• Table of contents

    • [+]Preliminaries (3)
    • [+]Introduction (4)
    • [—]Latin America (13)
    • [+]Sub-Saharan Africa (9)
    • [+]Arab World (11)
    • [+]Russia (11)
    • [+]India (11)
    • [+]China (9)
    • [+]Conclusions (6)
    • [+]Appendix (1)

Latin America

Big aggregators

It is interesting to observe that most of the e-books sold in Latin American stores come from external aggregators, in particular from Spain, the US and the UK. In Spanish-speaking countries, the leading virtual bookstores obtain their backlists thanks to Publidisa (Spain), which has over 20,000 titles.[1] In general, the imbalance between local and imported content is considerable – a matter that has provoked heated debates. Firstly, many readers complain about how uninteresting they find the selection of e-books on offer. In addition, the high price of the works, originally in euros, dollars or pounds, inhibits any desire to buy.[2]

Among the few local aggregation initiatives, we must mention Xeriph, a company also founded by Carlos Eduardo Ernanny, of Gato Sabido. The funds invested in the project are 100% Brazilian, although the platform has numerous external suppliers: the technical support, for example, is carried out in India. Just like the books marketed by Gato Sabido, the backlists distributed by Xeriph are sold with Adobe DRM, at the price set by the publisher. In any case, Ernanny urges local publishers to adapt their business models to the new era, to avoid the same problems of overpricing found in international platforms:

At the moment, publishing houses are trying to work with the margins of a market condemned to extinction. The model must be reconsidered and challenged. Ignoring these changes or not listening to the consumer is institutional suicide.[3]

Another platform, which is also Brazilian, is the recently created Distribuidora de Livros Digitais (DLD). This was an initiative originally developed by Objetiva, Record and Sextante, which was later joined by Planeta, Moderna and Rocco. These publishing houses represent 50% of traditional publishing in Brazil.[4] Following the model of Libranda (Spain), and with a planned investment of over 1 million dollars, DLD will only supply bookstores[5] and aims to occupy a dominant position in the Brazilian digital book market. It is worth noting that the pricing policy encouraged by DLD is the opposite of that of Xeriph, judging from the declarations made by Sergio Machado, the president of the Record group:

Bookstores, particularly national ones, were very concerned about the threat posed by Amazon. One of our priorities is to prevent any cannibalization of prices taking place in Brazil through unfair competition.[6]

The upshot of this criticism against “cannibalization” appears to be that DLD will seek to prevent the price of e-books from collapsing. Of course the only way to achieve this result would be either by means of a law on fixed prices for e-books or else through exclusivity agreements, ensuring that publishers don’t hand over their archives to more than one distributor, as is now the case with Libranda in Spain. It remains to be seen then which of the two business and pricing models will prevail: whether it will be that of DLD – regulated prices, without competition – or that of Xeriph – prices adapted to the requirements of readers, who demand cheaper e-books.

With regard to formats, the e-books produced by Latin American publishers are generally distributed in PDF, and only a small proportion is sold in ePub.[7] This can be explained by the relative ease of exporting a book to PDF, with the help of the page layout programs most commonly used in the region (InDesign and, to a lesser extent, QuarkXPress). Few publishers today have the necessary know-how to convert their books to ePub, which is the reason why they are forced to outsource that service to different providers, at a cost that varies between 50 and 100 dollars per title.[8] So, unless sales justify a change of strategy, most publishers will continue to produce their e-books in PDF.

  1. Cf. Conexión Publidisa, October 2010.
  2. In an article that appeared in Publishing Perspectives, the Argentine publisher Julieta Lionetti describes this phenomenon using a striking example: those enormous bases of e-books that do not include local titles force readers to settle for texts like the one published by a town council in Spain to train its clerks, Auxiliar Administrativo del Ayuntamiento de Torrejón de Ardoz, which in February 2011 is selling for almost 15 dollars. Cf. Lionetti, Julieta: “In Argentina, E-books Are Sexy! (But You Can’t Find Them Anywhere)”, Publishing Perspectives, 15th October 2010.
  3. Cf. Gugelmin, Felipe: “Por que livros digitais ainda são tão caros?”, Baixaki, 26th November, 2010.
  4. Cf. Abos, Marcia: “Cinco das maiores editoras do país assinam contrato para a Distribuidora de Livros Digitais”, O Globo, 14th June, 2010.
  5. That is to say, it will work strictly according to a B2B model.
  6. Cf. Victor, Fabio: “Nova distribuidora de livros digitais planeja investir R$ 2 milhões até 2011”, Folha, 9th June, 2010.
  7. According to Richard Uribe Schroeder and Sandra Villamizar Mantilla, “when investigating the penetration of digital books in Latin American publishing houses, 25% of the companies interviewed are publishing in digital format. The most usual format in this modality is PDF, used by 68% of publishers; for its part, the e-pub format was used by 18% of companies”. Cf. CERLALC, op. cit., October 2010, p.11.
  8. The aggregators themselves usually offer this type of service.


  1. thierry quinqueton

     /  27/08/2011

    J’aime bien la réflexion de Felipe Gugelmin que tu cites : certains acteurs se comportent vis à vis des marchés de l’édition électronique “en attendant des marges de profit caractéristiques d’un marché condamné à l’extinction”.
    On pourrait d’ailleurs appliquer parfois la même expression à certains financiers de grands groupes vis à vis de l’activité éditoriale : il faudrait que cela “rende tout de suite”.
    Ah Woody Allen : take the money and run!

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