There are more of these than ebooks. There are more of these than ebooks.

Wary publishers slow to embrace ebooks

Yet traditional books face challenging expenses

The growth of digital books in Mexico has been slow, but not for disinterest on the part of the consumer. It’s because publishers are wary of the risks.

That’s the belief of the Mexican representative for Bookwire, a digital content distribution platform that represents publishing houses, some 200 of which are in Latin America and Spain.

In Mexico, said Aránzazu Núñez Velázquez, “the great challenge a solid digital publishing industry faces is conversion: how can you sell if not all your content is available?

“We are already a society that doesn’t consume much content, and on top of that you can’t find it,” she said.

Traditional books have their own challenges, she pointed out, citing distribution, exhausted print runs and Customs duties. It all adds up to making them “extraordinarily expensive . . . a great challenge for publishers that could be avoided with digital books.”

Claudia Reyes is the project manager of Contec Mexico, a publishing conference that was held last week in Mexico City. She sees steady growth in ebook publishing, particularly by independents.

She also sees a long-term interest in exploring new technologies.

Núñez stressed that the great problem in Mexico is that consumers have not given ebooks a chance, and that the conversion of publishing houses’ catalogs has been a slow process.

“If time, money, effort and knowledge were assigned . . . results would be different.”

Reyes noted that “Latin America is a consumer of technology, but hardware and software are built elsewhere so the creation of content for [Latin American] countries falls behind. Also, the publishing industry is still somewhat reluctant to share its publications on a large scale . . . ”

There is also the matter of reading habits: traditional books themselves are not widely read in Mexico. A UNESCO study found that Mexicans read on average 2.94 books a year, second to last on a list of 107 countries.

A year ago the government announced a 50% increase in the budget for school libraries for this school year. But spending cuts might have changed that plan.

Source: Milenio (sp)

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