I often talk here about a digitally-driven Global New Renaissance unfolding, where the proliferation of smartphones around the globe and improved internet access around the world means anyone, anywhere on the planet can theoretically consume and produce content from anywhere on the planet.
As we’ve seen with Netflix –
while publishers have been slow to respond to this opportunity, video producers and distributors having been making hay.
For Netflix, only four countries on the planet are off limits.
And there publishers have the advantage, because unlike Netflix publishers already have an established route into China.
But that was more luck than judgment.
The crazy reality is that while Netflix and Amazon video can be downloaded almost anywhere in the world, ebooks are still inaccessible in any meaningful way across much of the globe.
Which means for example while here in The Gambia, West Africa, I can subscribe to video streaming from Netflix, Amazon and several others, I cannot buy an ebook from Nook, Apple, Amazon or Google Play, and have a limited choice of titles at US prices from Kobo.
Partly this is because books are still mostly hidebound by anachronistic territorial rights, but mostly the problem lies in distribution.
For print, of course, books are in the same situation as broadcast television. Just as traditional TV needs mains electricity, a television set and aerial and a broadcast service, so traditional print books need to be printed, distributed and sold from retailers. In much – perhaps most – of the world that simply isn’t realistic, or even possible.
For digital, of course, everything changes. By definition anyone capable of streaming Netflix or Amazon video can in theory receive an ebook – even an enhanced ebook.
In theory because, without the distribution network being in place the ebooks can’t be streamed.
It seemed at one stage that Google Play might be the white knight that brought ebooks to the world, but Google Play’s ebook expansion ground to a halt a few years ago.
Nook, of course, is out of the international game, and Apple still too focused on hardware to be a serious contender.
Kobo, if Rakuten had the will, could step up its game, but right now Rakuten has its hands full with OverDrive and with the Kobo-Walmart partnership.
Which leaves Amazon, the obvious front-runner for a truly global store, but with four years since the last Kindle store one has to wonder where Amazon’s heart is with the international book markets.
One sign of hope the wilderness years are drawing to an end came with the news earlier this year that Amazon was working with Egyptian publishers to digitise their content.
Check out this TNPS post for more details:
And now comes, news, to finally get to the headline, that last week the Egyptian Publishers Association was discussing ways of opening up the global markets to Egyptian publishers and authors, with South America, Africa and SE Asia specifically mentioned.
No details yet as to the conclusions of that meeting, but it seems likely digital reach was being discussed, given the impracticalities of print in many of the targeted areas.
This in turn would accord with the Amazon discussions with the EPA as above, where the focus was on ebooks, and would suggest the EPA understands the global potential of digital and is determined not to let the Global New Renaissance pass it by.