Ah, the delicious smell of a good old paper book! It can bring us back to simpler times, when words remained right there where they belonged, attached to their pages for decades.

Now books are under threat by the internet and new media and all those things made of ephemeral bits and bites, and new generations are forgetting how to read and write…

Wait. Are they really?

First, the internet and different media are not destroying language –not even written language. Quite the contrary, as Professor David Crystal explains in this excellent talk published by RSA:

Second, the internet and new media are actually driving book sales, not only through e-books but also through new forms of marketing, distribution, and direct contact with the readers.

Most authors have blogs, are on Facebook or Twitter, have YouTube channels, do live chats and so forth.

And the websites of publishers and bookstores are full of images, videos, links, and other forms of interaction to attract and retain their customers. Multimedia resources play a huge role in all of that.

Many books are launched with trailers just like films, especially if they are intended for a younger audience, but not exclusively. Just take a look at what a search for “book trailer” can offer in YouTube.

My first contact with David Bellos‘s excellent book on translation, Is That a Fish in Your Ear?, was through this cute video published in Penguin’s YouTube channel:

After seeing this, I couldn’t wait to purchase that book. Wouldn’t you?

I couldn’t find out if Bellos’s book has been published in other languages, nor could I find this video translated into any other languages, but it most definitely should be. (Please post a comment if you can enlighten me on this.)

The websites themselves are becoming more and more multimedia too.

By chance, I am currently reading Room, by Emma Donoghue, and I decided to check the website. I found that the book has its own domain, and the website is absolutely gorgeous. The website is highly interactive, and it contains more images, sounds, and videos than text.

I was instantly curious to see how publishers in other countries had dealt with that. I discovered that many have translated the book trailer.

This is the subdomain created for the book by its Brazilian publisher. It’s much simpler and less interactive, but it retains some of its design and features the book trailer, subtitled in Portuguese (I was not involved in this translation).

And this is the book’s page in the German publisher’s website. Subtitling is not much used in Germany, so they edited the video, replacing the texts in English for German. I suppose they would dub any dialogues.

Unfortunately, many publishers from other countries don’t use any of these multimedia resources in their websites, nor did I locate a full localization of the original website in any other language, including all the sounds and images. My guess is that these decisions were based on budget constraints, but it’s a pity that the (potential) readers of the book in other languages can’t have the same experience that English readers have when navigating that beautiful website.

Another important new component of book marketing is direct contact with the authors, often through videos.

I have translated and subtitled a number of interviews with book authors, to be used by Brazilian publishers in their websites or YouTube channels in order to sell the translated books.

The most recent example were some interviews with George R.R. Martin that I translated for the Brazilian publisher of the series A Song of Ice and Fire. The videos were uploaded to their YouTube channel when A Dance with Dragons was published in Portuguese earlier this year.

This is one of them:

For us translators, what I think is most important about these interviews with George R.R. Martin is that these videos were freely available on YouTube, so I believe (though I’m not 100% sure) that the Brazilian publisher didn’t need to acquire any translation rights for them. Nonetheless, they didn’t resort to free translation such as fansubbing, crowdsourcing, machine translation, etc. Because they recognized that quality was crucial to drive their book sales, they hired me and paid me very well for this translation and editing service.

In the comments to the video, there are many praises and messages of gratitude for the translation, but I find it rather funny that some of the comments imply the belief that this video was translated by fans. I think this is so mostly because this video was embedded in a Brazilian fan site of George R.R. Martin’s fantasy series. But, in general, videos published in websites tend to be associated with free/amateur translations. This is a notion that I will often refute in this blog. I will also talk more about free vs. professional translation of web-based videos in other posts.

To wrap up: we all love books, and professional translation is traditionally associated with the publishing industry. But book sales rely more and more on multimedia resources, which should be translated by professionals who are aware of the different methods to render different media, in order to provide the best quality and experience to the target audience.