Fondo de Cultura Económica (FCE), based in Mexico City, is one of the largest publishers in Latin America and has had an office in San Diego since 1990. Although the company owns 32 bookstores, including one in Washington, D.C., when FCE saw declining points of sale for books in San Diego, it decided to borrow from the food truck craze and bring food for the mind to the city of San Diego with a book truck. PW spoke with FCE general manager Dorina Razo about this new venture and what the experience has been thus far.
How did the idea of the book truck come about?
In San Diego we [FCE] don’t have a point of sale outlet like we do in many other parts of the world and people would show up at our office to buy books. Book trucks are nothing new, but we decided that we needed to do something to meet the needs of our clients. Our team lives in San Diego and we are used to seeing food trucks all over the city, so we decided to cook up a few books. Public transportation is also a challenge in the city, so bringing the books to the readers made more sense than opening a store.
Where has the book truck been since it hit the road in September?
The priority of the truck is to primarily visit schools with dual immersion programs. We currently visit three schools per week. The parents and the schools do most of the buying. What has caught us by surprise has been the large interest from non-Hispanic parents. These parents usually have their children in dual immersion programs and are looking for ways to reinforce their learning of Spanish at home. We also bring it to community events and hospitals, and to special events such as El día de los muertos (The Day of the Dead), which is celebrated on October 31. We have also taken the truck to a few events in Los Angeles.
How many books does the truck hold and what is the selection being offered?
Everywhere we go we take with us some of our bestsellers, a few books for adults, but our strength is books for children and YA. We can fit up to 4,000 books in the truck, but we exhibit around 500–600 titles—three copies of each title. The truck doesn’t just carry books, we also do reading activities. We have even hired an actress to read to the children; she does an amazing range of voices and characters. The kids love it and are fully engaged in the story.
We did all of this with a shoe string budget and the results have been amazing. It took us a while to find a truck the fit our needs and work within our budget. It was all very homemade.
Will we see FCE book trucks in other cities?
Several cities have already contacted us to see if we can bring the truck to them so we are working on a plan to meet those needs. Our current truck is only set-up for short distance travel, but we are working towards having a truck in Los Angeles next year.