Amazon Expands E-Book Language Support — a Little

The publisher of a bilingual children’s book written in English and Cornish prevailed upon Amazon to issue the e-book after a petition and a social-media campaign, according to the UK Guardian.

Amazon initially told Diglot Books that Esmee Carre’s book, “Matthew and the Wellington Boots,” could not be published because Cornish isn’t a supported language for Kindle e-books. Diglot objected, saying that Cornish had no special characters and that all the Cornish text had been vetted. Amazon has now issued the e-book.

Amazon hasn’t made a secret of its desire to take over the entire publishing world. It has characterized this mission as a democratization of the publishing industry, where a few people have historically had power over which written materials see wide distribution.

The marginalization of minor languages stems primarily from the publishing industry’s appeal to the largest possible markets — exactly the kind of picking winners Amazon has criticized. Instead of Welsh, Cornish, Normal, Gaelic and English, publishing houses and newspapers picked English as the winner, to take one national example.

The Internet has empowered communities who share dwindling languages to communicate over longer distances, just as it has empowered the sales of items with more specialized audiences, like custom T-shirts and handmade items.

Yet Amazon continues to support a very narrow range of languages for e-readers.

It does not support Cyrillic script and offers only “limited support for Chinese, Japanese and Korean text.” There is no support for right to left vertical scripts and no support for Japanese Ruby script.

“In the long run Amazon are the mortal enemies of diversity,” Clive Boutle, a minor languages publisher, told the Guardian.

We’ve asked Amazon for more information on language support and will update this post if we hear back.

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