I’ve just learned that Amazon has quietly added new languages to the supported languages list. They haven’t added every language nor the most widely read ones, but Amazon has added numerous languages spoken in some of the Kindle Store’s core markets as well as ones spoken in markets where Amazon could be planning to expand.
For example, the Kindle Store is going to better support the UK with the addition of Scots, Scottish Gaelic, Welsh, Cornish, Manx, and Irish. No, Ireland largely isn’t part of the UK but I would think that this language is read in Northern Ireland. Also, support for Irish might be a sign of Amazon’s expansion plans.
France is also going to be better supported by the addition of Breton, Corsican, and Provencal, while Germany benefits from the addition of Alsatian as well as Frisian, Northern Frisian, and Eastern Frisian (unless this refers to the language spoken in Scotland). And of course the Kindle Store already supported Basque, Catalan, and Galician, 3 languages spoken in Spain.
Amazon has also taken the opportunity to fill in some of the gaps in the Kindle Store’s support for European languages. The Kindle Store now supports Luxembourgish, Danish, and Romansh. This last is one of Switzerland’s 4 official languages, which just goes to show that it is not as dead as everyone says.
Amazon has also added support for Dutch, Swedish, Finnish, and both Nynorsk Norwegian and Bokmål Norwegian. And moving beyond Europe, Amazon has also added support for Icelandic and Afrikaans (spoken in South Africa).
All in all, this is rather spotty coverage that leaves out Italy, eastern Europe, and large swaths of Asia, Africa, and South America. But for an unannounced expansion it is still a good first step.
Adding support for more languages is more difficult than simply flipping a switch, and that’s part of the reason why I would have sided with Amazon when they were criticized earlier this year. Before the Kindle Store can sell an ebook in a language, Amazon has to first guarantee that the Kindle platform will display it properly. Amazon also has to set up a procedure for verifying customer complaints about formatting and other content issues. The technical issues can be resolved, but it takes more than waving a wand.
And when we accept that Amazon had to make an effort to add more language support it brings up a related question: Why these languages in particular?
I think Amazon may have tipped us to their expansion plans. The last time Amazon added support for new languages was with the Kindle Paperwhite in 2012, which was shortly followed by the launch of the Kindle Store in China and Japan. And in 2011 the addition of Portuguese, Italian, and Spanish presaged the launch of Kindle Stores in Italy, Brazil, and Spain.
I think the new support for Dutch, Danish, Swedish, Finnish, Icelandic, and Norwegian is an indication that Amazon sees growth potential in the related countries. The addition of Afrikaans only reinforces that impression. It’s not clear that Amazon will launch local Kindle Stores in those countries, but I do think that Amazon sees growth potential
that no one else has noticed yet.
Update: A reader called me on that last sentence and inspired me to go look at where Amazon’s competition is already selling ebooks. There’s an interesting correlation between the list of languages below and where Kobo and Google Play Books already have local ebookstores.
For example, Kobo is the only international ebookstore to have a presence in South Africa, where Afrikaans is spoken. Kobo has a Dutch ebookstore, and Google Play Books is available in Belgium, Netherlands, Ireland, Sweden, Denmark, and Finland. (It’s available in quite a few more countries but I am only looking at the ones that Amazon now supports via a local language.)
Just about the only countries on this list where Amazon doesn’t already have a local competitor are Iceland and Norway, and I think those 2 were added so Amazon could make a clean sweep of Nordic countries.
I am now convinced that the new supported language list in KDP tell us where Amazon plans to launch local Kindle Stores that will sell ebooks in local currency. While that might sound crazy, I think Amazon will launch local Kindle Stores in all of those countries for the same reason they launched in Brazil, India, and Mexico: because a competitor was either already present or about to launch.
Amazon launched in Mexico about 5 months after Google Play Books. Amazon, Kobo, and Google all launched in Brazil on the same day. And in India Amazon launched a local Kindle Store in Amazon.in about 4 months after Google Play Books launched in India.
I will not make a claim that Amazon is copying or that its smaller competition is launching in anticipation of a local Kindle Store; I think both possibilities are true in one case or another. But I do think all of these countries will get local Kindle Stores.
P.S. According to the IA’s Wayback Machine, the list of supported languages was updated some time in the past month. Here’s the complete list:
• Bokmål Norwegian
• Eastern Frisian
• Northern Frisian
• Nynorsk Norwegian
• Scottish Gaelic