The bestselling USA Kindle store books…in Spanish

The bestselling USA Kindle store books…in Spanish

One of the knocks on the USA Kindle store in the beginning (back in 2007) was the lack of books in Spanish and other non-English languages.

That’s an understandable concern.

While something like one out of ten people in the USA is considered a “Spanish speaker” (speaks Spanish at home), and we are, I think, the fifth largest Spanish speaking country in the world, we didn’t have as many as ten thousand Spanish books in the USA Kindle store until the summer 2011 (about three and a half years after the Kindle store first opened).

Now, that situation has changed.

In my most recent monthly Snapshot (taken on February 1st), there were 125,505 “Spanish edition” books in the USA Kindle store.

Looking at the percentage of the total, we see:

  • February 2010: 2,548 Spanish books out of 415,100 = .06%
  • February 2015: 125,505 Spanish books out of 3,178,962 = 3%…about 50 times as high a percentage

What Spanish books there were initially seemed to me to be mostly public domain books, with some translations of current books.

I wanted to see if that had changed: has the USA Kindle store started carrying books which are not only in Spanish, but serve the Spanish speaking market(s)?

I thought it might. In December of 2011, Amazon opened a Kindle store in Spain. My hypothesis was that having that would accelerate the number of books available in Spanish, and that those might then make their way to the USA store.

Well, looking at the

Spanish books in the USA Kindle store by bestselling (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

that seems to be the case!

I should point out first that I don’t speak Spanish. 🙂 I use Spanish as an example to get what I am guessing is the best case for a non-English language in the USA store.

I know a bit about Spanish language literature, just from my reading, and I’ll research (which is fun for me) things I don’t.

I shouldn’t have been quite so dogmatic above that I don’t speak Spanish, actually.

I used to speak it near at about a tourist level, and I find I can still read it to some extent. I don’t always need Google translate to understand a news story, although there may certainly be words I don’t know.

For example, when our adult kid was home a couple of years ago, we had telenovelas on TV…oh, and German YouTube and Turkish movies…did I mention my kid is a linguist? 😉 I could understand it well enough to say, “She doesn’t like him, right?” Although at one point, a couple of kids on the show were watching their mother on a TV singing competition, and things started levitating around the room. My kid explained that they were telekinetic…gee, how had I never learned the Spanish word for telekinesis? 😉

Another great example: I was an actor many years ago. We were going out to schools, doing an interactive version of the Wizard of Oz…we would have kids come join us on stage to be part of the show.

At one school, we were told that there were two groups of kids who only spoke Spanish.

I volunteered to take a group, and so did the actor playing the Wizard.

We did okay…but we did run into some vocabulary issues! I couldn’t figure out “haunted forest”, so I went with “arboles misteriosas” (mysterious trees…or close to it). The other actor asked me for “Wicked Witch”…I suggested “bruja mala”. Couldn’t fake “flying monkey”, though…I had to mime it. 🙂

Here we go!

1. Mafalda Y Las Fiestas (Mafalda and the Holidays) by Quino

This is an Argentinean comic strip from the 1960s. While Mafalda’s look reminds me of Little Lulu, my understanding is that this is a strip which also appeals to adults…sort of like Calvin & Hobbes or The Simpsons in that way. It was popular outside of Argentina, but I’m still impressed that country has the number one spot, when there are so many Spanish speaking countries with a strong literary history and which are more commonly translated in the USA. Mafalda is also available in English in the store.

2. Adulterio (Adultery) by Paolo Coelho

This one is translated…but from the  Portuguese, not from English.   Coelho is from Brazil…and the translated version of The Alchemist was a big hit in the USA as well. This is a title just from last year, 2014, showing that the selection has moved beyond classics.

3. El Asesinato de Pitágoras (The Assassination of Pythagoras) by Marcos Chicot

According to the product page, this was the bestselling e-book in Spanish in the world in 2013. It’s a murder mystery with historical characters. Chicot is from Spain.

4. Merriam-Webster’s Spanish-English Translation Dictionary

Well, not exactly a book in Spanish…

5. El capital en el siglo XXI (Capital in the 21st Century) by Thomas Petty

Very popular in English as well…

6. La isla de las mariposas (Butterfly Island) by Corinna Bowman

7. El Círculo (The Circle) by Mario Escobar

This one is also available through Kindle Unlimited, which has quite a few books in Spanish.

8. Cien años de soledad (100 Years of Solitude) by Gabriel García Márquez

Very popular around the world (including in the USA), and a multiple-reward recipient.

9. Trucos para escribir mejor (Tips for Writing Better by Carlos Vastas

10. El umbral de la eternidad (Edge of Eternity) by Ken Follett.

This one was a popular book in Engish…very popular.

That was an interesting survey of the books for me! I’m happy to see it’s a somewhat cosmopolitan selection. The topics and “feel” of the books will be different.

Moving a bit closer to “every book every written) being in the Kindle store. :))


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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.


2 Responses to “The bestselling USA Kindle store books…in Spanish”

  1. Harold Delk Says:

    A Dutch friend of mine once asked me three questions:
    1. What is the definition of trilingual? A person who speaks three languages.

    2. What is the definition of bilingual? A person who speaks two languages.

    3. What is the definition of unilingual? An American.

    Embarrasing, but true.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Harold!

      While it may tend to be true, it isn’t as embarrassing as some try to make it.

      People who make that point tend to ignore the geopolitical reality of the situation.

      I would say that this situation tends not to be as true on the coasts…and this article suggests that’s the case:

      So, let’s take Kentucky (a state where it is more likely to be true that someone is monolingual), and look at the distance someone would have to travel to get to another country where a non-English language is prominent.

      To make this easy, I’ll make it to the country’s capital.

      The distance from Frankfort (the capital of Kentucky) to Mexico City is approximately 1,500 miles (about 2,500 kilometers).

      That is (again, very roughly) the distance from Amsterdam to Moscow (Russia).

      How many languages would your Dutch friend cross on the drive?

      If we swing that 2500 KM towards the south, you’ll get all the way into Africa.

      It’s simply more logical for Europeans to speak more languages because of the access to other countries where other languages are dominant…it’s necessary for trade and for social interaction.

      If each of the 50 states had a different prominent language, I would bet Americans would tend to speak a lot of languages, too. 🙂

      I think speaking multiple languages is a wonderful thing, but I don’t think the relative lack of that ability in Americans (compared to Europeans) is due to either a comparatively deficient educational system, or cultural snobbery, both arguments which I’ve heard. It’s that the USA is so large compared to many other countries…

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