A confirmed publisher deal indicates books will be part of the imminent Amazon Sweden launch, but the jury is still out on whether Kindle will be at the party. It’s been almost six years since Amazon last launched a Kindle store

This month Bonnier put an end to rumour and speculation and confirmed its ill-fated self-publishing platform Type & Tell, at one time in three countries, was to close its cyber doors, passing its customer base to another Swedish self-publishing platform, PubLit.

The news came a week before the first confirmation of Swedish publishers striking a deal with Amazon as it prepares its Sweden launch, expected before this year is out.

Svensk Bokhandel reports that Swedish publisher Piratförlaget is the first to officially announce a deal with Amazon as the undeclared Sweden launch date approaches.

Madeleine Lawass, Sales Manager at Piratförlaget, told Svensk Bokhandel,

We are finished and have agreed on what conditions we should have (adding they are) similar to the conditions we have for our other resellers, and we feel they are reasonable considering that this is a new partner that has not yet proven itself in the Swedish market. We have extremely good collaborations with, and care about, our Swedish online bookstores, so we do not want to offer Amazon better terms in any way.

Lawass revealed that negotiations began eighteen months ago when Amazon approached Piratförlaget via its subsidiary The Book Depository.

We’ve known for some while that The Book Depository was developing its interests in the Nordics region and Boktugg ran an interview with The Book Depository earlier this year confirming same.

It’s clear now that Amazon was using Book Depository data and contacts to sound out the market for a Books section for the Amazon Sweden launch, but as Lawass says about the Amazon negotiations, there were publishing culture differences to overcome.

It has been a long and drawn out process. There have been times when we have felt that we have been far apart, but then met. Amazon is not used to working towards the Swedish market and has a completely different way of thinking. We had to reformulate and redo the process, because what they were based on did not really work here.

Lawass was of course limited in what details she could reveal about the deal, and we do not know if ebooks and audiobooks were discussed.

Amazon’s Audible has been working with some publishers to put Swedish content in the system, but there is no indication a dedicated Audible Sweden or Audible Nordics launch is likely.

A Kindle store? Again we don’t know. The Last Kindle store was launched almost six years ago, in the Netherlands, and subsequent Amazon launches in Turkey, Singapore, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates offered neither audiobooks nor ebooks, and print books only via third-party sellers.

With confirmation that the first publishing deal has been struck it’s not unreasonable to speculate that we might finally see a new Kindle store. KDP and KEP (Kindle Direct Publishing for self-publishers and Kindle Enterprise Publishing for mainstream publishers) both support an array of Nordic languages for both ebook and print.

But after six years, let’s not hold our breath on this.

And let’s not suppose Bonnier’s divesting itself of the self-publishing platform Type & Tell is in any way connected to a possible Kindle store launch in Sweden.

Type & Tell has had a rocky ride since it was announced in 2015 and launched in Sweden the following year. It also launched in Finland in 2016.

In 2017 Type & Tell launched in the UK – a much bigger but also much more competitive market. It tapped just 500 clients before announcing it would close after just eight months.

Then in 2018 Bonnier dumped Type & Tell on its commercial arm Adlibris.

Adlibris Group CEO Johan Kleberg explained,

Self-publishing is something we’ve been watching for a while, as it’s a great way for writers to quickly and easily reach out to their readers. Type & Tell has one of the market’s most flexible solutions for this. We look forward to continuing to develop the offer, not least with closer links to Sweden’s largest sales channel for books. We also want to ensure a significantly cheaper offer for customers when it comes to getting the book printed.

But it was not to be. Three factors seem to be at play:

  • First is the size of the market. Sweden has a population of just 10 million, Finland half of that. Of course this is ample reach to run a mainstream publishing business, but not so much a self-publishing business, especially when in competition with rival players in the field. Just how many motivated self-publishing authors can there be in a market this size?
  • The second factor is the business model. Charging authors up-front to publish is sound to a degree, but the huge success of international self-publishing platforms like Kindle Direct Publishing, Kobo Writing Life, etc, and the indie-friendly distributors like Smashwords, Draft2Digital, StreetLib and (until it recently changed its model) PublishDrive has been down to offering a free-to-upload pay-as-you-earn model that removes the risk and motivates less-confident and less-cash-enabled authors to publish.
  • The third factor is reach. Authors who write in English and use the Anglophone self-publishing services have wide reach across dozens of English-speaking markets, including the US, UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland and India and beyond, selling directly on Amazon, Kobo and elsewhere. Swedish self-publishers had no comparable reach, and bizarrely Bonnier, which might have offered a platform at home through its various commercial arms, chose not to.

Now we learn that Type & Tell authors are being transferred to PubLit. An email from Type & Tell explained:

Unfortunately, we have to announce that Type & Tell will be discontinued. We are sorry that we can no longer offer you publishing through us. On September 30, we will shut down the service. We understand if you are worried about your published or started works and we will of course offer you a solution further.

PubLit will be having mixed feelings about the imminent Amazon launch. An Amazon Books section to sell POD titles across Sweden and a Kindle store to sell ebooks would benefit PubLit enormously, but a free-to-upload pay-as-you-sell KDP platform where authors can sell direct would be hard to compete with.