Amazon and foreign languages

Dear reader,

It seems that Amazon is doing some very strange things with respect to foreign languages.

On the friendly website of EbookFriendly.com, I found this article, which I will post here verbatim:

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Amazon Is Removing from Kindle Store Books Published in Unsupported Languages

The international policy of Amazon is mysterious. They ship Kindle Touch to over 170 countries, but they don’t want to sell it to their major markets. They also sell Kindle books to 170 countries, but they successfully prevent authors from those countries to publish in their own language.

I self-published via Amazon’s KDP a few books. Two of them in Polish. Tonight an email arrived from KDP, saying that one of the books has been removed:

As part of our efforts to provide the best experience possible for customers in the Kindle store, we are taking this opportunity to notify you that your book(s) is in a language not currently supported by KDP.  As a result, we will be removing your book(s) from the Kindle Store:

E-opowiadania 1 [Polish Edition] (ASIN:B004TYZ1FW)

Please note that we are only accepting new submissions in English, German, French, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese at this time. The Kindle community is expanding quickly and we’re working to support titles in more languages in the months ahead.

Amazon opened their self-publishing platform to authors from outside US at the beginning of 2010. I remember that fact very well, as it happened on the eve of the rumored launch of Google Ebookstore and I had no doubts that Amazon’s move was to weaken the competitor.

At the beginning there were as much as 16 supported languages and authors from countries like Poland were hoping to have new languages on board soon. Nothing like this happened. Just the opposite. Last year the list of languages was being limited to six: English, German, French, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese.

However it was still possible to publish books in other languages. You had to use a couple of tricks and it was terribly difficult to get through, but it was possible.

A couple of days ago I noticed that the language status of the book, which is now removed, was changed from “English” to “Polish”. The other title, which is, to get things even more interesting, a part of the series, is still in the Kindle Store, with a status “English”.

If you self-published a book via Amazon’s KDP, and it’s in an unsupported language, you better check the status. If the language is still English, your book may be safe.

There is a small community of Polish authors who self-published their books at KDP, and many of them were affected. I’m sure it’s not only about Polish books. If you’ve heard about removing books in other languages, please share the information in the comments below.

Why is this happening now? I hope Amazon will keep on their promises: “we’re working to support titles in more languages in the months ahead”.

According to Nexto, one of the biggest Polish ebookstores, there are over 60,000 Kindle devices in Poland. First thing a new Kindle owner does is to check books in the mother tongue. Those who speak English, German, French, Spanish or Portuguese are lucky. The rest have to use tricks to find books in Kindle Store. If they don’t, they start to look somewhere else. If I were Amazon, I would consider it a lost opportunity.

I’ve asked KDP for explanation. If any specific answer comes, I’ll share it.

Update: Just checked my KDP dashboard. The status of the book in question is “blocked” and it means:

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This may not have much impact on most readers, as they are probably native English, but if I had the idea to publish my Hilda books in Dutch, they would not appear on Amazon.com for the simple reason that they do not support my native language.

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