Digital Case Study: The Mobile and E-book Market in Spain

In Guest Contributors, Resources by Emily Williams

mobile phone

By Emily Williams

This is a continuation of our Digital Case Study of Spain. Yesterday we covered publishers’ online marketing strategies. You can read that article here.

Spanish-language publishers have taken their time moving into the e-book market, but that is finally changing. Using two companies as examples — small independent publisher Maevea and Random House Mondadori — we take a look at what might be in store for the mobile e-book market in Spain over the next year.

Going Mobile

“There are many readers who know all about our house and its history, the books we publish, our high standards, who look for our books because they know they won’t be disappointed,” said Maeva’s Publicity and Communications Director Laura Russo. At the same time, Maeva hopes to build on this good will and expand their readership in new directions. An important part of them is reaching readers where they are: on their mobile phones.

Earlier this year they announced a new program that will offer samples of some of their books for download to their mobiles: Libros para móviles, is an initiative we’ve launched to reach a younger, more tech-savvy audience, readers aged 18 to 25 or 30. We’re drawing from our paperback collection, which has been doing very well and we think is a good match for that age group.”

Libros para movilesThe sample chapters can be downloaded to more than 600 models of cell phone — excepting only the iPhone. “Apple’s process is more complicated,” Russo admits. “Our idea is to try out this kind of campaign and then get our books onto iPhones further down the road.”

RHM also has its eye on Spain’s growing iPhone market. “There are around 450,000 iPhones in Spain, that’s a lot,” says Ospina. “It’s a very interesting market for us and we’re definitely going to experiment with apps and see how that goes.”RHM has offered cell phone downloads of first chapters as well, with mixed success, but they continue to try out new platforms and new partners. “We’re starting to work with GoSpoken, a platform for e-books for Vodfone and Orange and other providers. We upload free first chapters for download there and we’re testing that, so we’ll know how that works when we have the e-book program running.”

E-book Launch Expected in May

By the e-book program, Ospina means the plan announced by Spain’s big three publishers (Planeta, Random House Mondadori, and Santillana) to launch their e-book distribution platform, now scheduled to coincide with Madrid’s Feria del Libro at the end of May. While leading department store El Corte Inglés has already begun to prime demand by offering e-readers and revamping its online bookstore there has been vocal criticism from readers who are frustrated with the publishers for moving so slowly. The tiny Spanish e-book market still suffers from a dire lack of books, something that has not gone unnoticed by readers, who are growing increasingly impatient. Hopes that the new platform will provide a solution are running high.

For Ospina this is just one more reason for RHM to have an active presence in different online forums. “It’s been interesting to engage with readers, to join in the conversation and say hey, you know, this is why we’re launching what we’re launching, and this is what it takes to digitize your catalog and to get your deals with agents and to get rights. We’ve used Twitter for that a lot.”

Ospina’s department of three has spent the last few years learning everything they could about what works in digital marketing for their paper books, and she’s eager to see how the e-book launch will affect sales in all formats. “When the e-books come out, I think we’ll see a change in how we do online marketing for physical and e-books, because we’re going to launch them at the same time probably. That will change the strategy. And we’ll see more usage of the internet to find out about books. People are going to want to find out what e-books are about and they’re going to find either the physical or the electronic online.”

With all its experimenting RHM is ahead of many Spanish publishers, big and small, but Ospina knows her job is far from done: “In terms of online marketing we are definitely still learning. We are still spreading the gospel [in house] and teaching the tools. We had several online marketing campaigns that were very ambitious. Some of them worked really, really well, others didn’t. We realized that rather than outsourcing, we were better off doing most of it in house and really crafting an online strategy, a manual of online marketing, and that’s what we are starting this year.”

Engaging with readers in public is another new skill that Ospina is working to refine and develop. “In the sense of how we speak to our readers I think we have a lot more to learn. We do engage in an online conversation every day with our readers, on Twitter and Facebook, we answer questions every day. The conversations we’re having with people are very interesting.” And the long term payoff in reader loyalty is entirely worthwhile, as Maeva is discovering as well. For Russo, there’s no question their investment in the online world has been worth it. “This is a very dynamic world, subject to constant changes. Every day we’re learning something new,” she said.

READ: Our earlier coverage of the Feria del Libro Digital

REVISIT: Our earlier news about plans by Spain’s “big three” to launch a digital distribution company.

DISCUSS: Why is Spain so slow to launch e-books?

About the Author

Emily Williams

Emily Williams as Manager of International Digital Content at Barnes & Noble.com. Before that, she worked as digital content producer for Publishers Marketplace, contributor to Digital Book World and Publishing Perspectives, and also held a senior scout position with Maria B. Campbell & Associates.