Non-English books in the USA Kindle store

Non-English books in the USA Kindle store

Amazon has more sites than just

  • Australia
  • Brazil
  • Canada
  • China
  • France
  • Germany
  • India
  • Italy
  • Japan
  • Mexico
  • Spain
  • United Kingdom

However, you can’t just buy e-books from those other sites if you want to do that.

A lot of people complain about that in the Amazon Kindle forums, but there is a good reason behind it (at least, with laws set up the way they are now).

Authors traditionally license the rights to sell their books to publishers. They normally license them by format (someone who licenses the rights for the hardback doesn’t automatically get the e-book rights or the audiobook rights) and by territory. The latter might be an individual country, but it could be a lot more than that (all of Africa, perhaps)…just depends on what is worked out.

If the publisher who licensed the right to sell a book in France sells it to somebody in the USA, they could be in serious trouble. That’s particularly true if a different publisher licensed the USA.

A lot of people counter that with the ability to buy paperbooks from other Amazon sites, but that’s quite different. With a paperbook, the store buys it from the publisher first, then sells it to the customer. If the store is able to export it, that’s fine…that’s not where the publisher sold it.

With an e-book, the sale doesn’t happen until the customer buys it…the store didn’t buy it first. The sale is basically considered to have taken place where the customer is (although it’s a tad trickier than that).

So, while the German site has over two and a half million books (many of which, I am guessing, are in German), that doesn’t mean all those same books are available to customers using

I checked the state of foreign language books at back in November of 2009.

Kindle spoken here

These were some figures I got then:

I got those results by searching for the language followed by the word “Edition”. For example, I would have searched for “French Edition”.

Amazon has since expanded the way it lists foreign language books. This is what it says now:

  • Spanish (80,230)
  • German (142,958)
  • French (40,986)
  • Italian (31,324)
  • Japanese (17,538)
  • Portuguese (19,382)
  • Chinese (2,895)
  • Afrikaans (1,716)
  • Russian (260)
  • Other Languages (5,722)

Now, just to give a more consistent comparison, I’ll search for “German Edition”. Doing it that way, I got 143,043…not that far off, and it might have some false positives.

So, honestly, we can say that the numbers have exploded! There are about seventy-five times as many German books, just to stick with one language!

If we compare that to the overall growth rate of the USA Kindle store, this is much, much higher. I recorded the titles in store count on December 1, 2009 as 385,484. On January 1 of 2014, I recorded 2,351,290. While that is a lot of growth (there are about six times as many books…more than doubling every year), it’s not even a tenth the rate of German book growth.

My search for “Swahili Edition” gives me 104 versus 5…more than twenty times as many.

I think that the number of books where companies get global licenses has also greatly increased, and that may have something to do with it. It costs the company more initially, or at least I would assume that’s the case, but can certainly be worth it.

Here’s a link to

Foreign Languages in the USA Kindle Store (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

  • Genießen Sie!
  • Disfrute!
  • Kufurahia!
  • Amusez-vous!
  • Enjoy!

Nominate a child to be given a free Kindle at Give a Kid a Kindle.

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

5 Responses to “Non-English books in the USA Kindle store”

  1. Barbara Berry Says:

    I am very interested in this subject as I like to read French to keep up my fluency now that I’m retired from teaching. I have also obtained books in Latin from Amazon for study sessions with a friend. These are really difficult to locate. They are generally texts, sometimes facsimiles of very old ones. Amazon does not give much information about these books. I’ve indicated in reviews that it would be helpful to know in advance if the book has a glossary or just endnotes. At any rate, any hints you might have in locating such books would be welcome. Search by title or author results in many translations of the works!

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Barbara!

      What I do is search for the name of the language and “edition” in the Kindle store. For example, this search for

      “Latin edition” in the USA Kindle store

      (notice that I have “Latin edition” in quotation marks in the search) gets me 173 results. There certainly may be some false positives, but I wouldn’t expect there to be very many books in Latin, just due to the nature of the use case.

      I would encourage the publishers to indicate the presence of a glossary in the first part of the book, where you could see when you download a free sample. I don’t recommend to them that they actually put the glossary there, since it reduces the amount of the main part of the book which you can read, but listing it makes sense.

      Amazon could, I suppose, examine books for glossaries, but that would add an expense. Not everyone prefers having a glossary, so I think it’s good that Amazon leaves that up to the publisher (and the market) to determine.

      Amazon lets you first download a free sample, and second, “return” a book within seven days of purchase for a refund. With those two protections, I think them imposing how books should be prepared for the market is generally not necessary. They do reward publishers (which may be just authors) going through their Kindle Direct Publishing for meeting certain program guidelines (by giving them a higher royalty), but a glossary isn’t one of those.

      • Barbara Berry Says:

        Thanks for your “tried and tested” suggstion. You raise another issue that drives me crazy with free samples. If a book has a long introduction, the sample shows the beginning of that and not the beginning of the actual text, novel, etc. Any thoughts?

      • Bufo Calvin Says:

        Thanks for writing, Barbara!


        Yes, I’ve recommended to publishers before that they put things like that in the back of the e-book edition. That way, the sample (which, to my knowledge, just automatically starts at the beginning of the book…I don’t think the publisher controls it) is more representative. Here is a place I talked about it back in 2011:

  2. Gary Worden, PT Says:

    Caution: Many of the foreign KINDL editions are abridged, and not clearly marked as such.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: