Time again for the most important trade fair for Spanish books. The official website is here. This year’s guest of honor is Israel.
Winston Manrique Sabogal of El País newspaper has been there and shared these impressons (unauthorized excerpts):
The fair is an ecosystem of what is going on (and going to come) in the world of literature, and it is getting larger every year. The 27th edition of the fair occupies a space of 34,000 sqm (approx. 366,000 sqft). Nearly 1,000 activities, 600 authors of 28 different countries, 550 book presentations, 20,000 industry professionals of 42 different countries, 1,900 publishing houses and an estimated 700,000 visitors – all this during the nine days the fair lasts.
Four tendencies that can be observed: the normalization of the harmonic coexistence of physical and digital books; the confirmation of Latin America as a buffer of Spain’s book sales crisis; the consolidation of a market for journalistic books on contemporary topics sometimes left unaddressed or underrepresented by the conventional news; and the fair as a showcase for new Latin American authors that are here contracted by literary agents from all over the world.
Regarding the second tendency: during 2012 the book export to Latin America mitigated the decline of a sector that in Spain lost 28% of its sales during the last five years. The book export already represents 30% of Spain’s total book sales, and Latin America is the second most important market after the EU.
The same author elaborated on the future of the physical book in a different article that cites numerous professionals who would all support the thesis that “The Book is dead. Long live the Book!”. There will be a market for the digital format as well as for high quality physical books, besides mass-market paperbacks. Publishing houses that care for the design of their title pages, the quality of their paper and bindings, that try new formats and forms of cooperation, e.g. with luxury brands such as Louis Vuitton (Gallimard), etc. look optimistically to the future.
These are often small independent publishers as those presented by Sonia Corona. In Guadalajara they have a special section where groups of publishers present themselves together, e.g. the Alianza de Editores Mexicanos Independientes [Alliance of Independent Mexican Publishers]. Other publishers do it on their own with space that a distributor shares with them, etc. They say they will never be able to compete with the marketing budgets of the big publishing groups but that their mere presence in Guadalajara already helps them to get new contacts and publicity. Two of these small independent publishers cited by Corona are the Mexican La Caja de Cerillos [the matchbox] and the Spanish Libros del K.O. [K.O. books]. Their representatives maintain that the few books they edit can be considered almost handmade works of art rather than industrially produced mass-market goods due to the attention to detail invested in them. Besides creating works of art, these small publishers also often serve to make new authors, who remain at first undetected by the big publishing houses, known to a wider reading public.
The daily El País has got a whole article series on the fair. Very few of them touch Israeli authors even though Israel is this year’s guest of honor. In the case of La Vanguardia and El País, these articles have been confined to the literary supplements whose digital versions are only accessible through a paid subscription.