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Observations about publishing in Mexico and Latin America, from the Guadalajara Book Fair

This was my first Guadalajara Book Fair (FIL) and I hope it won’t be the last. It’s the most vibrant I’ve ever been to, with music, performance, readings and debates taking place across the stands. Booksellers are well-represented alongside publishers and all seem to do a roaring trade.

FIL is open to the general public from 4pm every day and all day Thursday, and there is real excitement at being able to see so many books in one place. Bookshops have it shockingly hard in Mexico, and only exist at all in the big cities, leaving the vast majority of the population without access. The country has significant logistical challenges, so ordering books by post is not a straightforward option. Amazon is in Mexico, but it’s expensive. All of this is why the 45 annual book fairs that happen here are buzzing and busy, and offer real opportunities for readers, publishers, and booksellers.

I was at FIL to give a talk to around 60 Latin American university press and academic publishers about the international challenges of marketing to the sector, but there were librarians, academics and booksellers in the session too. I had been advised that little marketing was being done, but I suspect in reality that plenty WAS although it wasn’t being thought about or planned for in a structured way – and may not even have been considered ‘marketing’.

Interestingly, Latin America seems to be way ahead of anywhere else in the world when it comes to publishing books open access, with over 50% of university presses already doing it. Academics in the region are committed to OA as they not only believe that research should be freely available, but crucially that this is how to get recognition internationally. And they could well be right.

This was also my third time working with CANIEM, the Mexican Publishers’ Association, running a Marketing Planning Workshop in Mexico City for 36 participants. Thank you to organisers, friends and participants for a well-run and enjoyable day – I hope for everyone concerned and not just me!

Our training courses do run regularly beyond the UK, either on an in-company basis or in conjunction with a local provider or publishing association. If you’d like our courses brought to your region, here’s our international page for more details.

Watch a short video of this year’s Guadalajara Book Fair

Read an excellent article in THE about open access book publishing in Latin American academic presses.


11 December 2018

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