They’ve announced a venture called AmazonCrossing. Amazon has the sales data from their international customers to identify promising titles, which they will have translated and publish — probably mainly for the Kindle, since that’s what they think of as their sweet spot. According to Jeff Belle, their Vice President of Books:
The goal of our publishing programs is to introduce readers to terrific authors they might not otherwise have the chance to know. Our international customers have made us aware of exciting established and emerging voices from other cultures and countries that have not been translated for English-language readers. These great voices and great books deserve a wider audience, and that’s why we created AmazonCrossing.
You wonder if they know how to do this right, and whether they will low-ball their translators (duh), but considering the paucity of works in translation in the US market I suppose any new translation initiative is positive.
Let’s just hope they don’t try to use Google translations. Not that I’m pessimistic or anything. Um.