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Google Fined Over French Books

According to the BBC a Paris court has fined Google 300,000 euros (£266,000) in damages and interest for copyright infringement of books owned by French publisher La Martiniere.

La Martiniere was one of many publishers to take Google to court for digitising books without explicit permission.

Google have also been told that they will have to pay 10,000 euros a day until it has removed extracts of the books from its database.

Google had planned to scan millions of books to make them available online; this ruling may have ramifications for this plan.

The BBC report that this case will be seen as a victory for critics of the plan who fear Google is creating a monopoly over information.

The publisher Herve de la Martiniere launched his court case three years ago but Google continued to scan books throughout this time.

This is a big set back for the web giant Google.

Does the Arab World Have a Translation Problem?

During the Islamic Golden Age, from the 8th century to the 13th century AD, the Arab world was a center of learning and philosophy. It was also a center of translation. In Baghdad, scholars worked furiously to translate Greek, Persian and Indian texts into Arabic for the library of the House of Wisdom, preserving knowledge that would have otherwise been lost to time.

But now, according to MediaLine.org, the Arab world may have a translation problem. Medialine quotes a study by the UN that found that only 10,000 books have been translated from other languages into Arabic in the past 1,000 years. That’s an average of about 10 books a year, although in 2003, which is when the most recent data is from, there were about 330 books translated.

Arabic publishers and governments alike are taking steps to try and change this. For example, the UAE just wound up a government-sponsored international book fair, and both Dubai and Abu Dhabi have funded government initiatives to increase the amount of translated material available. Read more

Europa Editions Translates Novels for the American Market

Americans are not known for being avid consumers of foreign literature. In fact, last year, only about 2 or 3% of new titles published in the US were translations of titles by non-English-speaking authors.

However, as the New York Times reports, an independent publishing company called Europa Editions has had quite a bit of success bucking the norm and selling translated novels at independent bookstores across the country.

The company is operated by a married couple from Italy.  Only 5 years old, the publishing house just reported its first profit last year. The company focuses on literary novels translated from European authors, such as The Elegance of the Hedgehog, by French writer Muriel Barbery.

The book has sold 71,000 copies and has been on the New York Times’ trade paperback fiction best-seller list for the past 6 weeks. Although the novel was a hit in France, Germany and South Korea, it was an unlikely hit in the US, where most publishing houses are afraid to touch translated novels because they don’t think they will sell.

It would be wonderful to see more translated novels made available for American consumption. Perhaps Europa Editions’ success can prompt other publishing companies to follow suit.

As Sandro Ferri, one of the co-founders of the publishing house told the New York Times, “I have a universal, global feeling that everywhere people should read and could read books from different countries. Even if up to now, only 3 percent of the American books are books in translation, I think that this is not a reason that it should always be like that.”

Those ambitions are echoed by Kent Carroll, Europa’s publisher.  “We don’t want to be in that small-press translation ghetto. Our ambitions are large,” he said in the article.

British Readers Devour Translated Novels

In a refreshing change from the status quo, British readers are gobbling up translated novels and books from foreign authors. Previously, the conventional wisdom in the publishing industry was that consumers in the UK, as well as in other large English-speaking countries like America,  were simply not interested in reading translated literature.

As Liz Foley,  publishing director at Harvill Secker, told the Guardian:

“There used to be a feeling translations were ‘good for you’ and not enjoyable … like vegetables … But actually they’re wonderful books.”

That appears to be changing. For example, the Guardian cites research from Literature Across Frontiers that shows the market for translated books has grown by 18% over the past 20 years.  Translations that have made the bestseller list include work from Scandinavian authors, most notably The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo series by Stieg Larsson and crime novels by Jo Nesbø.

It’s not just translations from our European neighbors that are making waves. Bookstores across Britain were mobbed by customers looking for the latest translation novel from Japanese author Murakami.

This is great news for smaller publishing houses that focus on foreign books, according to Adam Freudenheim of Pushkin Press:

“There has been an increase. Pushkin Press’s sales doubled last year and are on track to double or even triple this year.”

However, we still have a ways to go.  BJ Epstein, of the  British Centre for Literary Translation, told The Guardian:

“Mainstream publishers are still very much about the bottom line. They really do underestimate the public, [assuming] that British people don’t want to read about people in China or Iceland.”

It’s wonderful that translated literature is becoming so much more readily available and accepted.  What translated books have you read recently? Do you have any recommendations? Let us know in the comments!