Diversity of Another Kind: The UAE and Brazil Explore Trade

In Feature Articles by Porter Anderson

When does looking outward answer internal struggles? When, as Emirati publisher Bodour Al Qasimi says, trade diversification answers a local crisis.

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

Diversification in Trade: ‘Mission Possible’

300 The Markets logoAhead of the October 18 conference The Markets: Global Publishing Summit produced by Frankfurt Book Fair and Publishing Perspectives, two of the event’s seven featured regions, Brazil and the United Arab Emirates, have begun exploring cultural ties and trade opportunities. The potential here, the UAE’s Sheikha Bodour bint Sultan Al Qasimi says, is what she terms a “mission possible,” a new context for mutual support in the two countries’ specific book-industry needs.

In describing the nascent bilateral effort, Bodour points to bookselling and the way the Herz family’s departure from Germany has led to the creation of Livraria Culturaa prominent bookstore chain in Brazil.  

“Pedro Herz’s parents had fled persecution in Germany,” the founder of the UAE’s Kalimat Group and Emirates Publishers Association (EPA) tells Publishing Perspectives. “And they moved to Brazil, which became their home. His parents faced financial challenges as they settled, but that didn’t stop his mother from spreading her love for reading by lending books to her neighbors.”

“It’s easy to see how passionate Brazilians are about their culture. And if that passion can be shared with the world through the literature, it can help the country move forward, even in the face of adversity.”Bodour Al Qasimi

Bodour led a trade visit to Brazil last month, arranging for meetings for Herz and herself and for several colleagues interested in cultivating new trade ties between the UAE and Brazil and other parts of Latin America. She was impressed, she tells us, by the story Herz told the delegation of his mother’s fondness for sharing books.

“She brought with her only 10 books, which she started lending for free,” Bodour says. “The waiting list to borrow her books grew longer and longer. People sometimes had to wait two years to borrow some of her books. The enthusiasm for her idea prompted her to buy more books, and soon her book-lending idea became a book-selling business.

“Today,” Bodour says, “Livraria Cultura reflects a rising trend: one recent survey shows that around 56 percent of the population of Brazil, or 104.7 million people, engage in reading, an increase from the 50 percent recorded in 2011,” the last census report.

But Brazil’s publishing industry remains susceptible to domestic, economic and political instability, she says, much as in the Middle East.

Salim Omar, left, and Tamer Said, second from left, meet members of Livaria Cultura's Herz family in São Paulo. Image: Emirates Publishers Association

Salim Omar, left, and Tamer Said, second from left, meet members of Livraria Cultura’s Herz family in São Paulo. Image: Emirates Publishers Association

Opening Communications

Her São Paulo International Book Fair delegation—which included Emirati publishers and associates with the EPA, the Sharjah Book Authority, and Sharjah Publishing City—held talks with Latin American stakeholders in book publishing.

The group’s meetings, says Bodour, who is also an executive committee member of the International Publishers Association, indicated to her that Brazil has both a chance and a need “to diversify its book industry and create trading partnerships that would open up global opportunities”—reflecting the UAE’s needs of the same kind.

Having heard from several members of the UAE trade delegation earlier, Publishing Perspectives asked Bodour for her own thoughts on the significance of the trip’s interactions with Brazilian colleagues.

“Our visit was special,” Bodour says, “because it coincided with Brazil hosting the Rio Olympics, and we met with locals who were in high spirits, proud of what they’d pulled off. It’s easy to see how passionate Brazilians are about their culture. And if that passion can be shared with the world through the literature, it can help the country move forward, even in the face of adversity.”

The UAE trade delegation meets with members of Brazil's publishers' chamber at São Paulo. Image: Emirates Publishers Association

The UAE trade delegation meets with members of Brazil’s publishers’ chamber at São Paulo. Image: Emirates Publishers Association

São Paulo’s Promise

Bodour cites a recent study conducted by the Institute for Economic Research for the Brazilian Book Chamber (CBL) and the National Union of Book Publishers showing that the total turnover of Brazilian publishers in 2015 was approximately $1.5 billion.

Reflecting the Brazilian market’s struggles outlined by Publishing Perspectives’ Hannah Johnson in our white paper for The Markets conference at Frankfurt Book Fair, Bodour points to historical retail and wholesale margins making the Brazilian market worth approximately $2.1 billion in 2015. 

