By Lee Foster
The prominence of Amazon and the energy of China struck me forcibly this week. My publisher in China is selling the Chinese translation of my books, in Chinese, on Amazon China and now also, in Chinese, on our USA Amazon site.
This is all good, but a little complicated. Let me explain:
The occasion for this insight was my realization that my Chinese publisher, Fiberead, which has translated two of my books into Chinese ebooks, was now selling them not only in China through the main distributor of ebooks in China, Amazon, meaning Amazon.cn.
Fiberead is also now selling my ebooks, in Chinese, through Amazon USA, our own Amazon.com. The books now appear on my Amazon Author Page among my various books at http://amzn.to/1jl9Lnz.
You have to scroll to the right to see the Chinese editions. The English and Chinese versions are separated for my travel guidebook Northern California Travel: The Best Options and from my travel literary book Travels in an American Imagination: The Spiritual Geography of Our Time. Amazon has its own algorithm logic for placing books/ebooks where it wants them in the lineup.
Prominence of Amazon
The prominence worldwide of Amazon and its central role in the survival of authors is the first issue to consider.
Amazon itself is a highly complicated subject with plenty of controversial aspects. But its prominence in commerce worldwide for authors is my focus here.
I first met my Chinese publisher, Runa Jiang, the 30-year-old CEO of Fiberead, when she came to visit San Francisco in 2014. After we agreed that we would work together and she would translate and publish two of my books in Chinese, I wondered how she would distribute them. I knew nothing about ebook distribution in China. (She is now in the process of publishing my Northern California Travel as a printed book.)
When the reporting for sales of my ebooks on her Fiberead website proceeded, I saw some sales in structures whose names I had never heard, such as DouBan, Baidu, OverDrive, and JingDong.
One familiar name did come up as sales were reported. There have been sales for each book in each month of their existence in China, two years for Northern California Travel: The Best Options, and one year for Travels in an American Imagination. The one recurring provider of monthly income for me from China is Amazon, but that’s Amazon China, Amazon.cn, not our Amazon.com here in the USA.
One anomaly I observed was that some monthly reports were showing that there were Amazon.com USA Kindle sales of the Chinese language publication. I wondered what this was all about.
Then I learned this week that the Chinese language edition of the two books was indeed available on USA Amazon.com. The Chinese ebooks are now showing on my Amazon Author Page at http://amzn.to/1jl9Lnz.
I thought back to the days when I so loved my French classes at Notre Dame. I bought several dual language books, especially of short stories. I could read the story in English, then in French, and quickly learn a great deal about idiom and vocabulary. Maybe my English/Chinese books will flourish in the same manner.
Perhaps especially my book Travels in an American Imagination will have such a role for language learners of Chinese or English. This literary book describes, in 25 essays, places in my worldwide travels as I experienced what seems to me to be our situation in this era of history: that we live in both the most wondrous and the most horrific time ever to be alive. For students of English or Chinese, by the way, that book is also available as an audiobook. See http://amzn.to/2qwtlrw.
More aspects of my publishing adventure with Fiberead can be seen if you Search Fiberead at www.fostertravel.com. You will find thoughts at
including the announcements of the publishing for each of my books in Chinese.
Energy of China
The energy of China, which I regard as a positive energy in our world, is the other aspect of this story.
I remember when Runa Jiang came to San Francisco. We met at a place called 855 Mission on the 10th floor. This was an “incubator” site where maybe 100 worldwide young people were gathered. These were the educated elite from around the world. They were there with their laptops, working away at long tables on their dreams. Runa organized a panel on “independent publishing worldwide” and invited me to participate. The leader of the panel was from Qatar, as I recall. There was a lively discussion on the revolutions in publishing occurring. Runa served some catered Chinese food after the talks. The elite young people in attendance were well funded.
I remember asking Runa, “What does your company Fiberead stand for or mean?”
Her answer made me more convinced than ever that I would like to work with her.
She said, “Fiber optics, Lee, will make the passage of knowledge and insight worldwide so accessible to many people. People will read more with the fiber technology. We are Fiberead.”
This was the vision for our new century articulated by a talented young woman from Beijing.
It made me think of the time a few years back when I was in Shanghai and watched the highly modern maglev train take people from Shanghai to the airport. This was China importing the best German engineering, I was told, to modernize the country. I did not feel I was in a Third World country. We could use a maglev train in California.
In my own field of publishing, which can involve printing, I watched as China developed to dominate the worldwide printing industry scene with high-quality color books at a moderate price. China made the investment in technology, human skills, and hard work to win this prominence.
In fact, I printed 3,000 copies of a beautiful color version of my Travels in an American Imagination in China, near Hong Kong. I still have some of those pretty copies for sale. For printed books, I now have the book in Amazon and in Ingram as a print-on-demand book with less-pretty black-and-white photos. See http://amzn.to/2qwtlrw.
I have been privileged in my travel journalism efforts to have had three trips into China, watching its development. You can see these reports at
China Travel to Beijing, Xian, and Shanghai
Hong Kong: Citizens in a Bamboo Cage
and Cruising the Three Gorges on China’s Yangtze River
The main thing I learned about China is that the country is focused primarily on its own internal development. It always has been and always will be. The Great Wall was a wall to keep out the barbarians. What could be of interest beyond China itself? In modern times, the Three Gorges dam on the Yangtze will reduce devastating flooding and will help move the country from coal use to hydro for its power needs.
Xenophobia has never been an attractive position for me. I remember growing up in the Joe McCarthy era of the 1950s in Minnesota. Wisconsin Senator Joe McCarthy seemed to find a Communist lurking behind every pine tree. Hysteria over possible Russian domination was pervasive. But I remember my father, Russell Foster, saying to me, “Lee, Russia will be of major importance to us. You might want to study Russian in college.”
I did study Russian for two years, and greatly appreciated it when I got to St. Petersburg in my travels, as seen at
Cruising the Baltic Ports, such as St. Petersburg, Russia
My brushes with xenophobia when growing up in Minnesota can be seen in my memoir Minnesota Boy at http://amzn.to/2ppgzLo.
The prominence of Amazon and the energy of China are likely to be highly important aspects of our lives for the future.