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Apple Races to Open iBookstore in Latin America, Causing Headaches

“We have the awkward feeling of mindless improvisation regarding a critical market for Spanish publishers.”

By Julieta Lionetti

You know you are working in publishing when happy hour starts at 2 pm on Fridays and the last two weeks of July are exclusively devoted to fixing your international schedule for the next Frankfurt Book Fair, which will mercilessly wear out any oomph you recovered during a lazy August of random reading.

Times, though, are changing. And Spanish publishers preparing for vacation experienced it during the dog days of mid July, when an urgent call to update their metadata was delivered by Libranda, the e-distributor owned by the Big Three and seven other well established houses. Apple is opening their iBookstore to readers in Latin America and they want things their way. Problem is, “their way” changed three times in a few days. “It’s not easy to ask your metadata team to spend the last Sunday of July working against the clock, with directions that may change at any moment,” says the Digital Strategist and Product Manager of a prestigious medium-sized publisher under the condition of anonimity.

Libranda would not comment on the exact date for launching the iBookstore in Latin America, but the haste in their letter to publishers — they have to be prepared by 30 August — points to imminent moves. The communication, dated July 18, states that Apple would only allow three currencies in their iBookstore — US dollars, British pounds and Mexican pesos — a condition that is guaranteed to give publishers headaches and likely spells trouble with other Latin American e-tailers that work with Libranda’s catalogue and price the e-books in the local currencies.

“We are already selling our e-books in Argentine and Colombian pesos, and this clause imposed by Apple means a terrible complication at metadata level,” says our source, who also underscores the lack of support of Libranda — “we are working in the dark with nine territories and nine currencies.” To this you must add that Apple only supports prices ending in .49 or .99 cents of a dollar, a circumstance that forces publishers to change all the prices with local e-tailers that sell in their national currencies, a fact particularly important in countries in which e-books are protected by fixed price laws.

In what sounds like a desperate move to comply both with Apple and other associated e-tailers in the region, Libranda writes: “We have been forced to find a provisional and in-between solution in order to offer our services to publishers wishing to sell their books in Latin America through the iBookstore, while not harming the booksellers in Argentina and Colombia who already sell in their local currencies.”

The solution, although ingenious, does not promise a good start for Apple in the region. In order to use the American currency for selling their e-books in Argentina and Colombia, publishers will be forced to use the Falkland Islands and Guyana as territories of origin of the transaction, two colonial enclaves much resented both by the governments and the populations of Latin America, and at a moment when the Unasur (Union of South American Nations) maintains an active policy opposing British claims of sovereignty over the islands in the South Atlantic.

“We have the awkward feeling of mindless improvisation regarding a critical market for Spanish publishers. Latin America is our second natural marketplace; we sell lots of print books there. We can’t afford not being in the iBookstore, which represents some 30% of total digital sales nowadays, but neither can we have a makeshift solution for the region” says the source.

Apparently, the iBookstore operations will be directed out of Madrid until Apple finds a suitable executive for Latin America.

Going global sure isn’t easy.

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  1. Posted July 31, 2012 at 8:55 am | Permalink

    Bueno bueno, me parece que vamos a tener que llamar a un boicot contra iBookstore hasta tanto no resuelva su estofado. Pagar en dólares vía Falklands? El público tendrá que enterarse…
    ¿O los editores argentinos que distribuyen en Libranda lo hacen en Sterlings vía Gibraltar?

  2. Julieta Lionetti
    Posted July 31, 2012 at 11:17 am | Permalink

    Hi Guido!
    It seems to be a very clumsy move, done in absolute ignorance of the real markets they are willing to win. Being the first big player in e-books might not be an advantage for the iBookstore under these circumstances.

  3. Posted July 31, 2012 at 9:53 pm | Permalink

    Julieta Lionetti should have gotten her article more in line with the facts. The Falkland Islands aren’t a colonial enclave in any sane sense of the term. Those who live there are full British citizens and want to remain that way.

    When the author says that, “Unasur (Union of South American Nations) maintains an active policy opposing British claims of sovereignty over the islands in the South Atlantic,” she’s talking of xenophobia pure and simple. She’s talking about Latin Americans who don’t want anyone in their region speaking anything other than a Latin-based language. That’s nasty. That’s ugly. That’s bigotry.

    Europe had the same problem for centuries. The major powers, particularly Germany, Austria and Russia, denied the rights of Poles, Czechs and others with their own languages and cultures, to live in the country of their choosing. For many generations, these peoples were forced to be a tiny slice of a larger nation they loathed. The same would be true of an Argentina-occupied Falkland Islands. It’d quickly become a police state.

    Latin Americans who want to crush the free choice the citizens of the Falklands have made as to their nationality are simply thugs. And perhaps that thuggish attitude is why Latin America has so much trouble establishing stable, corruption-free democracies. Those who deny political legitimacy to the British citizens of the Falklands really have no reason to complain if they have no political legitimacy at home, or in the fact that they’re so often ruled by corrupt oligarchies.

    Even worse, rants about the Falklands are used by those corrupt oligarchies to keep their citizens distracted from just how badly their governed at home. I grew up in the old segregated American South. I know all too well how hate mongering addles the brain.

  4. Posted August 1, 2012 at 7:56 am | Permalink

    Good luck to them. I think the pricing will be a big fact

  5. Sebastian
    Posted August 10, 2012 at 11:25 am | Permalink

    Las Islas Malvinas (Falklands, called by them) is a colonial enclave like Gibraltar (Spain). The whole world knows it…
    Hopefully the pricing of the iBooks has not to go through them. Latin America knows that they are dominated by Great Britain and Latin America does not want more empires around us.

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