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Is the US a Fertile Market for Foreign Publishers?

By Edward Nawotka

american flagToday’s feature story looks at a change in attitude in the digital publishing ecosystem. Where previously, all the discussion was about US publishers looking to grow digital markets for their books overseas (and that hasn’t changed, with many US publishers reporting significant growth abroad), the Publishers Launch conference at BookExpo America featured a panel which discussed how overseas publishers are now looking to create market opportunities in the United States.

The US remains the world’s richest book market, worth some $26 billion per year. What’s more, US demographics suggest that the market is ripe for exploitation by foreign publishers. Some 20% of Americans speak a second language at home and more than two million are taking foreign language courses. The market is open to any publisher from around the world willing and able to a) export their digital books to the US, b) translate works for the US market on their own, or c) enter joint partnerships to publish their books, in any language, in the US.

With financially beleaguered publishers from around the world seeking growth, is it only a matter of time before publishers look to take a bite out of the American pie? And will it be worth the time, effort and dedication it will take?

Let us know what you think in the comments.

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One Comment

  1. Posted June 5, 2012 at 7:30 am | Permalink

    As a French-into-English business and literary translator for the last 25 years, and someone who lived in France for 9 years, I’m not very optimistic that the U.S. will become a fertile market for foreign publishers anytime soon. There is a disgraceful lack of interest in our country in foreign language books. Your own statistics speak volumes: two million people are learning a foreign language in a country of over 350 million people. Whoopee. I’ve been offering my literary translation services for years to French and American publishers (including university presses!) for book-length work, and each side tells me to knock on the other side’s door. It’s very discouraging. The scant work I do find is mainly publisher catalog collection presentations at book fairs in Europe. I would love to know how the few and wonderful English translators of foreign works (such as William Weaver’s translation of Umberto Eco’s “Foucault’s Pendulum”) found their assignments!

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