By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson
‘Publishing Is Genuinely European’
In his Twitter conversation with Frankfurt Book Fair last week, Spain’s Javier Celaya spoke of “a new generation of publishing entrepreneurs willing to embrace the new opportunities” now becoming evident in the Spanish-language markets.
And while Celaya will speak at Frankfurt’s The Markets: Global Publishing Summit on October 18 in the role of visionary (here is our interview with him), the conference’s analytical commentary from Spain will be handled by Barcelona’s Daniel Fernández.
As Celaya has noted in his own white paper preparatory to The Markets, “We have observed a massive trend by independent publishers to become more involved in the production and marketing of digital books, especially in Latin America.
“In the Spanish speaking markets,” Celaya writers, “independent publishers are experiencing a growth of between 20 to 35 percent, whereas big publishers in the region have experienced a ‘plateau’ in some markets or moderate growth with respect to certain business models in comparison with other years.”
And it’s against that background of a market, sorely tested by economic constraints, that Fernández addresses his key points of interest and concern. He speaks of caution, of care needed to defend and preserve books and publishing: “We must look after [the industry] and protect it, because if we lose it, we lose our culture. Yes, that’s right, because the publishing industry is genuinely European, not American as music or movies are. If we lose it, we lose our essence, and we will be history.”
Three Points of Concern
1. Cultural habit. “Although it may seem an obvious answer,” Fernández tells Publishing Perspectives, “I must say that my main concern is the changing habits of cultural consumption.
“Without wanting to be a soothsayer, this is something obvious. Only a few decades have gone by from when we thought of the book as the main element of leisure and entertainment at home, to seeing how it’s being replaced or combined with other entertainment media such as radio, television, film, music, the Internet, video games, and so on, many accessed through the omnipresent smartphone.
“In the case of the book,” Fernández says, “we must take another factor into account, the ebook. I don’t think it will spell the end of the book on paper, at least for now, just as television didn’t overtake radio. But the ebook has diversified readers and readings; and it also has led to piracy, which has been so hard on publishers, booksellers and authors in the Spanish market.”
“We must take into account that our entire industry revolves around copyright…Publishers also have rights, and we are the ones who lose them first in a world that devours us.”Daniel Fernández
2. Falling sales. “The consequence of all this,” says Fernández, “in the case of a nation like Spain so aggravated by the economic crisis, is falling sales and market difficulties, both in Spain and in other countries. That also leads to more consolidation and concentration of publishing—once so much more divergent and scattered—into large conglomerates of multimedia publishing companies where the book is only one channel among others, but not the principal.
“I’m the current president of the Federación de Gremios de Editores de España , the Spanish Publishers’ Guild. And, of course, the Spanish publishing sector represents not just Spain but an important part of Latin America. Spanish is the third most-spoken language in the world, only after Mandarin Chinese and English, with almost 500 million speakers.
“And if we consider this,” Fernández says, “it justifies the publishing sector in the Spanish language as the most important cultural industry in our market. We must look after it and protect it, because if we lose it, we lose our culture. Yes, that’s right, because the publishing industry is genuinely European, not American as music or movies are. If we lose it, we lose our essence, and we will be history.”
3. “On the other hand,” Fernández tells Publishing Perspectives, “we must take into account that our entire industry revolves around copyright: the rights of authors, agents, and publishers.
“Publishers also have rights, and we are the ones who lose them first in a world that devours us.
“As for piracy, I believe it must be attacked, it has to come to an end. We must achieve this through law, not without compassion but with intelligence.”
‘The Future is Still There’
Publishing Perspectives: Your publishing house has such history, having been founded in 1946 by Antonio López Llausàs from exile in Argentina. And there are 15 Nobel Prize wins in your catalogue. How do you come to be part of this historic company?
“I feel very thankful because I have the chance to learn something new every day. That’s actually one of the benefits of this profession.”Daniel Fernández
Daniel Fernández: I started my professional career years ago, working in a small publishing Catalan company. Then, over time, I became managing director of a publishing house in Spain that was part of a group that had operations in significant portions of Europe and Latin America.
Later, I became director of the Grijalbo Mondadori group, and for the last 20 years, I’ve been the publisher of Edhasa, which is also based in Argentina, too, and comprises other publishing companies such as Castalia, Marlow and Elipse.
PP: Along with your organizational work with the federations of Catalonian and Spanish publishers, you’ve had a lot of time to observe the marketplace, haven’t you?
DF: Honestly, I feel very thankful because I have the chance to learn something new every day. That’s actually one of the benefits of this profession. After so many years, I do have an opinion, yes. I don’t know if it’s a wrong opinion, but it’s mine.
PP: At the highest level, how do you see the way forward from here in the autumn of 2016?
DF: Nowadays, we’re living in in difficult times—at least very different times. But the future is still there.
We should just go step by step and learn how to face it. Then, we’ll see what that future will bring us.
In addition to our Markets white paper, you can read our series of interviews and information in relation to The Markets: Global Publishing Summit (18 October 2016) from Publishing Perspectives and the Frankfurt Book Fair.
This year’s program will showcase the following seven markets:
- Flanders & The Netherlands (Guest of Honor)
- United Arab Emirates
- United Kingdom
The Markets’ programming highlights each of these seven publishing territories from three perspectives: analysis, vision, and industry players. The day is devised to provide attendees not only with information and insights into the most important features of each industry market, but also with extensive networking opportunities during the event.