As book publishers continue to expand their offerings to meet the needs of Hispanic consumers, it is important to look at the genres and formats of the books these consumers are likely to purchase. As can be seen from research conducted by independent research company Mintel, there are some differences between Hispanic and non-Hispanic book consumers just as there are significant differences among Hispanics, based on language.
According to 2009 data from Experian, Hispanic consumers were less likely to purchase books than non-Hispanics. However, when the language factor is taken into consideration, it was found that as soon as consumers speak some English, the likelihood of their purchasing a book increases significantly. Although book buying might be a language issue, household income must also be taken into consideration as those who speak only Spanish have the lowest level of income and therefore little discretionary funds to spend. This is why books that focus on meeting the needs of immigrants should be offered at a lower price point, such as the ¡Hecho fácil! (Made Easy) series by Penguin, whose books are priced around $15.
Various Publishers Weekly articles have reported the higher likelihood among Hispanic book consumers to purchase self-help and spiritual books than non-Hispanics, but there are other categories that do quite well with Hispanics. For example, Hispanics are more likely to purchase books for children and young adults, and sports and reference books also do well, but no genre appeals to this group of consumers as do horror books. Hispanics are 9 percentage points more likely than the average U.S. book consumer to purchase horror books.
The format of books purchased also varies, with a greater preference for audiobooks coming from Hispanic rather than non-Hispanic consumers. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the largest increase of new immigrants in the past 10 years has been from Central America. Many of these new immigrants come from areas where indigenous languages are spoken, and they struggle to read in Spanish. Audiobooks provide a solution for these consumers as well as for Hispanics who have longer-than-average commutes. Studies have shown that Hispanics often travel farther to work because they tend to live in peripheral areas where housing is less expensive.
Hispanics are also slightly less likely than non-Hispanics to purchase hardcover books, but what really affects this number is language preference. Spanish-dominant consumers are significantly more likely than bilingual Hispanics to purchase paperback books. This does not necessarily reflect a consumer choice but availability. Although some Spanish-language books published in the U.S. are available in hardcover, those imported from Latin America and Spain are mostly available in paperback.
E-books are currently purchased by less than 20% of book buyers, and the percentage of Hispanics that purchase e-books is slightly lower than non-Hispanics, but there aren’t any significant differences when it comes to language. Spanish-dominant consumers are more likely to read or listen to a book on a computer or MP3 player than English-dominant Hispanics. However, those with limited English are significantly more likely to use a cellphone for book consumption. Hispanics that mostly communicate in Spanish are far more likely to use a cellphone for getting online, and many are bypassing computer ownership. As the price of electronic reading devices decreases and Hispanic literacy Spanish increases, this will likely make the electronic reading devices more appealing to consumers. However, until more publishers, particularly those in Latin America and Spain, make their books available in an e-book format, consumers will likely continue to rely on their cellphones since an investment in an additional device might not pay off.
Where Hispanics shop for books is explored in the PW article “Where Books in Spanish Are Sold.” The article discusses that among Spanish-dominant book consumers, less than half purchase books through bookstores, around 10% purchase online, 10% through book clubs, and over 40% at nonbookstore retailers. It is important to note that Spanish-dominant consumers are more likely than English-dominant Hispanics to purchase through book clubs and at nonbook retailers. English-dominant Hispanics are three times more likely to buy online than those with limited English, but much of this is attributed to websites being only in English and/or limited credit card ownership and is not necessarily a reflection of limited book offerings.
Not only is format and genre important for reaching Hispanic book consumers but book marketers must also look at what is influencing these consumers’ book purchasing choices. A study conducted by Mintel found that Hispanics were more likely than non-Hispanics to be influenced by the following (in order of importance): book reviews, books available at book fairs, books that have won substantial recognition (e.g., Pulitzer Prize, Nobel Prize), books recommended by a book reading club they belong to, and books received from a paid book club membership.
Regardless of where the information was found and in which language, more than a quarter of Hispanic book consumers turned to newspapers, magazines, online sources, TV, and radio for information on book-related events. However, Spanish-language websites and TV did fare slightly better. Social media is an area that was not covered in the Mintel reports, but based on data from the online Spanish-language literary magazine Tinta Fresca, its Facebook followers tend to be older than the average Facebook user. This is in line with various market studies of Hispanics and their online behavior. Non-Hispanics tend to drop off from social media sites after the age of 35, whereas Hispanics continue to use these sites well past the age of 45 and tend to be more engaged users.
Coming to Guadalajara: A Preview With the New Director
The 27th edition of the Guadalajara International Book Fair (FIL), taking place November 30 to December 8, will host Israel as guest of honor and welcome more than 20,000 professionals, 600 authors, and over 700,000 attendees from 44 countries. The Israeli delegation will be led by President Shimon Peres and includes over 80 authors, academics, artists, and performers. A conversation between the 2010 Nobel Prize winner in literature, Mario Vargas Llosa, and Israeli world-renowned author David Grossman will kick off the opening of the literary program on Sunday, December 1. The 2009 Nobel Prize winner in chemistry, Ada E. Yonath, will be part of FIL’s academic program.
Publishers Weekly sat down with the new director of FIL, Marisol Schulz, to discuss some of the many offerings FIL 2013 has in store, in addition to Israel’s extensive presence. For those who were not able to attend the Frankfurt Book Fair and enjoy the guest of honor, Brazil—a bit of Brazil is coming to Mexico. With a program called “Destinação Brasil” (Destination Brazil), over 20 authors from Brazil will be participating at FIL. There is also a program of new voices from Latin America (“Latinoamérica viva”) that includes about 30 up-and-coming writers. Schulz explained that part of the plan is to expand “Latinoamérica viva” in the coming years and also include U.S.-based authors who write in Spanish. As part of the illustrators program, Argentinian author, illustrator, and winner of the 2013 Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award, Isol, will be presenting at the fair. There is also a symposium of translators and promoters of reading. These relatively new areas are of growing interest to attendees.
Schulz went on to explain the expansion of the Rights Center, where over 250 literary agents are expected to attend from 29 countries. Schulz said, “The Rights Center has grown substantially in the past few years, and we are planning for even greater growth in the coming years. There is a rebirth or reawakening of interest for contemporary Latin American literature, and agents are coming from every corner of the world.
“The U.S. presence is also increasing this year, from a strong presence of the U.S. collective stand to a growing number of librarians,” Schulz added. Last year, 108 librarians from the U.S. attended the fair, whereas this year, 120 librarians have registered. The U.K. will also have a presence at FIL as English-language books are becoming increasingly popular in Latin America.
The 2013 FIL will also have a dedicated space for electronic books as the offering of e-books in Spanish is becoming more prevalent in Latin America and Spain.