Brazil's First E-bookstore Opens for Business

In Growth Markets by Ricardo Costa

By Ricardo Costa

Gato Sabido

RIO DE JANIERO: On December 15, Brazil’s first e-bookstore — Gato Sabido (Smart Cat) — opened for business, offering approximately 400 titles in Portuguese. “The Gato Sabido is going to work on every step of the e-book process, from conversion to sales,” says Carlos Eduardo Ernanny, company founder and CEO. The new company plans to offer 30,000 titles in Portuguese by the end of 2010.

Titles range from A Economia em Pessoa by Gustavo H. B. Franco (Editora Zahar), which has garnered media attention for its unique take on the poet’s work, to O Vinho Mais Caro da História by Benjamin Wallace [The Billionaire’s Vinegar: The Mystery of the World’s Most Expensive Bottle of Wine].

Ernanny, a “carioca” [someone from Rio de Janeiro] who goes by the name “Duda,” previously spent 17 years working in finance and decided to enter the e-book business after searching for a new profession. A book lover with a personal library of more than 2,000 volumes, Duda knew that e-books looked to be the future of the industry.

The key was to try and indoctrinate Brazilian publishers to the very idea of e-books. To help get the site started, Gato Sabido offered free conversion services to any book publishers want to sell as an e-book on the site. The first publisher to close a deal with Gato Sabido was Editora Zahar, which had previously converted a number of its titles into e-books and is on track to have its entire list digitized by the end of March.

Titles are available in either epub or PDF formats and, to assuage publishers fears about piracy, are DRM protected.

In order to bulk up the retailer’s offerings, Gato Sabido partnered with British company Interead to offer another 100,000 titles in English on its site starting this month; in return Interead gets the rights to sell Gato Sabido’s Portuguese e-book inventory in England and the United States.

In addition to titles, the company is also marketing the COOL-ER e-reader in Brazil, which it is selling for R$750 (US $430) — or approximately half of what it costs to have an “international” Kindle shipped directly to Brazil from the US. The company is also working on releasing an iPhone app.

Over the next three months, Gato Sabido promises 300 addition titles in Portuguese from Editora Zahar (100 each month) and more than thousand titles from Lumen Juris Editora who publishes books on law, which are being released at a rate of 100 per week.

According to Ernanny, the question for Brazilian publishers “is not about if they are going to work with e-books, but how they are going to get started in this digital world. There are those who want to test the waters and they are going to convert 10 or 20 titles to ‘see how it works’; and there are those who want to start with the whole catalog. This is what we are talking and negotiating now with various publishers.”

Duda estimates that by the end of January that Gato Sabido will have deals with at least ten publishing houses.

About the Author

Ricardo Costa

Ricardo Costa is the managing director of Metabooks Brasil. He has worked as editor of PublishNews and as Regional Director of Brazil and South America for the Frankfurter Buchmesse.