Ebooks as a Bridge to Latin America at Publishing Perspectives

Lucas Lyndes the editor of Ox and Pigeon press has an article in Publishing Perspectives about how ebooks can make it easier for Spanish speakers as well as English speakers to have access to works from less well know authors. The way publishing is set up in Latin America is a little strange and he does have a point and ebooks do provide a new way to access authors who have been isolated by sales agreements. While I did enjoy the two books from Ox and Pidgeon I read as ebooks, I still would have preferred physical copies (see my reviews here and here).

First, it might be useful to provide some idea of what the Latin American book market is like. When I first moved to Peru eight years ago (well before my small publishing house Ox and Pigeon was even a synapse in my brain), it was immediately obvious to me that where books were concerned, the region had an abundance of interesting writers but at least one glaring problem: distribution. If you were looking for a certain book, you had to know who published it, and after that, find out which bookstore (often only one, in the case of Lima at that time) imported that publisher’s books. If you were lucky, they had ordered more than one copy and might have it in stock. Clearly, this is not the sort of task casual readers are up for.

But things were not always this way. Legendary publishing houses such as Sudamericana and Emecé in Argentina or Joaquín Mortiz and ERA in Mexico spent decades building relationships and distribution networks with booksellers throughout Latin America. Starting in the 1980s, though, many of these companies either went out of business or were bought up by international conglomerates who—despite their worldwide presence and the undreamt-of resources at their disposal, as well as the argument that their multinational structure would actually help improve things—proceeded to dismantle these distribution networks and severely localize the markets in each country.