Technology and EBooks in Brazil

Brazil is not a world example when it comes to digital books. The estimate is that we are three years behind big markets like North America. However, 2012 promises to be the year that things will really happen, so we present here an overview about the technology - both formats and devices - used in Brazil.

Formats                           

So far, the most widely used format for eBooks in Brazil is the PDF, which is a shame. As everyone knows, PDF is not a document format suitable for digital books, since you cannot resize the text, change the layout or the background color.

However, the ePub is growing exponentially in online bookstores. There are also some shops and publishers that offer other formats like Mobi and even the old PRC. Publishers are adhering to ePub and, after a while, they begin to realize this is the most suitable format.

The app-books, usually developed for iPad, are far an exception in the market. Additionally, tablet sales are not at its peak in Brazil. The cost to produce an interactive book, locally, is still very high. With prices for development ranging from R$ 14,000 to R$ 30,000 (between US$ 8,000 and US$ 17,000), only large publishers are venturing on this path. This applies to Editora Globo, with Reinações de Narizinho (Adventures of Little Nose) by Monteiro Lobato and Editora Melhoramentos with O menino da terra (The boy from the land) de Ziraldo. But these interactive collections should grow in 2012. 

Tools for Reading

To popularize the digital book, it is necessary to have the digital reading devices for easy access - both economic and technological. And that, unfortunately, is not the case here. The most widely used interface for reading eBooks in Brazil is the traditional PC, either desktop or notebook. According to data from FGV, 60 million computers were in use in 2011, and will be 100 million in 2012. The main place of Internet access is the Internet cafe (31%), followed by home (27%) and the home of relatives of friends, with 25%. In all, 87% of the population is already connected.

Smartphones are the second source of digital reading, followed by tablets and, finally, eReaders. The difference from other countries is the cost. The price of computers fell sharply in the last three years, and many families were able to acquire one. However, tablets and eReaders are alarmingly expensive and prices are out of reach for most of the population.

But speaking of portable devices, there are many different tablets here. Besides the popular iPad, companies like Motorola, Samsung, RIM, ZTE and Asus offer their gadgets for sale. Brazilian companies also have their own equipment, such as Positivo Ypy and Multilaser Elite, but some products are imported from China and only receive the brand in Brazil.

When talking about eReaders, the situation is bad. There are just a few models available and they lose badly in quality for the best and cheapest sold in the United States. There are approximately six devices of electronic ink, and some are so weak they do not deserve to be bought. Beyond the Brazilian Positivo Alpha, we have two models of iRiver officially, the Story and the Cover Story, price ranges from R$ 600 to R$ 800 (between US$ 350 to US$ 460). One of the first to hit the market was COOL-ER, of the deceased Interead, which is still sold here. The Kindle is officially sent to Brazil, and rumors tell that its price can reach R$ 199 (~ US$ 115), the first to be sold for an affordable price in Brazil.

High tax

The villain of high prices is taxes. In Brazil, the rate for imports of electronics reaches up to 60%. And even when the devices are manufactured in Brazil, such as those from Samsung – and in the future Apple – taxes on components and other items make the devices too expensive. We have in Brazil the world's highest prices for products from Apple. While the simplest model of iPad costs $ 499 in the United States, it’s sold in Brazil for R$ 1629 (~ US$ 943).

The situation is even worse for eReaders. The low demand and high tax rates cause a reading device manufactured in Brazil – the eReader Positivo Alpha – to be available for R$ 799 (~ US$ 462), while a Kindle – top quality – can be purchased for US$ 79 in United States. A stark difference.

There are law projects that proceed through the Brazilian government aimed at reducing the price of devices such as tablets and eReaders. The Act, however, will take a long time to be approved, if approved, and the products are still very expensive, imported or not.

In 2012

This year is expected to bring a windfall growth in the technology market in general. More tablets will be purchased, and the possible arrival of companies like Amazon, Google Books and Kobo, promise to heat up digital book market.

 

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