Can I say a tentative hoorah?
The imprint will be called AmazonCrossing, and their first book will apparently be The King of Kahel, by Guinean-French author Tierno Monenembo. The book is due out in November.
The initiative has apparently gotten attention from President of the Nobel Committee for Literature, Per Wastberg. The committee in the past has decried the paucity of literature translated into English. Wastberg is quoted on the AmazonCrossing site:
As president of the Nobel Committee for Literature, I have seen how recent laureates–Elfriede Jelinek, Imre Kertesz, JMG Le Clézio, Herta Müller–were virtually unknown and unprinted in England and the U.S. and only after the Nobel Prize were they able to find readers in English, yet they are in my view equal to anyone writing in English. AmazonCrossing deserves praise and support. Such translation and distribution of good literature from so-called minor languages can only stimulate our cultures and inspire writers to widen their horizons.
Amazon said it plans to use customer reviews and other data from its sites (how many stars a book gets?) to choose new titles. M.A. Orthofer is hoping this will teach big publishers a lesson; I’m just looking forward to their first title translated from the Arabic.