Coronavirus Worklife: Italy’s Bookstores Can Reopen; Brazilian Publishers Ramp Up Promotion

In Feature Articles by Porter Anderson

The Italian publishers association warns the ‘lockdown light’ opening of some bookstores must be backed up by financial aid, as Brazilian Publishers opens an online effort to reach international markets.

In the locked-down Naples. Image – iStockphoto: David Chiarito

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

‘Lockdown Light’ Gingerly Tested in Italy
Today (April 14), the Italian government has allowed some bookstores, stationery shops, and children’s clothing stores to reopen, following weeks under the nationwide lockdown.

At this writing, the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center‘s 11:51 a.m. ET update (1551 GMT) shows Italy with 159,516 COVID-19 cases (third after the United States and Spain) and 20,465 deaths (second after the United States).

Inside the stores, distancing requirements must be maintained, as Lane Elder at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution is writing.  “But,” as an Associated Press wire carried by The New York Times has it, “there was no coherency to the openings, with some regional governors and individual shop owners deciding to keep their doors shut for now.

“Hard-hit Lombardy and Piemonte kept their bookshops and stationary shops closed, while central Lazio [Rome] postponed any opening for another week to allow stores to put in place sanitary measures to protect both staff and shoppers alike. Veneto was allowing them to open two days a week under a gradual loosening that the governor termed ‘lockdown light.'”

Indeed, “opening” actually means in most cases that one person is to be allowed into a store at a time. And while many publishing people may rightly want to take heart at the idea of an open bookstore, it will also be worth considering that under such circumstances, a store’s staff is hardly back at work. Such a scenario may support paying one bookseller, for example, rather than a staff.

And discussions around the idea of “recovery” and “reopening” in various parts of the world are grappling with a slowly dawning understanding that things will not be “back to normal” until a vaccine is achieved. According to a study from Stephen M. Kissler and a team at Harvard—published today (April 14) in the journal Science—indicates that “prolonged or intermittent social distancing may be necessary into 2022.”

Ricardo Franco Levi

In Italy, a message from Ricardo Franco Levi, who leads the publishers association (Associazione Italiana Editori, AIE), has welcomed the news of the ‘lockdown light” provisions for some stores. “But to overcome the crisis, emergency aid is indispensable,” he says, to be sure that publishers and booksellers together can emerge from the pandemic.

Levi has added that it must be each store’s own decision as to if, when, and how it can reopen “to protect the health of customers and booksellers,” a telling point about the value of life over commerce—particularly after the concerns that greeted some efforts in the UK to keep bookstores open beyond what some critics said was safe.

Safety, Levi writes, “is the primary value for us all.”

Italy is being tracked with 602 deaths so far today, on Worldometers‘ international dashboard.

Brazil’s Publishers Try Digital Roundtables, Rights Sales

An empty Maua Square (Praça Mauá), in downtown Rio de Janeiro, in April 4 shot. Image – iStockphoto: Appreciate

Virtual operations can’t replace in-person meetings temporarily lost to publishing as the economic ravages of the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic play out. But there’s a gentle irony in how good even a small online boost might look these days to many book people who may once have uttered the word digital with the same disdain they might assign to Bah! Humbug!

In many world markets at the moment, book sales are being made digitally—both through online retailers and in electronic formats like ebooks and audiobooks. They’re not nearly enough to stabilize a budget, but it makes perfect sense to explore further what might be possible.

The Brazilian Publishers organization—which supports the export of Brazilian books and content—is announcing a coordinated outreach effort between the Brazilian Book Chamber, (Câmara Brasileira do Livro, CBL) and the Brazilian Trade and Investment Promotion Agency, called ApexBrasil.

Later this month, an app is to be activated to help support publishers with information about the market, a guide to various online activities with registration, and a virtual-meeting feature.

According to Fernanda Dantas, who manages the Brazilian Publishers organization and is the international affairs manager for the chamber, one of the key goals of the new digitally positioned effort is to raise the international rights profile of the country’s content.

We’ve been working on internationalizing Brazilian writers and books,” she says. “The application is a versatile, up-to-date, and easy-to-use technology to put our publishers in contact with players from other parts of the world.”

Fernanda Dantas

As the program comes online, three matchmaking sessions are planned, one each for April, May, and June. In these, Brazilian publishers will be put into touch with counterparts from the United States, Canada, China, and other parts of Latin America. Members of the chamber who are not yet engaged with the Brazilian Publishers app program will be invited to one of these events and offered a chance to subscribe to the project.

“This will give the companies that have not joined the Brazilian Publishers program yet a chance of exporting their books,” Dantas says—hopefully a lure to membership.

In May, the project is to start supporting online catalogues at PubMatch, the online trading platform held by Publishers Weekly and the Combined Book Exhibit. Each publisher engaged in the project is to have a page in the Brazilian Publishers’ online site, intended as a way to showcase the market’s offerings in a kind of virtual combined stand.

Dantas says she thinks this approach “will be a great ally of Brazilian publishing houses aiming at selling book rights, especially in this moment of social distancing and quarantine.”

If you’d like to look into the new effort in Brazil, you can register your interest here.

And from the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center, we know that Brazil is actually the 11th nation in the world for caseloads. At this writing, the country reports 28,746 confirmed cases and 1,757 deaths. Brazil’s population is some 210 million.

More from Publishing Perspectives on the Brazilian market is here, more on the Italian market is here, and more from us on the coronavirus pandemic is here.

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Inside this issue of Publishing Perspectives Magazine, you’ll find articles and resources including coverage from China, Belgium, Russia, the Latin American markets, Norway, Germany, the United States, the United Kingdom, the international copyright community and world market data sources.

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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 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.