What I consider most important among his observations is that e-readers have not nearly the market penetration in Europe that they (apparently) have in the US. I have seen e-readers for sale in Germany and also in the UK. Chain bookstores now have a small e-reader display stand. In Germany, it’s usually near the foreign language section, that’s why I see it. I sometimes see people looking at those e-reader displays. Once I even waited behind someone in line who bought an e-reader. The e-reader buyer was a Russian tourist for whom e-books presumably are a cheaper and more accessible option than foreign print books with their high shipping costs. However, I have only ever seen one person with an e-reader “in the wild”, so to say. It was a young woman on the tram, a university student. Again, with so many public domain classic available for free in e-book form, I could see why the e-reader was ideal for her.
Still, it’s important to remember that even if the e-book market is expanding in the US (and even there, the most optimistic figures I have seen are that e-books are 20 percent of the market), the situation even in other western countries, let alone non-western countries, can be very different. This doesn’t mean that a Non-American author cannot get in on the indie publishing game, e-books are global after all. However, your main market will be the US, at least for the time being, and your friends and family won’t be able to buy or read your book, because hardly any of them will have e-readers. And if you’re writing in a language other than English, you’ll have an even bigger problem, because you’ll miss out on what is currently 90 percent or more of the global e-book market. Which doesn’t mean that you can’t be an e-book pioneer for your own country in your own language, but that’s a lot more difficult.
Dean Wesley Smith also touches upon the issue of international e-book sales in the latest installment of his “Think like a Publisher” series.
One issue, at least as far as I am concerned, is that those e-book stores open to indie authors are all US-based businesses, even if they operate internationally. There are e-book stores and online booksellers offering e-books in other countries, but the ones I checked (the two biggest German rivals to Amazon and a British online bookseller) did not seem to carry any indie published e-books at all. Once I get my indie publishing company on the way, I will contact the two non-Amazon German online booksellers about whether they would consider carrying my books. I figure it can’t hurt to have an extra outlet, particularly outlets that may be more convenient for many people I know offline than some US store they have never heard of.
There’s one bit of good news, though. For anyone outside Germany who always wanted to try a Romanheft, but couldn’t find them, the science fiction series Perry Rhodan is now available in e-book form. One issue is free, the others are 1.35 EUR, i.e. 55 cents cheaper than the print version.