Translation is an Integral Part of the Publishing Revolution

Publishing Revolution

The publishing industry has undergone some major upheavals in the past decade or so. These changes have made translation more and more relevant to the future of the industry.

Globalization of the Publishing Industry went online in 1995, and the world hasn’t been the same since. Online shopping and digital literature have made it possible for writers and publishers to reach diverse and distant audiences with the click of a mouse.

Likewise, Print-on-Demand technology has changed the entire dynamic of the printing industry. In the past, one of the biggest resources a publisher had to consider when publishing a book was shelf space. Eliminating the need for physical shelf space makes it possible to keep a book in print indefinitely, and to have it printed and shipped from different locations worldwide.

All these have helped the industry overcome the barriers of physical space, making it possible for audiences in different countries to have access to a far greater selection of literature.

However, in an increasingly global market, there is another barrier to overcome: the language barrier.

That’s where the translation industry comes in.

The Independent Publishing Revolution

As few as ten years ago, the big publishing companies were the gatekeepers of the industry, determining which books would reach an audience. Self-published literature was considered substandard and unprofessional and was not taken seriously. It was even called “vanity publishing,” implying that someone who was not able to get published by a “serious” publishing company was “vain” to think their work deserved to be printed and read.

Enter Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). Amazon’s revolutionary expansion to include a self-publishing platform has brought about a process of democratization in the industry. In the online market, it is no longer the editors in their ivory towers who determine what is worthy of being read; it is the audience. Self-published authors enjoy greater freedom and control over the process than traditionally published authors do, and if they produce a book of high quality and market it well, they can make the bestseller lists.

Crossing the language barrier by investing in translation can be a good option for these authors, especially given that the vast majority of their marketing is done online.

But more than that, non-English-language writers can take advantage of KDP and similar platforms to market their own literature to the much larger English-language audiences as well.

Translation as a Solution for Literature in Uncommon Languages

Take the Israeli publishing industry, for example. Israel is a very small modern country with a vernacular that is not spoken anywhere else (Hebrew). With only 7-8 million potential Hebrew-speaking customers, the publishing industry is very limited in their reach. Fortunately for them, however, Israelis love books, and digital literature still hasn’t quite caught on in Israel. This means that the industry is somewhat “old-school”: the submission process is direct (rarely requiring an agent) and involves a submission fee (which is completely taboo in the US industry), and there is no Amazon equivalent or Print-on-Demand technology in any of the printing companies. So, that traditional hierarchy that was toppled by KDP in the USA is still in place in the Israeli industry.

That makes online self-publishing a very appealing option for Israeli authors who prefer to think outside the box of the traditional publishing process. If they can afford to invest in a good translation, their writing can reach wide non-Hebrew-speaking audiences thanks to the open marketplace of Amazon and its ilk.

As technologies continue to develop and make literature more and more accessible around the world, translation will continue to be an integral part of the publishing industry’s growth.

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