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On a surface it sounds obvious. Sure, if I publish a book at Amazon and Amazon delivers Kindle devices and content to more than 100 countries, that means I have a worldwide distribution.
It’s obvious for English speaking authors, but it opens lots of possibilities for non-English authors. If I write in Spanish or Italian, I can also publish at Amazon, Smashwords, Scribd, Wattpad or any other site – and my book is available for download by anyone who speaks Spanish or Italian, no matter which country he lives.
A lack of barriers typical for a traditional, local-level book distribution is what makes digital self-publishers tremendously powerful. We should keep in mind that an e-book travels extremely fast. The reader knows that he can read it in less than a minute after clicking “buy this book” button. How much time does it take to ship a print book from USA to India?
Digital content is creating new opportunities and you can be really surprised when you discover what is the biggest market for your book. Example: my book written in Polish is available at Feedbooks. Only 58% downloads come from Poland, and one of the top countries is… Algeria.
One angle of global thinking is selling books beyond geographical borders. But there is also another perspective. Once you publish a book, you’re distributed on a massive scale, being offered by huge online stores. Amazon is one example, but let’s focus on Smashwords for a while.
This excellent platform offers a functionality, which I call “auto-publishing”. The service signed contracts with Barnes&Noble, Sony eBookstore, Diesel, Kobo and iBookstore. You can publish a book once, at Smashwords, and it will be distributed by all those e-bookstores. Other multi-channel self-publishing platforms worth checking are Fast Pencil and Narcissus, with a latter one being a very good option for European authors.
The major barrier of going truly global is not a location, though. It’s communication. How to talk about a book to somebody who doesn’t speak either your language or English?
I’d like to point out to one tool, which is going to have a growing importance in publishing. It’s Google Translate (and similar tools). Nowadays it’s being used mainly for working translations. The reason is obvious – poor, or almost ridiculous, quality.
There is a growing number of sites, however, where it’s used officially. One of the examples is Paulo Coelho’s blog. On one side the writer should not use such an unprofessional tool as a translation script, on the other side: it’s great that a worldwide known writer wants to share his thoughts with as many readers of his books as possible.
As I’m dynamically using Google Translate in one of my literary projects and I see a potential there. The tool is improving very, very fast. I can easily imagine that one day it will become natural to use such tools to translate books or that a translation functionality will be added to e-reading devices and applications.