The Book Industry & Multimedia

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.

6 responses

  1. Very interesting interview by David Crystal. I have a parallel issue with media, however. My bookcase has many books, which I enjoy from time to time on quiet afternoons, by rereading passages I have enjoyed before. I also have some essays on my computer in .pdf and .doc format. I have photographs in .jpg, .bmp, and more formats as well as music (78 rpm records as well as 4-, 8-track, and cassette tapes now in a multitude of audio formats.
    Given the rate of change suggested by Moore’s law, what kind of library will my descendants inherit? Certainly no Rosetta Stone.
    Perhaps there will be a universal translator à la mode of Star Trek. The printed word will be readable but what if Amazon’s Kindle disappears and only the Nook remains? I have a nightmare that all we have could be wiped out by poor archiving or a conflagration as that which destroyed the Library at Alexandria? What if there had been no Irish scribes at the intellectual antipodes of the earth. Not to bee too dramatic but there may not bee even archivists in some brave new world who could reinvent a reel-to-reel tape deck?

  2. Carlos, I don’t see that nightmare happening 😉

    Of course, on a personal level I’ve seen people losing their hard disk with all the digital pictures from the past 10 years and they didn’t have backup. Then they say things like “this wouldn’t happen when we had film” and so on.

    But in practice, not only many things recorded in so many different formats since cave painting are being recovered and preserved, but also all these things are stored in more than one format and more than one place. I mean, how many film reels were completely lost to a simple spark? Now most libraries are digitizing everything and making their collections available in many different formats. I don’t see all of that vanishing from a computer virus or from future engineers failing to reproduce a super-8 tape.

  3. Marcia Lyra Nascimento Egg | Reply

    Carol, I will wait for your future posts about free translation, especially those made for illegally downloaded films. People who download films are improving their techniques with HD and BlueRay formats, but subtitlers don’t seem to have much motivation to improve their performance. Their audience seemingly doesn’t make a point of good quality and even if they did, they would not have anyone to complain to, as informal subtitlers have to hide themselves behind nicknames. Can we assume that they are inexperienced “professionals” who have not managed to be hired by subtitling agencies? I’d like to hear from you about this issue. Thank you. Marcia

    1. Marcia,
      You are talking about amateur translation or fansubbing. These translators are not professional at all, and are not providing a service. It’s supposed to be a “favor” to fans or to whoever wants to watch films for free. It’s illegal to translate and distribute translations of intellectual property without acquiring the rights for that, as much as it’s illegal to distribute films without authorization.
      I will definitely talk about different types of free translation, from illegal fansubbing to legal free distribution, such as TED Talk videos.

  4. […] same applies to the publisher that hired me to subtitle some interviews with George R.R. Martin, as I described in this other post. They want to sell the translated books, so they didn’t go for […]

  5. […] same applies to the publisher that hired me to subtitle some interviews with George R.R. Martin, as I described in this other post. They want to sell the translated books, so they didn’t go for […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Ponte de Letras – Ano 3

|O dia a dia da tradução editorial||

Red Bee Media

Translating in the Multimedia Age

Multimedia Translation

Translating in the Multimedia Age


Translating in the Multimedia Age

i heart subtitles

news, views, info on subtitling and closed captioning for all visual media.

Translating in the Multimedia Age


Translating in the Multimedia Age

Wordsmeet: translation for businesspeople

Translation discussions for average Americans

Online Vergleich

Translating in the Multimedia Age

About Translation

Translating in the Multimedia Age

Thoughts On Translation

The translation industry and becoming a translator

Translating is an Art

A weblog about translation and language

Separated by a Common Language

Translating in the Multimedia Age

Musings from an overworked translator

featuring musings about my life and the translation industry

Translation Times

Translating in the Multimedia Age

مجلة السعوديه

Translating in the Multimedia Age

Translating in the Multimedia Age

Naked Translations

Translating in the Multimedia Age


Translating in the Multimedia Age

Translation Blog

Trusted Translations

%d bloggers like this: