By Adam Critchley
An initiative among Mexican booksellers and publishers has led to the creation of the Bookstore Association, aimed at uniting the sector to promote booksellers’ interests, lobby for better price laws and against piracy, and stem the spate of small-shop closures of recent years.
The Asociación de Librerías de México was officially unveiled at the Guadalajara Book Fair by its founders, aimed at representing the country’s booksellers and vouching for their interests, said the association’s president, Rodrigo Pérez-Porrúa, director of the Porrúa-Hermanos bookstore chain.
“We are uniting because booksellers form a fundamental part of the book’s value chain, and we are inviting all of the country’s bookstores to join us,” he said, adding that one of the association’s first aims is to carry out a bookstore census to determine how many currently operate in the country.
He said it is estimated there are 1,200 bookstores in Mexico, a scant number given the country’s population of around 110 million, and its size, at around 760,000 square miles, or about three times the size of Texas.
Not achieving the incorporation of the majority of the country’s bookstores into the fold of the association means the initiative would be worth little, he added.
“Bookstores are going through a complex time in Mexico, with a tax regime that is leading to the closure of bookstores, particularly the smaller, neighborhood bookstores,” he said.
He said the association will push for the drafting of a book law, fixing maximum prices to the public, eliminating the VAT paid by booksellers, which is currently 16 percent, and combating piracy, which is a serious threat to booksellers’ livelihoods.
The lack of bookstores is, in itself, one of the causes of the proliferation of piracy, he added.
Between 2009 and 2014, one in 10 bookstores in Mexico closed their doors, according to the National Institute for Bookseller Development, called Indeli.
Indeli and the Guadalajara Book Fair organize the annual, 200,000-peso ($12,000) national bookstore award, aimed at promoting the labor of booksellers, and which was won this year by El Faro de Alejandría, located in the city of Querétaro.
Publishers and booksellers in Mexico have long bemoaned a book law that was modified in 2008, and which does not protect against arbitrary pricing or inflation.
The association will also seek to implement training programs for booksellers to make their labor more effective in uniting books with readers and improving the services that are a bookstore’s raison d’être.
José Ignacio Echeverría, president of the Mexican chamber of the publishing industry, CANIEM, said the association aims to push for bookstores to have the same fiscal obligations as publishing companies.
“Books in Mexico are, in general, accessibly priced, but the 16 percent VAT means that bookstores struggle, and we want to change the tax regime, as well as achieving a single price for books,” Mario Nawy, director of the Gandhi bookstore chain, said.