By Elianna Kan
Argentina, with its rich book culture, would have a much higher proliferation of ebooks if not for the cost of e-readers, made prohibitively expensive by the country’s import laws. Still, that hasn’t stopped Argentina’s BajaLibros from taking a big bet on ebooks. The Buenos Aires–based company, which only sells digital books, launched in October 2010 at a time when ebooks were relatively non-existent in Latin America. They offer a subscription service, a digital library, and recently launched a self-publishing platform called IndieLibros. As opposed to their competitors who came to e-publishing from a bookstore background, BajaLibros arrived at books from a background in digital content. Before BajaLibros, came BajaMúsica — the first digital music store in Argentina and one of the first in the whole Southern Cone — as well as an online store offering movies on demand. What little market there is for ebooks in Argentina, BajaLibros has it cornered, according to Sués Caula.
In an interview with Publishing Perspectives at the Guadalajara Book Fair this past year, the BajaLibros team was quick to emphasize that they don’t depend on Argentina, but rather think of themselves as an ebook retailer for all of Latin America, attuned to the specific needs of its various markets and specializing in digital promotion.
They’re also making a concerted effort to draw the attention of the Hispanic population in the United States, a sizable market that seems relatively untapped by Spanish-language ebook retailers. It’s not an easy task, according to Bajalibros’s head of Marketing, Agustina Gaona, given the diversity and dispersion of the Hispanic audience — a Spanish reader in Miami is different from a Spanish reader in California or New York. But, she insists, it’s a population that seems invested in bi-culturalism — hence the high demand for children’s books in Spanish from parents who want to raise their children bilingual. She and her colleague Mercedes Conte had recently come from exhibiting at the Miami Book Fair and were quite encouraged by the positive reception BajaLibros received.
Spanish readers in the United States don’t have to sift through Amazon for Spanish-language ebooks but can go directly to BajaLibros to find out about the newest releases, latest bestsellers, and other suggested titles from an ever-expanding digital catalogue, catered specifically to the user’s interests. “We are Latinos, we speak to the Latino consumer,” insists Gaona.