Brazil Is the Country of the Future, and the Future is Now

In Growth Markets by Carlo Carrenho

By Carlo Carrenho

“For so long, Brazil was a nation brimming with potential but held back by politics, both at home and abroad. For so long, you were called a country of the future, told to wait for a better day that was always just around the corner. My friends, that day has finally come. And this is a country of the future no more. The people of Brazil should know that the future has arrived. It is here now. And it’s time to seize it.”

Brazil ocean

Photo by Lima Andruška

Those were the strong and inspiring words of US President Obama during a speech in Rio de Janeiro in March 2011, and rousing applause that followed was proof that Brazilians agreed. Brazil is the country of the future. But when it comes to books, is the situation the same? Are their indeed opportunities for international publishing companies to participate in this gigantic nation’s booming economy? Some data for you to consider.

Big Country, Few Bookstores

Brazil is a country of continental dimensions — spreads across 50% of South America, has 5,565 cities and 190 million people. However, when it comes to bookstores, the country is woefully underserved, with just 3,000 providing for the entire population and most of them are concentrated in urban centers. To reach areas not served by stores, publishers rely on door-to-door sales, which represent 17% of the market (up from 5% in 2006).

According to the most recent figures released by the Brazilian Book Chamber (CBL) and the Brazilian Publishers Union (SNEL), the total value of the publishing market was calculated at US$ 1.94 billion in 2009. Government purchases represented 25% of the total earnings, the majority of these purchases — some US$ 401 million — going for K-12 textbooks. There are about 40 million children attending public schools and the government has developed important initiatives to increase literacy.

Growing Book Production

In 2009, publishers produced 52,510 titles (22,027 new editions and 30,483 reprints). At that time, 386 million units were printed, of which 154.4 million were new editions. In all, there were some 370 million units sold. These recent figures derive from a study by FIPE (Fundação Instituto de Pesquisas Econômicas). Information was collected from 693 publishers, with revenues varying from US$ 574 million to US$ 29 million per year, and representing 78% of the publishing market. The next round of statistics is expected to be released in August.

The sales figures for 2009 are considered respectable. Since 2006, the number of units sold has continued to grow: from 310m at that time to 370m in 2009. Most segments show improvement, with Trade (up 9.1%) and STM (up 7.5%) leading the pack. The K-12 textbook segment represents 51% of the sales in US dollars, followed by trade at 24%, STM at 15%, and religion at 10%.

In March, the National Bookstores Association (ANL) published annual results showing overall bookstore revenue for 2010 rising 9.6% compared 2009. Inflation during the period was 6%, which offset some growth, though the remaining gains were strong. Fully 29% of bookstores declared they plan to expand or renovate their shops, while 9% of them intend to open new stores. The report also showed that e-commerce has not been implemented by the majority of booksellers. Only 48.57% of the Brazilian booksellers sell online, though 25% of them intend to invest in technology in 2011.

Translation Statistics

Fewer titles (-12.3%) have been translated into Portuguese in recent years, with the biggest drop off being seen in titles translated from the Spanish (-42%). English is still the most translated language, with 3,700 titles appearing in 2009, followed by French (674), Spanish (616), Italian (399), German (204) and other languages (51). Brazilian publishers “translated” 164 titles from Portugal (European Portuguese differs quite a bit from Brazilian Portuguese). Despite the reduction of the number of translated titles, many more units have been distributed to stores: the quantity of units printed rose from 20 million in 2008 to 28 million in 2009 — a 37% improvement.

DISCUSS: Is Brazil on Your Publishing Agenda for 2011?

About the Author

Carlo Carrenho

Carlo Carrenho is a Brazilian publishing consultant and journalist. In 2001, he founded PublishNews, a daily electronic newsletter in Portuguese that covers the Brazilian publishing market. He’s also worked for several Brazilian publishing houses, including Thomas Nelson Brasil, which he launched in 2007.