Research Reveals Current Situation of eBooks in Brazil

Since the commercial sale of eBooks began in Brazil in late 2009, the number of digital books in Portuguese was always scarce - never more than a few thousand. Apparently, the situation is changing. Simplissimo conducted a survey during the month of January, to establish current data on the provision of eBooks in Portuguese, the composition of the catalogs, available formats, major genres available, among other information. Were consulted the websites of major bookstores that offer eBooks in Portuguese (Gato Sabido, Saraiva, Cultura and Amazon) on January 20, and listed the titles currently available to consumers. The information is public and can be independently verified by any interested person.

As context for this research, we should consider the brief eBook sales history in Brazil. In December 2009, there were about 300 eBooks in Portuguese for sale in the bookstore Gato Sabido at the time of its debut. Gato Sabido opened its doors shortly after the Kindle started to be sold internationally by Amazon in October 2009.Soon after, between March and April 2010, Saraiva and Cultura joined the eBooks sales, but the publishers felt no rush to adhere to the digital books. The consequence of this is found in the following year, in April 2011 when there were only from 2000 to 3000 eBooks in Portuguese, according to numbers provided by bookstores at that time.

The data obtained show the real scenario on eBooks in Brazil. On January 20, 2012, the Brazilian bookstore with the biggest range of eBooks was Gato Sabido, with 7292 titles in Portuguese. The strategy of Xeriph (distributor of eBooks and sister company of Gato Sabido) is gathering more titles than Saraiva, the largest book retailer in the country. The reader will note that Livraria Cultura does not appear in this chart. Many titles in Portuguese appeared mixed with foreigners, and this incorrect segmentation did not allow an accurately count of the offerings in Portuguese.

Importantly, the majority of titles available on Amazon are not available in other bookstores. There are still very few Brazilian publishers offering content on Amazon. Most of the titles on Amazon are public domain or published directly by authors. 

Analyzing the supply of eBooks by the 10 publishers that publish the most in digital format and comparing the distribution between the bookstores, jumps out the discrepancy: the catalogs differ, sometimes radically, from bookstore. Some publishers seem to give exclusivity to a bookstore, others are even present at all, but restrict the offering of titles in this or that. In some cases this may represent up to launch strategy. But it is unlikely that this is the general rule in an immature market like ours.

Considering that Amazon has a distinguished catalog of eBooks from other bookstores, and that Brazilian bookstores do not offer the same works with each other (because there are deviations in the range of titles from publishers in every bookstore), it is clear that there are at least 11 000 eBooks available in Portuguese. Maybe a little more, but surely 11 000 eBooks.

The 10 largest Brazilian publishers offering eBooks, add together 4086 eBooks. Thus represent more than one third of eBooks available in Portuguese. If we extend the frame and consider the 30 publishers which offer more eBooks, they account for half of the titles in Portuguese.

Brazil will reach critical mass in 2012

Apparently, we are near the critical mass for the eBooks market. The first "wave" to join the digital book began soon after the start of Kindle sales, internationally, and put the libraries in preparation for the new market. Two years have passed, and now we are in a new wave that publishers adhere to and increase the supply of digital content.

It is an ongoing process and still at the beginning. This second wave will have as a catalyst, in a few months (or weeks), the influence of Amazon, this time with the opening of the Brazilian Kindle Store, perhaps even selling printed books. The influence and impact of Amazon in Brazil will be intense, certainly more than two years ago. Unlike that time, however, the country now has a minimum set of devices to read eBooks. It is estimated 400.000  iPads, plus one million iPhones. The numbers of eReaders in Brazil are still uncertain, but there are at least tens of thousands - bearing in mind that many models are on sale in the country since 2010 / 2011, in addition to the Kindle. How many of them are Kindles, we do not known yet.

We are on the verge of another shift in the market, the balance of forces between local companies and the behavior of books consumers. This may be the last year of peace for many publishers, as well as the beginning of the success story of many others.

Eduardo Melo is managing editor of Revolução Ebook, founder and CEO of Simplíssimo Livros. Works with e-books since 2007, when he founded the NGO Editora Plus. He also has a degree in History and Master of Arts. eduardo@simplissimo.com.br

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