With the clear dominance of Amazon and Kindle in the ebook market, and particularly in its almost ever presence in social media mentions, there is a natural assumption that this is a worldwide phenomenon and that ergo, ebooks and self publishing must equal Kindle. However in my judgement, this is just simply not true.
The popularity of the Kindle as a reading device is predominantly in the United States. Where I live in Europe, and I have heard the same from my UK friends, the Kindle is a rarely seen device. Amongst my own friends and family, both in Switzerland and Australia, not a single person I know owns a Kindle. While waiting in airports in Europe, I have hardly ever seen anyone reading with a Kindle.
On the occasions I have shown my Kindle to my French speaking friends, they usually have the same reaction. Total disinterest. Their reasons are quite logical though. Firstly, there is still a preference for books in Europe so ebooks are struggling for acceptance. Secondly though is that they think the Kindle, in any of its forms, looks and feels cheap and it really doesn’t do much.
But, if I started writing this piece all over again and talked about the Apple iPad, it is a totally different story. All of my friends and family have an iPad. All of my French speaking friends too, and they occasionally read ebooks with it. I see almost one person in ten using an iPad while I wait at the airport. The rest have an iPhone or Android. I see people on trains reading on iPads and iPhones – and, perhaps ebooks in French and German as well as English.
So because of this, I know why self publishing is not simply Kindle publishing. Sure, it’s one important publishing platform, but one that’s basically limited to a US centric readership. The rest of the world is equipped and ready to read, (and buy) but not with a Kindle.
Smart self publishers know this and are publishing on a number of platforms and online retailers already. The next stage of growth in ebook sales will come from markets other than the US, and it will not be driven by dedicated e-reading devices, but by fully functional tablets and smartphones that also serve as a multi platform ebook reader and allow ebook buying choice.
With a Kindle, you get Kindle, and for those users outside the US, you also get ripped off with Amazon’s ‘Free International Delivery Charge‘ of up to $2.00 per book. With a tablet, you can buy the same book from a range of retailers, without the rip off fee, and also probably DRM free, so you can use a purchased ebook on almost any device and safely back up and store your library. You can even lend it to a friend.
But are there enough readers outside the US who read in English?
As a result of a marketing experiment I have been working on using Bittorent, the following graphic shows the geographical location of over 20,000 downloads of one of my free ebooks over the last few weeks. The ebook was in .epub and .mobi format so it could be used on almost any e-reading device from smart phones to laptops. What this proves to me is that there are a lot of readers of English ebooks out there and that there is a market developing rapidly.
Readers are all potential buyers, and there are millions upon millions of them outside the US. As a self published author though, are your ebooks available for them, or are you only just a Kindle author?