Brazil’s ongoing economic and political crisis have had a significant effect on consumer and government book purchases,” she says, “showing a loss of almost 30 per cent in value since 2013.

“This calls into question Brazil’s book industry growth and the need to emphasize the importance of trade partner diversification.

“As a publisher,” she says, “I believe one of the best ways to turn the tide against the impact of Brazil’s economic and political crises on publishing is diversification in trade. Expanded partnerships can reduce the effects of exchange-rate risks and inflation.

“I find Brazil’s publishing industry acutely aware of this challenge. Its taking initial steps” toward trade diversification.

The Brazilian chamber, Bodour says, “recently established an international relations division to establish stronger trade ties to encourage exports,” partly through “entertaining trade delegations like ours.

“This gives other countries a platform to use in exploring market opportunities,” while focusing on opportunities, in this case, for Arab publishers in Brazil and Latin America.

“In fact, the National Library Foundation offers stipends to local authors and foreign translators of Brazilian works. It would be amazing if this was replicated by other countries.”

Sharjah Book Authority's Salim Omar holds one-on-one meetings in Brazil during the UAE trade delegation's trip to São Paulo. Image: Emirates Publishers Association

Sharjah Book Authority’s Salim Omar holds one-on-one meetings in Brazil during the UAE trade delegation’s trip to São Paulo. Image: Emirates Publishers Association

‘New Collaboration’

During the UAE delegation trip, “We met with the Board of Directors of CBL, the National Library Foundation, and leading Brazilian publishers and authors,” Bodour says. “The delegation also visited the National Library of São Paulo as well as bookstores, including Livraria Cultura.

“Our meeting with CBL opened up new collaboration between the Arab world and Latin America; a significant step for Brazil’s book industry as it tries to establish itself a truly global player in the books industry.

“During our meeting with the CBL,” she says, “we talked about the current publishing trade relationship between Latin America and the Arab world; explored potential programs to expand inter-regional trade with Brazilian publishers; and identified potential areas of support that Sharjah Publishing City can offer Brazilian publishers, especially in print-on-demand and metadata services.

“These deals, while still in preliminary stages,” can help “Brazilian publishers access the 22 countries of the Arab world,” while helping Arab publishers leverage Latin America’s Arab readership. Bodour Al Qasimi

“This emerging partnership is important for both sides, and CBL, EPA, and the Sharjah Book Authority want to work together to develop the Brazilian book market in the Arab world, and to promote Arab books in Brazil,” in light of huge interest from one of the largest Arab-diaspora populations in the world.

Also ahead, she says, is new engagement by Brazilian publishers in the Sharjah and Abu Dhabi international book fairs, echoed by heightened activity among Arab publishers in São Paulo’s and Rio’s fairs.

“In our meetings with leading publishers and authors,” Bodour says, “we identified several rights and distribution deals” that have the potential to fast-track translation agreements. 

“These deals, while still in preliminary stages,” she says, can help “Brazilian publishers access the 22 countries of the Arab world with a population of about 450 million,” while helping Arab publishers leverage Latin America’s Arab readership.  

“Whether it’s the members of CBL or authors and publishers keen to share their vision and culture with the rest of the world—or even bookstore owners like the Herz family of Livraria Cultura–the Brazilian publishing industry can handle its current struggles,” Bodour says.

“The trade partnerships Brazil has developed with the Arab world” through such efforts as August’s interaction with the Emirates Publishers Association “may be just one step in the right direction for Brazilian books industry, but it’s a beginning.

“With time,” Bodour says, “similar partnerships and efforts will open the Brazilian world of literature and give the world an understanding of the rich diversity and culture of that beautiful country.”

Livaria Cultura: the flagship store's interior at São Paulo, the Brazilian bookstore chain's home city. Image: Bodour Al Qasimi

Inside Livraria Cultura at São Paulo. Image: Bodour Al Qasimi

Bodour Al Qasimi is one of the speakers in The Markets: Global Publishing Summit (18 October 2016) from Publishing Perspectives and the Frankfurt Book Fair. Our free white Markets white paper is available, and you can read our series of interviews and information in relation to the conference, as well.
The Markets logo

This year’s program will showcase the following seven markets:

  1. Brazil
  2. Flanders & The Netherlands (Guest of Honor)
  3. Philippines
  4. Poland
  5. Spain
  6. United Arab Emirates
  7. 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.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with CNN.com, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.