When ebooks first began their accelerating trend, they were a decidedly English-based reading habit. Other markets began the adoption, but it was largely US and UK readers who became the early adopters. While most publishers weren’t eager to invest in something that had remained so unknown and unproven, they certainly weren’t associating the staggering costs involved in translation and international rights with digital publishing.
But the foreign-language category of ebooks is making tremendous headway. Readers have been delighted by both companies that make foreign translations of English language books available, as well as companies like Le French Book that operate in reverse, taking modern-day bestselling French titles and making them available in English to US and UK audiences via ebook.
But recent growth in the foreign language ebook catalogs of many major retailers has demonstrated an increased interest on the part of consumers who want the portability, instant download access, and typically lower cost of digital editions. Where the Amazon Kindle en Espanol catalog launched in 2012 with a minor smattering of titles compared to its offering in English, that number of ebooks has now doubled. Publishers are also coming on board with Spanish ebooks, working to release their backlist titles that never saw translation.
One area that still remains a problem for translated ebooks is indie publishing, encompassing both small press publishers and self-published authors. A translation of a full-length novel can easily run as much as $10,000 or more, per language, and without the backing of a major publishing house to foot the bill, it falls to the indie publisher or the author to find a translator and negotiate the fee. Authors like Judith Glynn who took the risk on an investment of that size are still struggling to put their books in front of Spanish-speaking readers, largely because less than half of the reported Spanish speaking population in the US reads books in Spanish, according to a post by Publisher’s Weekly.