English-language e-books in non-traditional markets have become big business but publishers need to throw off the shackles of established business models to fully exploit the global marketplace.
These were the messages greeting delegates at the two pre-Frankfurt Book Fair digital conferences, Publishers Launch and Tools of Change (TOC).
At Publishers Launch, Amazon and Kobo stressed that the ability to sell English-language e-books in markets where the first language was not English was a growing business. David Naggar, Amazon vice-president Kindle content, refused to give absolute numbers but said publishers were selling "millions of units" in non-traditional markets. Sales this year are more than double 2010 and more than five times 2009.
Michael Tamblyn, vice-president content, sales and merchandising at Kobo, said Kobo's English-language e-book business outside the US, UK, Canada and Australia was up 300% in 2011 with South Africa up 432% and Sweden up 359%. Tamblyn said: "Sales of English into non-English markets is big business."
Stephen Page, Faber c.e.o., told delegates: "We've sold e-books in 20 countries where Faber, an 85-year-old company, had never sold books before."
E-book sales from Spanish, German and Italian publishers were also growing in the US, via Barnes & Noble and Amazon.
At TOC publishers were exhorted to cast off the remaining barriers to letting content flow freely across the globe. Twist Image president Mitch Joel said publishers were going into the digital world the same way marketeers did, "kicking and screaming", whereas they should be saying "wow".
"You can sell books to anyone anywhere and you are fighting it. Is that normal?" he said.