of the rise of e-reading to the challenges facing the car industry in the wake of the rise of the hybrid car. Yes, it’s not a comparison I would have made either and frankly I suspect they only made it, so they could show a futuristic exhibition hall sponsored by Audi in the background (the book fair premises are used for all sorts of other events as well, including a big car show. Audi built a dedicated pavilion for the car show and now everybody else hosting anything on the premises is stuck with the thing).

Next, they said that authors publishing their works themselves without the benefit of a publisher was a “nightmare” for publishers. That was all they said about indie publishing, then they started talking about e-book piracy (again in the Audi pavilion – someone must really like that thing) and interviewed a couple of well-known writers, critics and other celebrities, all of whom stated how much they loved print books.

If you want to see for yourself, the video is online at the ZDF Mediathek. The e-publishing segment starts around 1:15.

Yesterday’s Book Fair edition of Das blaue Sofa is now online as well. The indie publishing segment starts around the 19 minute mark.

But now enough about Germany. Let’s take a look at the situation around the world. Because while reading and publishing e-books can sometimes be frustrating for those of us outside the US (geo restrictions, Barnes and Noble won’t even talk to us, Amazon won’t do electronic transfers if you don’t have a US bank account, etc…), the situation gets a lot worse if you happen to live outside Amazon‘s fourteen favoured countries.

I have already posted all of the following links on my main blog, but since this stuff is important, it deserves to be linked twice:

Filipino blogger and writer Charles Tan has a great essay about how publishing and bookselling favours the West, particularly the US/UK, and how access to books, whether print or digital, is a lot more difficult in many non-western countries.

Malaysian writer Kaz Augustin describes her experience with Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing from the POV of someone who does not live in one of Amazon’s favoured fourteen countries. Basically, she can’t even download the Kindle for PC software to check her own e-books for formatting errors. She also has a follow-up post about distributor diversity.

French writer Aliette de Bodard also tackles the issues facing authors, readers and media consumers in non-western and/or non-English speaking countries and how the outdated regionalist attitudes of publishers and copyright owners encourage piracy.

Writers from outside the US or UK have always had it more difficult breaking into traditional publishing, even if they write in English, as outlined in this post on my main blog which got quite a bit of attention at the time. The rise of indie publishing should have leveled the playing field for non-Anglo-American writers, so why do Amazon and to a larger degree Barnes and Noble keep up these entry barriers?

Of course, e-books were also supposed to improve access to books for readers around the world now that physical copies no longer need to be shipped. And indeed sales of English language e-books are exploding all around the world, which for some reason really seems to surprise the publishing industry.

E-publishing, whether indie or traditional, already is a global business, so it’s time to treat it like one.

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  1. Pingback: Laterne, Laterne | Cora Buhlert

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