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Wales slams Amazon over lack of Kindle support

Anger after giant doesn't 'recognise' land of song language

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A publisher has attacked Amazon over its failure to offer books in Welsh on the Kindle e-reading device.

More than 1,500 people have also signed a petition demanding the all-conquering badboy of bookselling change its policy after the imprint attacked it in the Welsh press.

Y Lolfa, a small publisher based near Aberystwyth, is leading a campaign to put Cymru back on the Kindle.

Garmon Gruffudd, managing director, said: “Last year we published Welsh language books on the Kindle but we listed them as English books because Welsh wasn’t a supported language.

“However this year they have refused to put them up through this route because they say that they are in an unrecognised language.”

The publisher’s latest tomes include a “humorous book inspired by Welsh characters and Welsh life” called The Chronicles of Gwynfor Cornetti and written by a senior manager in the NHS. It is currently sitting at number 137,608 in the Amazon bestsellers' list but is not available on Kindle.

Another must-read title focuses on Welsh nicknames and there are plans to publish a book on the history of the Welsh National Anthem which unequivocally isn’t Tom Jones’ Delilah, even though rugby fans sing it at every game.

Gruffudd has published more than 60 titles on Kindle, but has ruled out adding any more.

“It is ironic that our existing Welsh language books are there but the situation now is we can’t put any new Welsh language books on the Kindle,” he said.

“With books available in languages such as Galician, Catalan and Basque, the situation does seem bizarre.

“The alphabet is the same and there aren’t any technical reasons why they shouldn’t be able to support the Welsh language.

“They also recently accepted a book written in Cornish, although this followed a petition to get the book published on Kindle and it was listed as an English book.”

He noted that Welsh language books were available on other ereaders, such as Kobo and Sony’s eBook Reader.

“We’ve had a lot of people quite angry about this and we’re looking to set up a petition to ask Amazon to support Welsh language books,” Gruffudd added.

“Google and Facebook have been supportive towards the Welsh language and have Welsh interfaces. Their attitude towards Welsh has been very positive. “Compare this to Amazon who I think have been incredibly negative.”

Euron Griffith, a Welsh author whose last book Dyn Pob Un was published by Y Lolfa and is sitting at 286,335 in the Kindle bestsellers' list, said Amazon could help to boost publishing in Wales if they rethought their language policy.

He said: “My last book sold reasonably well on Kindle.

“From a purely selfish point of view I’m naturally concerned that when my two new books come out they won’t be supported on the Kindle.

“Most of my sales are physical sales, but it’s true to say a percentage of my book sales were through Kindle. Those do add up, so it does affect writers like me.

“It seems strange as Amazon takes books in other minority languages, yet they won’t support Welsh.

“There’s quite a few publishing houses in Wales like Y Lolfa, Gomer and Seren whose sales could be hit by Amazon’s actions.

“It’s not like there is any space involved, a virtual book doesn’t take up any room on a shelf. It seems bizarre. I’m thinking what’s the problem?”

Griffith’s book has been reviewed once on Amazon’s Kindle store by a user called heatherandmatthew, who gushed: “Wnes i ddarllen hyn mewn 5 diwrnod, doeddwn i ddim yn gally rhoi hi lawr! Werth pob ceiniog a awr! Joia pobl!”

According to Google Translate, this means: “I read this in 5 days and could possibly have wished I did not put her down! Worth every penny and now! Polite people" [That can't be right].

Greg Bevan, digital spokesman for Welsh language campaign group Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg, was furious at Amazon's lack of support for Welsh.

He said: "This is typical of out-of-touch multi-national corporations whose thirst for profit is homogenizing the world, and damaging many of the world's cultures. They should respect the thriving literary scene in Welsh, and afford it the same status as other languages.

"Amazon's vertical integration practices and the Kindle experience reinforces our view that smaller languages and cultures tend to benefit from non-proprietary, open source and open access software and platforms. In that sense, there needs to be a wider shift away from platforms like Kindle, and we will encourage our supporters to back other systems."

A spokesman for Amazon claimed it is working on plans to offer the language in future. He said: “We are working on adding more languages through our Kindle Direct Publishing portal all the time and Welsh is one that we hope to support in the future.”

The number of Welsh speakers has fallen from 582,000 in 2001 to 562,000, according to the last census. ®

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