Amazon’s incredibly fast rise in the translation of foreign literary works into English just goes to show how significant the online retailer’s growing culture is. Today, Amazon has published three times more translated fiction just in the U.S., meaning the retailer makes up nearly 14% of all translations.
Armed with hefty financial might and a significantly intimate knowledge of reader behaviour, Amazon has made a big splash in the literary world of translation. So, how has this contributed to the whopping $10 million investment in Amazons translation literary endeavour, AmazonCrossing?
Amazon translation – let’s look at the figures
In 2015, AmazonCrossing published no less than 75 new titles in America. It’s competitor, Dalkey Archive, published just 25.
While translation numbers may be down across the industry, it seems to be a normal fluctuation, and the numbers are sure to bounce back.
Amazon translation and its rise to prominence
In Hollywood, Amazon’s rise has been recognized by both industry peers and critics alike. In February, Amazon Studios won three Oscars, and series like “Transparent” and “The Man in the High Castle” have won both Golden Globes and Emmy awards. As for the world of books, Amazon translation efforts have already enabled hundreds of thousands of authors to self-publish their work on Kindle. Some of these works have already become best-sellers and made into movies.
While several imprints in different genres, including that of literary fiction, have been tarnished by contentious relations with publishing houses, authors, and bookstores, there are members of the literary-translation community who appreciate Amazon’s efforts.
After all, Amazon has the resources and the ability to translate titles. By focusing on the translation of genre fiction, the online retailer is filling a gap and helping the community get a better and greater experience.
Amazon translation and the rise of AmazonCrossing
AmazonCrossing launched just five years ago and the idea was to make available great stories to by great authors to English readers. This arm of Amazon translation efforts is dedicated to scouring the world for amazing tales, and this has quickly led to it becoming the most stand-out translator of foreign prose into the English language – making up in the region 10 percent of all translations last year.
In October last year, Amazon announced it would be making a $10 million investment in AmazonCrossing as a show of its commitment over the next five years to increase the diversity of its books in translation. Since AmazonCrossing launched in 2010, it has published some 200 titles by authors from 29 countries, and 19 languages – in digital, print, and audio formats.
What’s more, in its first year, AmazonCrossing published 2 of 340 foreign translations – one French and one German. In 2016, there are no less than 607 poetry and fiction translations, which Amazon was responsible for 10 percent of those, and included the translation of a diverse array of languages, such as Chinese, Hebrew, Finnish, and even Indonesian.
Amazon translation and getting a grip on the translation industry
Amazon’s mammoth presence in many European countries has given its editors a great perch from which to see what’s working for readers in an array of languages. A particularly big market is Germany. It seems that German customers enjoy reading, and they seem to be in line with American reader’s taste. In fact, it was Germany that gave Amazon its most significant blockbuster, “The Hangman’s’ Daughter.” The English translation reached 1.5 million readers on AmazonCrossing both in print and via digital downloads.
While Spanish and French literary works seem to be the most translated into English, about half of the titles AmazonCrossing published in 2015 and a third published last year were originally written in German.
Amazon translation and the future
While AmazonCrossing continues to rely on a great deal of data to make its picks, there are still a few challenges when it comes to choosing titles for Amazon translation. Interestingly, gut feeling plays a big part in such decisions. While much of AmazonCrossing’s genre is fiction, it has published a number of famous literary leading works, like Mexican author, Laura Esquicel, France’s Marc Levy, and Russia’s Andrei Gelasimov.
Overall, Amazon and AmazonCrossing show no signs of bringing incredible literary works to English readers. We suspect the Amazon translation figures are going to continue to rise as we get to enjoy more and more foreign works of art.