By Julieta Lionetti
The Spanish book industry worldwide, obsessed as it is with Internet piracy, often forgets that illegal print copies are just as endemic in many Latin American countries, and is responsible for massive income losses to publishers and authors alike. The problem can be so bad that it results in companies ending exports to the region, the American publishers McGraw-Hill did when it stopped shipments of much needed textbooks to Bolivia.
Yet, in the paradoxical times, digital has come to the rescue: starting on Monday, March 27, Bolivian publishing house Martínez-Acchini, in association with McGraw-Hill, will begin selling 310 digital textbooks exclusively through its network of brick-and-mortar bookstores. The books will cover a range of different disciplines –from business administration to medicine to programming—and the titles will cost 40 % less than their print counterparts.
Ernesto Martínez, CEO of Martínez-Acchini, explained that digital text books will be priced between U$D 22 and 28. The publisher plans to sign similar agreements with the Mexican subsidiary of Cengage and the Colombian publisher Ediciones de la U shortly, expanding its catalogue to more than 600 hundred academic titles for students.
According to Martínez, booksellers import fewer textbooks due to the impact of print piracy. Well organized networks of irregular printers established during the ‘90s, both in the country and in Peru, have the power and the tools to all but instantly reproduce any paper book that reaches the market, thus undermining the industry.
With printed textbooks, students typically need to order a book well in advance, pay a deposit that proves her real interest in a particular title, and wait three weeks to one month for the text to arrive. What’s more, the high price is a huge expense for students who live in a fragile economy, where scarcity — almost unthinkable in developed markets — is everyday reality.
At the moment, Martínez-Acchini said digital textbooks will be downloadable 24 hours after the purchase, but Martínez promises that by next August they will have improved technology to the point where they can facilitate instant downloads.
Publishers in Spain and other Spanish-speaking markets should be aware that the dynamics of going digital in the South might well be driven by scarcity instead of abundance and lean-consumerism. This circumstance will demand unique strategies and a totally different frame of mind — of which the Martínez-Acchini/McGraw-Hill partnership is but one example.