By Emily Williams
The long-awaited e-book platform from Spain’s big three publishers now has a name. At a meeting with booksellers in Madrid on Tuesday, representatives of the new company announced it will be called Libranda, and will offer the biggest selection of e-books in Spanish and Catalán in the world. Libranda will act as a digital distributor with no direct-to-consumer sales, in hopes of preserving the value chain linking publishers to readers through traditional and online booksellers.
In addition to founding partners Planeta, Random House Mondadori, and Santillana, smaller houses Roca Editorial, Wolters Kluwer, SM and Edicions 62 have bought into the company, and the platform will also distribute books from prestigious independents Anagrama, Salamandra and Maeva. Libranda has deals in place to roll out in June with major chain retailers El Corte Inglés, Fnac, Casa del Libro, and Abacus, and named ten indie bookstores across Spain (Cámara, Cervantes, La Central, Laie, Proteo, Machado, Popular, Ochentamundos, Hijos de Santiago Rodríguez, Santos Ochoa) that will also be part of the launch. Participating publishers have the option of negotiating their own retailer discounts individually (Spanish industry blog Divertinajes suggests these will be around 25%) or leaving everything in the hands of the distributor. For now there is no plan to provide e-books to libraries.
Libranda will offer its e-books in ePub format, limited by user and territory with Adobe DRM. The good news: default settings will allow readers who buy e-books to download each title on up to 6 PCs and 6 mobile devices, though individual publishers will be able to set stricter limits if they wish. The bad news: a VAT of 18%. Books in Spain are subject to a lower cultural tax of 4% and the Spanish government had agreed to apply this to e-books as well, but this plan apparently ran afoul of EU policy and the taxes are back up to 18%, the same rate applied to software.
Apart from this pesky EU interference, Libranda is clearly 100% made in Spain, a bid by the heavyweights in Spanish publishing to control their own destiny in the digital future. No mention was made of the big players dominating the international e-book news of late: no Amazon, no Apple, no Google (though, granted, a pitch to the bookselling community is not the most likely forum to announce any potential collaboration with the tech giants). = Libranda plans to provide some digital marketing support, like widgets, that booksellers can use to sell e-books from their websites, but so far there is no news of apps for the iPhone or iPad — which is set to arrive in Spain on May 28th — or other mobile initiatives.
It’s interesting to note just an e-book market can be created at will, essentially from scratch, by the old familiar faces in a book industry the digerati like to characterize as lumbering and retrograde. The fledgling e-book market in Spain is about to get access to the content it has been hungry for, as the arrival of Libranda with its wealth of new titles and bestsellers dwarfs earlier efforts like competing platform 36L or digital publishers Leer-e and Bubok. (Indeed, the Spanish wire service Efe reports that 36L is losing one its biggest clients, Edicions 62, a prominent Catalán publishing group now owned by Planeta, as it has defected to Libranda.)
The introduction of Libranda comes two weeks before Book Expo America in New York shines a spotlight on Spanish publishing. In one of the first events of the Global Market Forum on May 25th, Planeta CEO Jesús Badenes joins Larry Bennett from Baker & Taylor and Patricia Arancibia from BN.com to talk about the e-book markets in Spain and the US. Spain’s own big book event, the reader-oriented Feria del Libro Madrid , then kicks off May 28th, with the launch of Libranda timed to close things out with a bang as the fair wraps up on June 13th.
DISCUSS: Is the EU’s 18% Tax on Spanish E-books Fair?