Brazilian books and bricks
Hi everyone! My name is Ricardo, I’m new here. Since it’s my first post, I thought I’d introduce myself. I’ve been working on the book business in Brazil for the past 20 years. I began working in editorial, where I became editor-in-chief, then went to the Marketing department. Soon after that I got into the administration department, as part of the board.
I then decided to fly solo for a while, as a consultant on publishing planning and development. I would advise about title choices, production process, pricing, marketing, financial basics, business plans… you name it!
More than six years ago I joined PublishNews, a Brazilian online magazine that covers publishing market (pretty much like PublishersLunch in the US), as the executive director. Finally, since last July, I’m working with Copia, a digital platform that combines eCommerce and social media, as the Publishers and Media Relations Director.
Since I was at PublishNews – and also because I am a tech lover – I have closely followed news on digital books around the world, specially from the US. So, as one might expect, I’ve become addicted to it, accumulated knowledge and developed a few theories of my own on the subject.
But, I must confess, I’m a pBooks lover as well. One of my favorite places to go for a walk is a bookstore. Because of that, I ended up gathering some thoughts about the brick-and-mortar bookstores’ roles in the digital world, which I want to share with you. But before that, let me give you an overview on the Brazilian book market on this first post.
The Brazilian print book market sold last year 469.468.841 books, which includes approximately 58k new titles and also a long backlist. So we’re talking about a 2.5 billion dollar market, that grows every year. This growth also reflects on bookstores. It is true that quite a few bookstores have shut down on the last couple of years – specially independent ones – but on the other hand, big retailer chains are opening new stores every year.
The biggest chain, Saraiva, opened 13 new bookstores on the last 3 years. Another example is Livraria Cultura, a traditional 65-years old bookstore. Until the year 2000 it was a single store in São Paulo, but in 12 years it opened 13 bookstores all over the country, with plans for another two until the end of this year (2012).
And these are only the two biggest retailers, based in São Paulo, with national chains. I haven’t mentioned Nobel, which is a franchising, and Livraria da Vila, a local bookstore, also in São Paulo. There is also Livraria da Travessa, in Rio de Janeiro, with 7 stores, Livrarias Curitiba, from the south of the country, with 19 stores, Livrarias Leitura, that was founded in Belo Horizonte, capital of Minas Gerais, in the center of our huge country, and has now 29 stores in 7 states. And a few others in the Northeast and North. If I keep going with the list, this post would be too long.
Anyway, what I want to point out here – and this is where I disagree with those apocalyptical prophecies about the bookstores – is that brick-and-mortar bookstores are not dead. Of course there are many important and difficult issues that must be dealt with, but, if they are tackled soon, carefully and with open mind, I believe that brick-and-mortar bookstores are going to have their role on the next “book business generation”.
I’ve heard the president of Livraria Cultura, Pedro Herz, saying once: “If something is working well, it is already obsolete. We must think of something new. We must look ahead.” This is the spirit. You can’t deny the evolution of the business, and if you join the evolution, you evolve with the evolution; and you can even lead the evolution.
Am I too naive on this matter? I don’t think so. I’ll be back in a few days with more thoughts, and I’m looking forward to hearing your thoughts on this as well. See ya!