The book market in Mexico, like others around the world, has been hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic, with unit sales of print books dropping 23.5% last year compared to 2019, according to Nielsen BookScan Mexico. Home-bound readers there have gravitated toward self-help books. The #1 print book in January is The Negotiator, a guide to negotiation by Arturo Elías Ayub, a Mexican telecom executive, while the #2 spot is held by Sofia Macias, a popular social media financial advisor. The third spot is taken by Lety Sahagún and Ashley Frangie, who host a popular podcast.
“One huge, mega trend in Latin America in general, and in Mexico in particular, is the rise of this nonreader—young people who are reading not the traditional books that we were used to but books by influencers from YouTube, TikTok, and Instagram,” said Roberto Banchik, CEO of Penguin Random House Grupo Editorial Mexico during the recent “Publishing 2020 Vision” webinar series hosted by Hewlett Packard. “These are new, young readers who are coming into the market, and this is, I think, a source of hope for the future.”
Banchik noted that the book market in Mexico reflected the same trends seen around the world during the pandemic—particularly the move toward digital and online sales. “E-book readership grew quite a bit, especially in the first period of last year, probably rising over 35% compared with 2019,” he added. “The same happened for audiobooks, which is a category that really exploded in 2020.”
As a result, PHRGE Mexico ramped up production of audiobooks in the past year. It now has a backlist of 1,000 titles and is producing 100 new titles per month among all the PRH affiliates in Latin America.
Mexico has long lagged behind other large markets when it comes to digital innovation, hampered by a relative dearth of stable, affordable high-speed internet access throughout the country. E-commerce developed slowly, with major players like Amazon having only launched full retail operations in 2015 (and Prime in 2017) and other competitors, such as the major bookstore chain Ghandi, also growing conservatively.
Another factor impacting innovation is that more than half of books produced in Mexico are produced by or for the government, much of them for educational consumption. So print still very much dominates, and readers are still largely dependent on shopping in bookstores.
That said, online sales grew from 5% of total book sales to 20% in the first nine months of 2020, Banchik said.