One of the allures of e-books for American publishers is the opportunity the format provides to sell titles to international markets, free of the costs of printing—and shipping—books overseas. In a recent panel at the Book Industry Study Group’s annual meeting, Penguin Random House COO Madeline McIntosh called the international market potential “massive,” noting that the sale of e-books will not depend on local infrastructures, which historically have been too weak in many countries to support sales of print books. To take advantage of growth opportunities, various players have set up systems to help facilitate international e-book sales. Among the most forward thinking has been Ingram Content Group, which, through its CoreSource digital asset and distribution platform, now offers about 650,000 titles for distribution through retailers and library vendors in the international market.
Although Ingram won’t discuss sales, Marcus Woodburn, v-p, digital products, says that in 2012 CoreSource made 45 million “distributions,” which he described as sending one file for a book and then subsequent updates about that book, such as price changes. In 2013, Woodburn adds, CoreSource is on track to double that amount. Heading into Frankfurt, Ingram supplies e-books to 120–150 retailers who in turn sell e-books in approximately 194 countries. About 2,600 publishers from all parts of the globe use CoreSource. According to Woodburn, the ability to reach the U.S. market is one of the attractions for smaller foreign publishes who may not be able—or interested in—selling print titles in America.
For all but the largest retailers, Ingram sends the metadata to e-bookstores to help them get the information about the titles on their site, but Ingram does the actual fulfillment. Ingram depends on publishers to provide accurate information as which countries it as the right to sell into. E-books can be downloaded for use on what Woodburn describes as a “massive variety of different devices” that are used around the world. While Blackberry is struggling in America, he notes it is the device of choice in Indonesia. In fast-growing India, consumers prefer to read e-books on smartphones and other mobile devices.
The importance of correct metadata cannot be overstated, Woodburn notes. Everything from describing the book appropriately for the international market (“don’t write ‘perfect for the American market’ if you want to sell it abroad,” Woodburn says) to pricing books in the correct local currency (“if you are selling it in, India make sure the price is in rupees”) are keys for success in overseas markets.
The most e-book activity seen by Ingram outside the U.S. is in the U.K., Canada and the Netherlands, Woodburn says with Australia showing signs of faster growth. Smaller e-book markets that are also growing are Germany and Brazil. Ingram is exploring ways to distribute into China as well as looking to distribute Chinese e-books to international markets. For 2014, Woodburn says Ingram is looking to build its retailer network, and he is curious to see how some of the new business models, including subscription services and bundling, will play in international markets.