British Council analyses the Latin American publishing sector in report on challenges posed by the pandemic
The British Council has published the report Publishing Sectors In Argentina, Colombia, Mexico, Peru, which outlines the publishing map of the region, the role of the different actors, and the consequences of the pandemic.
Among its conclusions, it highlights a strong reconfiguration of the entire book market and an opportunity for smaller projects that were able to develop in a more agile and stable way.
The report, commissioned by the British Council’s Literature Programme, seeks to obtain an overview of the publishing industry in four specific Latin American countries: Argentina, Colombia, Mexico and Peru. The ultimate goal is to have solid information to evaluate the possibility of launching a new chapter of the International Publishing Fellowship in Latin America.
The situation and market analysis was conducted between December 2020 and March 2021. Methodologically, it involved access, selection and analysis of statistical information and specialised publications, as well as a series of in-depth conversations with key industry professionals from the four countries, representing a wide range of publishing areas, business models and company sizes.
The survey describes the region’s publishing system as an interconnected ecosystem, while paying attention to the particular features of each country. It collects relevant information on key areas such as independent publishers, bookshops, book fairs and festivals, government agencies and professional associations. It includes a section commenting on the past experiences of international publishing fellowships, as well as an update on the effects of COVID-19 on the industry, with the range of problems and opportunities it set in motion.
Keys to the Publishing Sectors In Argentina, Colombia, Mexico, Peru
The four countries share common features, with differences depending on historical and socio-economic conditions in each country. Reliable figures are not always available, but there seems to be agreement among experienced professionals that Mexico is the largest publishing market, followed by Argentina and Colombia, with Peru at a considerable distance.
Latin America is characterised by a well-developed but unstable publishing system. Common problems affecting all countries are:
- Economic instability
- Social inequality
- Inadequate coordination between the main actors
- A fragile distribution system
At the same time, the region’s system is extremely vital and resilient. This is due to:
- The healthy coexistence of publishers of different sizes
- Very good and diverse catalogues
- Highly qualified professionals in most areas of book production
Creativity and inventiveness in adapting to a fluid environment
This ever-changing landscape is also a breeding ground for new opportunities. Some of the areas highlighted in the report are:
- Audience building: Although literacy levels are high in all the countries surveyed, access to books is far from universal and much can still be done in this regard. From encouraging the reading habit to updating marketing and social media strategies, any experience in the area of audience building is welcome. New dynamics are developing around native languages, as yet unrelated to the publishing industry, but interesting to observe.
- Technology: COVID-19 has hit the region hard because it aggravated an already severe economic crisis. But it also brought with it an acceleration of technological change in areas such as e-commerce, e-publishing and the use of technological tools for everyday work. This makes it possible to imagine new and creative solutions to the region’s main problems, such as the historical difficulties in working in a more coordinated way.
- Global vision: One of the main problems of the region is its breadth and fragmentation. Professionals who take advantage of a broader vision and international networks may discover interesting cross-regional opportunities. Latin American publishers still need to be included more broadly in the global publishing conversation; doing this in conjunction with UK colleagues could present an exceptional opportunity.
The creation of a strong and up-to-date network of UK and Latin American professionals can be very promising. If sustained over time and supported by a series of recommendations such as those discussed throughout the report, such a gathering can lead to the development of new ideas and concrete actions.