WikiFreaks: Seattle, We Have A Problem!

Primož Trubar

A young man with a large package gets off his bike and enters the post office. He’ll have to wait in the long line checking his wrist watch every now and then nervously. The post office is going to close in a couple of hours, but he still has to take care for this one order of books today.

Finally, his package is accepted and he runs out of the post office to hop on his bike and …

And there is no bike!

“What the …”

He looks around and notices a neatly folded piece of paper, where his bike was parked. He picks it up and there’s a message written with letters, cut from various papers and magazines, saying: “Dear Mr. Bezos, we have your bike – if you want it back in one piece, this is what you’re going to do …”

* * *

I bought my first book on Amazon back in 1996 – actually a colleague bought it for me, as he was the only one having a VISA card back then. It was a book about a 3D modelling and animation program, that you couldn’t possibly buy anywhere else. I was interested in 3D animated storytelling and I spent many hours locked in my room, staring into the computer screen, modelling, painting textures, lighting and animating. It was a book that taught me a lot about 3D and it was a book that meant a beginning of a beautiful friendship between Amazon and me.

Well, actually a lot has happened since 1996. I became a father twice, changed a lot of jobs and industries, tried this and that, had my bike stolen, etc … but finally I turned back to Amazon. I got an iPad a couple of years ago, so I installed the free Kindle reading software (and bought a great deal of books), and I started writing fiction around the same time, so the idea of trying to get my stories published on Amazon popped into my head soon.

I taught myself to create eBooks and, inspired by Amazon’s Kindle Singles, I created “Artizan Doubles”, bilingual shorts, published with Artizan, an ad agency and publishing house I run with my partners.

I tried Kindle Direct Publishing, which is very intuitive, easy to use, and above all – free. As I converted my story myself with Sigil and Calibre (neat software packages that are also free), I didn’t have to rely on KDP converter that makes an eBook from your Word document.

I published Kravata / The Tie, our first Double about a year ago, sold a couple of units and even got some nice reviews (Slovenian Bukowski definitely makes me proud). Sincerely: thank you, Amazon for making it possible for me to publish my work.

But, when KDP asked me which language the eBook is written in, I could only chose English (which is actually true – the second half of it is in fact written in English).

Well, I’m an idealist and I honestly believe the world becomes a slightly better place every time a new book is published. And I’d like to be one of the people who do just that – a transition from a self-published author to publisher seemed logical too. I made an agreement with three great writers to translate and publish their work. One of the options was our Artizan Doubles, so I translated one of the stories by one of the authors I work with, and published it the same way I published my story a year ago. I started promoting it and sold a couple of units, when after two weeks KDP support wrote to me to let me know they’ve “found a problem in your book”, the problem being “a language currently not supported by Kindle”.

I wrote back that I supported my language myself – I blog, write fiction and translate my writers’ fiction, plus I don’t use their platform to convert documents to eBooks, as I am doing it myself, so there’s no support needed. And I told them that I already had an eBook in Slovene and English and included the link so that they can decide whether to ditch it too (or not).

They thanked me for my request to publish my book in Slovene and told me they were continually working to expand the number of languages and titles and were excited I wanted to offer my title. They invited me to check their forums periodically for updates on newly supported languages.

I have to say that my experience with KDP Support has previously been great – I had two or three minor problems regarding my author page and they solved them immediately, even on Sunday.

Shortly after I decided to experiment (or provoke, if you will) and published another two titles: did I smuggle in Slovene again? You bet I did. I promoted them and waited a few weeks to see what happens – will they be removed, will I get a “problem with your book” message? Nothing happened.

I unpublished and re-published my writer’s eBook again, but it simply doesn’t work that way.

So, that’s why I decided to start a petition – if my request is supported by 500 or more people, than I guess Amazon is going to take it more seriously and consider supporting Slovene.

Some think I’m just an offended author, but I’m not: I still have my three titles published and well received (okay, I’m not a bestseller :)). I even got a newsletter from Amazon offering me my own books in a language they do not support.

I started this campaign as a publisher, who would like to publish other writers’ work too.

Some ask if Slovene language on Amazon really is necessary – I honestly believe it is. Did Primož Trubar and his contemporaries have any doubts about the necessity of their people being able to read in Slovene half a millennium ago? I don’t think so. I wouldn’t be writing this now.

We see a recession in reading culture and our kids are becoming illiterate, just try and see how they communicate on Social Media. But they do stare into their smart phones all the time – can’t you imagine some of them reading eBooks bought on Amazon?

Let me finish this piece with my expectation of the campaign’s success. If Amazon is a cheetah and the other publishers gazelles, then I am an annoying mosquito buzzing in Jeff Bezos’ ear to take our language seriously – he has already two million potential book (and other stuff) buyers from Slovenia, many of them are eager to buy titles in their mother tongue. There are many writers here, who would embrace the opportunity to self-publish and sell their books on Amazon. And there are publishers who would also gain a lot – the production costs of eBooks are literally zero, they’ve already translated, edited and designed their books for print, so why not offer them on-line?

Mr. Bezos has done some great things in the past and I believe he’s going to do them in the future, as well. Supporting our language will be one of them.

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