By Ricardo Costa and Jesus Jimenez
Brazil and Germany are two countries, completely different from each other, separated by an ocean and thousands of miles. But when it comes to books, it seems that there is a great deal of similarities between them. After visiting about 12 companies in Germany — publishing houses, service providers, libraries and book organizations — our delegation of Brazilian publishers found out that the notion that was already in our minds was real: the book markets from Brazil and Germany very alike and can learn a lot from each other.
The visits were part of the Brazilian STM Publishers Trip to Germany organized by the Frankfurt Book Fair. The members of the Brazilian contingent had the chance to exchange experiences with their German counterparts on producing STM books. It was also the perfect occasion to explain what is going on in the Brazilian STM book market and get to know how to face its never-ending changes.
“When the Earth moves under one’s feet, it is very difficult to see clearly what stays solid and what is going to be ‘swallowed’ in this new era. In Germany we have found that publishing houses with more than a hundred years of good practices and firm work have already changed and are ready for the digital world,” said Eduardo Blücher, CEO at Editora Blucher, a Brazilian publishing house based in São Paulo.
The conversations and discussions between Brazilians and Germans covered a broad range of subjects, from business models to libraries, from the first books printed in the digital era and the challenges of these changing times. Amazon was frequently raised as a topic regarding this “new digital era.” Much was discussed about how the German publishers are dealing with the American retailer and how to conduct business with them, in particular with regards to digital distribution and other ebook retailers works.
The Evolving Forms of Open Access
Open Access was another frequently discussed issue. Publishers are basically working in two models at the same time. At least for now, this hybrid model seems to be the trend for the STM market in both countries: part of production is released through the traditional system — putting books on sale — and part of the production is going through the open access system.
Open access has now, two models: green and gold. With the Green Model, the author is self-published and the content goes online for free. With the Gold Model, the author pays the publishing house to publish his/her work online using Open Access. It is not clear yet how this situation will evolve or whether any of these models will dominate in the future.
Libraries and Digital Books
The role of libraries and digital books came up in almost every conversation with publishers, especially with regards to business models available. Some publishing houses in Germany have make almost 80% of their sales to with, but the question about what business model is best in order to deal with libraries is very important for STM Publishers in general.
A visit to Bookwire — the German ebooks aggregator who is starting its operations in Brazil — demonstrated to the Brazilian Publishers a few different models. By the end of the trip two models came to the fore as the most viable: one time sale (with no rights to updates, so new editions have to be bought) and sales “on demand,” here the library buys a book only once a student requests to read it. The subscription system is working but it seemed not to be the preferred model for publishers or librarians.
There’s no doubt, digital publishing the hottest issue in most conversations, if not in all conversations. This is another field where markets in Germany and Brazil are alike. According to publishers, 3% of their sales come from ebooks – some special titles or publishers with a very specific area reported up to 15%, but 3% is the average number. In Germany, as in Brazil, piracy remains a problem and everyone is concerned about it, but at the same time Germans are aware that ebook and print book are both equally subject to piracy. Most of the biggest German Publishers in STM are not even using DRM. Their main idea is making as much as possible available for sale. The rest is up to the customer — as it has always been.
One of the German Publishers advised the Brazilians: don’t leave the production of your ebook to third parties, train your own people instead — not in terms of digital file production but in terms of editorial production. Nowadays books should be produced thinking about the different available supports. And one last piece of advice: don’t fear new technologies.
“I am confident that we, as Brazilian STM Publishers, share the motivations and concerns about the market of our German counterparts. Content as an independent factor has experimented a serious reduction, while the combination of content + services + technology as a whole is what holds the key of current development, in terms of educational market, students and universities,” said Ana Paula Matos, Publisher at Editora Saraiva, one of the biggest Publishing Houses in Brazil based in São Paulo.
And Mr. Blucher concludes: “We have a long road ahead of us and it is full of challenges, but we have an attractive market and a public that is more and more demanding ahead of us.”