zines, and blogs directly online?” The responses collected
suggest that digital reading is growing in importance in the
region. In Colombia and Uruguay, about 19% of respondents
indicated that they read directly on the Internet. In Argentina,
the number was 16%, followed by Chile and Mexico (13%) and
Brazil and Peru (11%). In the remaining countries in the region,
less than 10% of respondents reported reading online. In Spain,
just 6.5% of people reported reading digital books, and only
4.1% read books online.
5) Government has a key role to play. Although figures highlighted by the “Latinobarómetro” relating to the availability of
books online revealed a market in its beginning stages—digital
book access is under 10% in every country—the potential
is evident. And according to a recent Bookwire report on the
Spanish- and Portuguese-language digital markets, governments in Latin America will continue to play an important role
in promoting the creation of digital content. All of the data
available indicates that there is a direct correlation between
reading and social and economic development, and the emergence of digital is providing governments and publishers with
new opportunities to increase the number of readers in the
region. In this regard, public library e-book lending will be key
to increasing the number of readers, by providing free access to
e-books, thereby removing a key economic barrier.
It’s still the early days, but the convergence of these facts and
trends suggests a likely explosion in digital commerce in the
region within the next decade. To achieve this goal, it is essential to develop solid e-commerce and distribution platforms
capable of adding highly varied catalogue content.
A new digital economy offers a unique opportunity for
the publishing community to create a global Spanish digital
marketplace—a market that will encourage greater visibility for
Spanish-language content from all over the world. And that’s
truly excellent news for readers. ■
Digital Evolution in the
When it comes to digital, the Spanish-language market is
vast and advancing rapidly
BY JAVIER CELAYA
Spanish is the third-most-widely-spoken language in the world, after English and Chinese, and the revenue potential of 550 million Spanish speakers worldwide is not being overlooked by the publish- ing sector. There are 50 million Spanish-speakers
in the U.S. alone. And while a single digital Spanish market
remains elusive, as each country and territory is progressing
at its own pace and has unique characteristics, there are some
notable general digital trends emerging.
Over the past 10 years, Latin America’s middle class has
increased by 50%, according to the World Bank, and its population enjoys greater access to education (school enrollment rates
have soared, despite high levels of poverty and income inequality)
and the Internet (projections forecast a 53% penetration rate by
2016, with strong annual growth). Without question, we are
witnessing a digital maturation in Spanish-language book
markets. Let’s take a look at some facts:
1) The number of e-books has increased. According to
research published by the Regional Center for Book Promotion
in Latin America and the Caribbean (CERLALC), 17% of all
Spanish-language books published in 2013 were released
as e-books, up from 8% in 2010, and e-books are expected to
account for more than 25% of all titles published by the end
of this year.
2) E-commerce volume via B2C channels has been significant over the past year. In addition, many Spain-based publishers have acknowledged that their digital sales in Latin
America now account for 25%–50% of their total turnover.
3) The decrease in print sales that we’re witnessing should
correspond to an increase in digital sales, resulting from
increased e-book sales to libraries, universities, and other institutions. According to forecasts, some 60% of purchases by
libraries and universities in Latin America will be digital in just
two to three years.
4) More Latin Americans are reading books in digital formats. The following question was recently added to the annual
“Latinobarómetro” report (based on a survey conducted in Latin
America since 1995): “Do you read books, newspapers, maga-
Javier Celaya is a member of the executive board of the Digital Economy
Association of Spain and CEO and founder of Dosdoce.com, an online portal
that analyzes the impact of new technologies in the publishing sector.