At Guadalajara: Spain’s Publishers Present a 41-House Collective Stand

In News by Porter Anderson

Spanish publishers cite Mexico as their primary Latin American market, as they arrive at the Guadalajara International Book Fair.

Chilean author Diamela Eltit receives the 2021 FIL Award for Literature in the Romance Languages at the opening event of the Guadalajara International Book Fair, November 27. Image: University of Guadalajara, FIL Guadalajara, Paula Islas

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

Overall: 225 Exhibitors From 27 Countries
As the 35th Guadalajara International Book Fair opens today (November 27) to run through December 5 in Mexico, the Federación de Gremios Editores de España—FGEE, the Federation of Publishing Guilds in Spain—is announcing that its collective stand represents the work of 41 publishing houses in Spain.

The leadership of the federation is emphasizing is members’ pleasure in the fact that a physical fair is being staged by director Marisol Schulz this year, following the digital evocation of the show last year amid the pre-vaccination period of the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. The federation’s publishers, according to the offices in Madrid, are eager, not surprisingly, to display their work to the Ibero-American markets.

In addition to the 41 publishing houses represented by the stand, there are to be 67 “other publishing labels” operating from their own stands or from those of other institutions, which include the Guild of Euskadi Editors, the Generalitat of Catalonia, or the Association of Cultural Magazines of Spain.

Overall, the fair’s organizers anticipate 255 exhibitors from 27 countries and a presentation of as many as 240,000 books. Peru is the fair’s guest of honor market this year. The Guadalajara International Book Fair is produced by the University of Guadalajara, and during the fair week, events in music, cinema, theater, and the visual arts are staged in various parts of the city.

The Guadalajara Fair and Spain’s Publishing Industry

At the opening event of the 2021 Guadalajara International Book Fair, November 27. Image: University of Guadalajara, Guadalajara FIL, Bernardo De Niz

At the Guadalajara International Book Fair’s opening today (November 27), the kind of socio-political dynamics felt so strongly in many markets’ publishing communities was evident with Chilean author, critic, and feminist Diamela Eltit given the FIL Award for Literature in Romance Languages. She issued a warning in her acceptance speech that national cultures should “avoid the extreme right.”

Her comments, of course, reflected the first-round win on November 21 of Chile’s far-right presidential candidate José Antonio Kast.

“I’ve always stood on the left side of the road,” she told the event’s audience. “Today, the energy of the extreme right is striving to rule Chile. … We are working hard to prevent a rapacious government.”

La Feria Internacional del Libro, FIL, de Guadalajara is a public-facing book fair, rather than a trade show, although it has a robust professional program attached to it, directed by Rubén Padilla.

And in their discussion of the Spanish presence at Guadalajara, the federation’s publishers say that their overall export activity under the conditions of the still-ongoing pandemic saw a 26-percent drop in 2020, for a value of €391.8 million (US$443.5 million), by comparison to a 2019 valuation of €529.9 million (US$599.8 million).

In those calculations, the federation sees 86.3 percent of the export downturn being centered in books from the publishing sector, while 13.7 percent of that downturn was related to print, per se, involving a wider range of products than books.

Rubén Padilla

Despite these data points, the federation reports that in 2020, Latin America “was the main market for the [Spanish] book sector, with €184 million in sales,” US$208.3 million.

Following that, the markets of the European Union were in the lead in 2020 for Spain’s exports, at €126.6 million (US$143.3), with 60.4 percent of that corresponding to the publishing rather than print sector, a valuation of €78.8 million (US$89.2 million).

Adding in the United Kingdom and other non-EU aligned countries, the total for 2020 in Spain’s exports comes to €181.5 million (US$205.5 million).

Trade with markets on other continents in 2020 came to 18 percent of the total export volume in 2020.

In Latin America, the main recipients of Spain’s book exports, in descending order of volume, are:

  • Mexico
  • Argentina
  • Chile
  • Colombia

In Spain itself, the book publishing industry is valued at more than €4 billion (US4.5 billion), and is reported to employ more than 30,000 people.

The federation represents some 800 publishing companies, which is rated at 97 percent of the sector. During 2020, despite pandemic conditions, the industry produced a reported 181 million book copies and more than 73,000 titles in print and digital formats.

The Coronavirus in Mexico

The traditional ribbon-cutting, annually part of the Guadalajara International Book Fair’s opening events, this year is performed at Guest of Honor Peru’s pavilion. Image: University of Guadalajara, FIL Guadalajara, Melinda Llamas

At this writing, the 7:22 a.m. ET (1222 GMT) update of the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center sees 74,071 cases on a rolling 28-day basis in Mexico’s population of 129 million, with 5,338 fatalities, also on that rolling 28-day basis. During the full run of the pandemic, Mexico has reported a total 3,882,792 cases and 293,859 deaths.

The New York Times’ international tracking map shows 51 percent of the Mexican population fully vaccinated, 60 percent with one dose.

The state of Jalisco, in which Guadalajara is set, is among the regions of the country with the lowest COVID figures, reporting a daily new-case average of 68 cases, compared to the national average of 3,001 cases. This puts it at less than one case per 100,000 people, and that indicator has remained flat for 14 days. Average deaths are at 9.1, or .12 per 100,000 people.

In an update, Reuters Mexico City has reported on November 28 that Mexico’s deputy health secretary, Hugo Lopez Gatell, has said that “restricting travel or closing borders are of little use in response to the emergence of the new ‘omicron’ coronavirus variant.’

“‘It has not been shown to be more virulent or to evade the immune response induced by vaccines,’ he said in a Twitter post on Saturday.”

Marisol Schulz, director of the Guadalajara International Book Fair, at a new exhibition from the show’s 2021 guest of honor, Peru. Image: FIL Guadalajara, Eva Becerra

More from us on the Spanish market is here, more on rights sales and trends is here, more on the Mexican market is here, more on the Guadalajara International Book Fair is here, and more on book fairs and trade shows in world publishing overall is here.

More from us on the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on international book publishing is here.

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.