When will Kindle go multilingual?

Here’s some food for thought for electronic device manufacturers looking to translate and localise their products – does it support a non-Latin alphabet?

This week, Amazon has been on the receiving end of language compatibility complaints on its Kindle e-reader series.

First, Welsh publisher Y Lolfa is leading a campaign make Welsh, or Cymru, books available for Kindle. Y Lolfa’s managing director said that up until last year, Welsh books were sold on the Kindle bookstore, although they needed to be labelled as being in English. It is now reported that Amazon has subsequently refused to sell further Welsh books because the language was not supported.

However, Buckinghamshire-based published Diglot Books, a specialist in bilingual children’s books, did manage to get a Cornish Edition of a particular book onto the Kindle Book Store this week, though only after much publicity.

Amazon’s refusal to sell these books is certainly a strange one. These supposedly incompatible languages use exactly the same Latin alphabet as most of Western Europe.

By contrast, of the ten languages that Kindle does support, three are Catalan, Galician and Basque. Western Europe’s notable absentees include Dutch and all the Nordic languages.

The earliest edition of the Kindle was released in 2007, so it comes as a surprise that it has yet to expand its language scope. Other e-readers fare slightly better. The Nook is compatible with any language using the Latin alphabet, while the Kobo allows you to download the necessary fonts for, say, a Cyrillic or Hangul alphabet.

Last month, Russian surpassed German as the second most used language on the Internet, while Chinese currently sits in the sixth position. The statistics should serve as a warning to e-book publishers aiming to be a part of an ever-expanding digital presence. If the language isn’t compatible, companies will lose prospective clients and customers.

Nevertheless, Kindle’s compatibility issues do serve as good news for authors and traditional publishers in the Eastern hemisphere, at least for now.

At Today Translations, we have helped publishers produce books in a number of translated editions, whether it is fiction or non-fiction, for adults or for children. Whatever the language, literary genre or platform, we are a translation agency that it is there help. For more information, get in touch with us at [email protected] or call us on +44 (0) 207 397 2770