Meet Noon, who is my colleague from work. Noon is from Bangkok, well-educated, speaks good English, and, unsurprisingly, does not like to read books about bar girls. After annoying her for 5 minutes, Noon was kind enough to fill me in on what she does like to read in English. She said that she enjoys "psychological" thrillers such as Silence of the Lambs, where you can try to figure out "what's going on in the killer's head". Sounds easy enough to write something she might want to read, but now we have to take a look at delivery.
I would estimate that Thailand is typically about one to two years behind the technology times than in the US. For instance, Facebook wasn't that big here until recently, but it's taken off like a rocket, as evidenced by my wife playing Texas Hold 'Em poker and leaving weird updates in Thai on my wall. Therefore, I figure that eBooks are primed to get big here in the very near future.
I looked at the Asiabooks website (the biggest publisher of English-language books in Thailand) and read some news about them concerning eBooks, but there's nothing on the page about self-publishing. Additionally, many of the eBooks are in the 200-400 baht range (about $6-12). That might not be bad if you're living on a US salary, but wages in Thailand are about 1/5th of what they are in the West. When you can feed a family of four, plus beer for Dad, for about 300 baht, it's going to be a tough sell for one lousy eBook to a Thai.
Rather than whine about Thailand, I decided to write the Book Buying Department Manager, Ms. Charinee Piwong to see if they're will be opportunities to publish in the 30-40 baht range:
Dear Khun Charinee,Will let you know when they get back to me, but this might be a great opportunity indeed if Asiabooks decides to go this route. Who says you need big whitey at Amazon to sell book to Thais.
I read with great interest your article in the Bangkok Post on 29/3/2011 discussing Asiabooks' expansion into the eBook market here in Thailand. After perusing your website today, I was unable to find any information about authors looking to self-publish eBooks and sell them through your website. Respectfully, I would like to inquire as to whether this feature will be made available in the future, and if so, would you be able to provide any information on the policies that will be implemented to permit this (i.e. royalty percentage to the author, formatting requirements, etc.).
Thank you kindly for your time, and with your permission, I would be delighted to post your response on my blog to share with other readers interested in self-publishing in Thailand.
PA to Mr. Mechai Viravaidya
Mechai Viravaidya Foundation