While the established American aggregators Smashwords, Draft2Digital, Bookbaby, etc, maintain their focus on their domestic market, with token efforts towards the international marketplace, their European rivals are carving up the rest of the world between them, with Germany’s Bookwire, Hungary’s PublishDrive and Italy’s StreetLib leading the way.
Bookwire has a strong presence in Brazil, especially since acquiring DLD late last year.
But this week comes news on twitter that PublishDrive has a new team member, originally from Brazil, who will be helping PublishDrive’s efforts to get expand reach in Brazil and to bring Brazilian authors and publishers on board.
Also in the news this week, StreetLib have introduced two new Spanish-speaking members of the StreetLib “tribe,” who will be helping StreetLib expand into the fast-growing Ibero-America market.
That is, Spain, Latin America and the Spanish-speaking USA (the USA actually has more Spanish speakers than Spain!).
In the same Medium post StreetLib’s Anne-Catherine de Fombelle hinted at further global plans when she said she’d soon be,
looking for passionate people to join the adventure and help us expand into many new languages!
Then a StreetLib public-facing email newsletter elaborated further. Catherine de Fombelle, in her new role as Chief Globalization Officer, is
starting a StreetLib Tour (across )western Europe … in search of new country managers to open our services to new languages and new markets … We are moving our global efforts up a gear, and are willing to invest time and money to make sure our tools are available to every single person who wants to be a part of the book market.
Full disclosure here: The New Publishing Standard is published by Antonio Tombolini Editore, a sister company of StreetLib, which puts me in the advantageous position of getting StreetLib news pretty much as it happens.
But TNPS is not a StreetLib news bulletin and if I’ve missed any other related news items from other distributors it is because I haven’t seen any. To ensure full and fair coverage please make sure TNPS is on your press-release list (firstname.lastname@example.org).
At which point it’s worth taking a step back and looking at just where we are in the evolution of the Global New Renaissance.
Thus far we have all, understandably, been focused on the single biggest market, that by happy coincidence is also the easiest to access and uses the most widely spoken language on the planet.
That gave the US-based aggregators a great start in the early days, and there’s no question they still dominate the American indie author market, despite StreetLib and PublishDrive setting up US offices.
StreetLib of course reigns supreme in Italy, being the senior of the aggregator pack, predating Smashwords by some two years, while PublishDrive, a relative newcomer, is the biggest player in Hungary.
But as the US market approaches saturation, and as the centre of global publishing gravity shifts east, so the global book markets beyond the soft-target Anglophone markets of the US, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand become increasingly important to authors, to publishers, and to distributors.
And that coincides with a time when four of the Big 5 ebook retailers – Amazon, Apple, Nook and Google Play – have their global ambitions on hold, changing the game for global digital distribution.
We are, if you like, about to embark on a new stage in digital distribution.
Up until now the key driver for the aggregators has been the Big 5 retailers. Deliver content to those, and then look around for other areas to expand into.
And of course it has worked wonderfully for all concerned. Well, most. Pronoun famously just closed this month, and for my money Pronoun’s big mistake was to tie itself so closely to Amazon and the other Big 5 retailers and totally disregard the emerging markets.
That was a sound move ten or even five year ago, but not in 2015 when Pronoun came to the scene. PublishDrive isn’t much older, but hit the ground running with a global focus while Pronoun wallowed in the well-churned battlefield mud of the US.
As we kick off 2018, while the US-based aggregators make token moves towards the global markets, it is PublishDrive and StreetLib that are leading the way, along with Sweden’s Storytel in the audiobook sector.
The big question now is, where do these three go next?
The problem for the distributors, publishers and authors alike is that the “traditional model” of ebook distribution, whereby we sat back and waited for Amazon and co. to open stores and then delivered our content to a ready-made market, is drawing to a close.
Now it’s time for distributors to forge their own way, blaze new trails, and create new markets where the Big 5 retailers fear to tread.
The global book market is growing rapidly, and the global digital book market has potential way, way, way beyond anything we have seen in the US so far.
Forget the obsessive focus on the old analogue world, not because print is dead, but because paper distribution is expensive, inefficient and can only ever reach a limited market with a limited volume of content. It’s a simple matter of logistics.
Digital has, literally, global reach.
The volume of content potentially available is limited only by how fast content producers can create it.
Reach is limited by two key factors – how much effort is made to make the content available, and how much effort is made to be accessible (payment options being the primary obstacle to buyers where content is available).
And crucially it’s not a one-way street. As StreetLib, PublishDrive and Bookwire up their game in Latin America, for example, it’s not just about sending our First World western content to Brazil and Argentina, but about bringing Brazilian and Argentine content to the wider world, including the domestic markets we used to assume we had to ourselves.
Just look at how Japan’s Rakuten is pushing into North America, first with Kobo, then OverDrive and now the WalMart Kobo partnership. Just look at how China’s e-commerce titan Tencent is not just investing in the ebook scene in SE Asia but is knocking on our door with its investment in Canada’s Wattpad, while another Chinese giant, JD, has just invested heavily in Vietnam’s biggest ebook outfit.
Just a few examples of how the global digital book market, once considered the sole domain of North American operators, is becoming the playground of not just the European upstarts like StreetLib, PublishDrive and Storytel, but also Far East operators that a few years ago were being taken seriously by very few in the western publishing industry.