Bookmarkets – where’s the limit?

At BookExpo America, I could set up and launch a debate on the „Internationalisation of English reading„, or a funny 3 bn $ market niche that so far got little attention by book folks aside from the few online and wholsalers who are actively increasing their revenues from it.

Anyone exploring a major book store in Europe can see how the ‚foreign language‘ section (as they used to call it when ‚foreign‘ was still considered to draw a clear line of separation between ‚us‘ and some ‚other‘) has expanded over the past few years. Yet hardly anyone has so far tried to make sense out of it, in terms of business, culture, or personal convenience for readers like you and me.

Many funny things occur in that niche:

1. It doesn’t exist in the first place, at least if you look at the general trade statistics. Yet, as Pascal Zimmer of Libri could show at our debate,  if you consider the sales of any major wholesaler, and dig up data from within their warehouses, you see how tremendously the niche is growing. You can, of course, also just look at many readers (I am a good example myself) to realize that reading the ‚original‘ has become pretty popular in no time.

2. For some reading markets, like Scandinavia or the Netherlands, this even turned into a substantial problem, at least as far as translations are concerned, e.g. from English into Swedish or Dutch, as Lasse Winkler from the Swedish book trade magazine Svensk Bokhandel told us, as the imports aggressively compete with those translations.

3. In major corporations, this competition between several language versions unavoidably became part of a sales strategy, as explained by Richard Kitson of Hachette / Hodder Headline UK, as his company routinely adds to the domestic sales of UK fiction bestsellers over 100.000 (!) more exported copies across Europe alone, and guess what, of course these export markets are the same into which translation rights for the same title have been sold.

I put some material at my website, with more on this exciting and likely also controversial subject to come.

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