Reading habits and all in Mexico


I did this at work while being interrupted every few minutes, but it seems to make sense...

This ample (long) article reports about the health of the publishing market in Mexico which refutes the myth that Mexicans can’t read. After interviewing editors and booksellers Magali Tercero (personal name, a publisher and journalist) some hair-raising data were revealed. Yes the Mexican people read and they read a lot, but very little of that can be construed as literature. How does that impact a culture in which 41.6 million fotonovelas (comic book type action & bodice rippers) are sold annually but where 60% of the works of authors such as Rubem Fonseca are destined for the shredder.

I. The Mangled Fonsecas:
The agitated young man piled up seven volumes of Fonseca and put a sign above them
“Only 25 Pesos†Going to another bookseller at the annual fair in Nuevo Leon: “They were destroying 2000 volumes of Cal y arena by Iztacalco, I was able to save 30 copies.†I remember a sign on the sale table at the bookstore Teorema: “If you don’t buy them you will never know you wanted them (an idiom that I cannot translate well). I bought one and asked why the publishers do not give the overages to the libraries. Several weeks later a bookseller, Agustín Jiménez, of La Torre de Lulio (store name) explained in an interview the strange conduct: 1) The governmental libraries cannot accept gifts they must justify them. 2) nor do they buy books because there is no money. 3) It costs the publishers up to 30 thousand pesos per month to rent a warehouse 4) It is cheaper to throw away books that did not sell out 5) A publisher has by law a timeframe to consign to recycling that which did not sell.

If you publish five thousand Fonsecas- Jimemez added- you will never have more than one thousand readers. What are you going to do with four thousand leftover books. You can warehouse them but it costs too much, you can reduce the price but no one will buy them because you have no more readers for that author. What library is going to request Fonseca novels for primary or secondary students? I have gone to the College of Mexico ( and seen uncut historical volumes of Francisco Gines Ríos & Francisco Moreno Villa because they were never ordered. And it is the Colmex! The big publishers hope to someday have remainders of not more than 500 units. What to do then? The safe thing to do is to give each book two years, if it does not sell by then you recycle it. Otherwise your are putting good money after bad. Augistin finishes by telling about a Mexican writer who sold out of a thousand copies for only five thousand pesos. Our bookseller tells us the dictionaries were gone in a flash, then a large quantity of novels, then titles autographed by the author , then Gabriel Zaid (personal name –author) , that puts his friends in a tight spot, as the essayist always writes about an Arab poet of the XIV century.

Dictionaries? Online you can read this note from the National Association of Booksellers: “Every epoch brings its publishing niches with which it is important to identify. Dictionaries are the new niche. Although reliable data on their sale is not available in Spain and Latin America it can be seen that 2004 was the year for dictionaries. Almost all were published in Spain except for the reissue of ( Brief Etymological dictionary of the Spainsh Language) The dictionaries have gained a spot in purchasing habits which does not call attention.†Also forming part of the publishing revenue are sales at home of encyclopedias and bibles, as well as unofficial text books, luxurious art books given away by banks, or publishing installments for insertion into newspapers. Similar diversification demands that the publishing industry forget romanticism and treat the book like any other object sold with a high degree of professionalism.
“If the Mexicans are not able to establish and direct important publishing concerns it will be the Argentines, the Germans or the Italians because the globalized world is already here,†notes Braulio Peralta,(personal name) director in México of Random House Mondadori. “The big fish eats the little fish, to put it simply,†says Antonio Navalón the key man at Santillana, Alfaguara, Taurus & Aguilar. “ The difficulty is doing a local business and at the same time covering the county when Mexico City (Mexico, D.F) purchases 70% of the books sold in Mexico.

Too many books? According to Ricardo Nudelman, the general manager of the Foundation of Cultural Economics, more than 100 thousand new and reprinted volumes are sent to the Castillian speaking market. Some 15 thousand are produced in Mexico but the points of sale have not grown nor do the the professional libraries satisfy the need of the modern reader contributing very little to the advancement of reading.â€
To quantify reading: Navalon, representative in Mexico of the Prisa group says categorically, “Reading, like all things personal, like all things important, does not lend itself easily to quantification. Ever since Vasconcelos took his spot at the Secretary of Public Education the relationship with the book has become a fundamental element of cultural policy. The publishers and the cultural world are forcing a sort suicide destroying booksellers,†he confeses to be the same that put on a small spectacle beating a big drum (figuratively I must assume) to put on an exposition of average quality.

You are on your own for part 2.

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