Between the end of July and early September of 2019, I had the chance to participate in several important publishing events throughout Latin America. The region is full of contrasts, and each country has its own rich culture, including a dynamic publishing industry. Many of the area’s largest publishing associations are members of the International Publishers Association, including Mexico, Panama, Colombia, Brazil, Peru, Chile, and Argentina.
In a time span of about six weeks, I visited two Latin-American countries—Peru and Colombia—while attending important IPA activities in my home country of Mexico. With a combined population of 205 million people and world-renowned authors like Nobel Prize winners Mario Vargas Llosa, Gabriel García Márquez, and Octavio Paz, these three countries have thriving publishing industries.
My first trip took me to Lima, Peru’s picturesque capital, July 22–25, where I attended the flourishing Lima International Book Fair. The main topic that had publishers buzzing during the fair was congressional approval of the book law that updated an existing law that grants a VAT exemption for books.
At a seminar about public policies promoting books and reading, I mentioned that, in addition to tax breaks, good public policies in favor of books and reading should be based on respect for copyright and the freedom to publish, and should consider the whole book ecosystem, from authors and publishers to librarians. I also spoke about the work publishers around the world are doing to make books available in accessible formats for visually impaired people.
During the fair, the Peruvian publishing association (and IPA member) Cámara Peruana del Libro organized a meeting with top officials of the Peruvian copyright office, Indecopi. The discussion centered on the importance of copyright as an enabler for the creation and dissemination of new works, joint strategies to fight book piracy, and the next steps to create a collective copyright management organization in Peru.
Moving on to Bogotá, I spoke at an important copyright seminar organized by the National Copyright Office of Colombia. The well-attended seminar celebrated the 133rd anniversary of the first copyright registry in Colombia, which happily coincided with the 133rd anniversary of the Berne Convention. I spoke about the work of IPA and the importance of copyright for creativity and innovation.
I also participated in a productive meeting of the IPA member in Colombia, the Cámara Colombiana del Libro, with the Instituto Nacional para Ciegos (National Institute for the Blind). We spoke about IPA’s and the Colombian publishers’ support of the Marrakesh Treaty and the work publishers are doing, under the Accessible Books Consortium initiative, to bolster accessible publishing.
Returning to Mexico, I spoke during a seminar organized by the Mexican copyright office and discussed the challenges for copyright in the digital environment. Mexican publishers are embracing technology and incorporating it into their processes and business models. The problem is that technology makes it easier than ever to produce an unlimited amount of perfect copies of a digital file, which is why copyright remains essential in the digital era.
What struck me in particular about these three countries is how publishers across the region are looking for growth and business opportunities in foreign markets. Lima’s International Book Fair is developing nicely every year and attracting more participants from around the world. So is Colombia. Bogotá hosts a major international book fair every April and has attracted many participants from other countries; this fair is becoming an important place to do business in Latin America. In 2020, the Bogotá International Book Fair will have the Nordic countries as guest of honor, thus expanding business opportunities to that region.
In spite of the growth of other book fairs in the region, the Guadalajara International Book Fair remains the most important Spanish-language fair. Not only are the number of professionals from the U.S. increasing every year but the number of publishers from other parts of the world are increasing as well.
The publishing markets in Latin America are growing and, at the same time, publishers in the region are looking to the rest of the world, not only the U.S., for growth opportunities. As I visit those Latin-American markets, I hear about their differences but also the similarities in the challenges publishers face. National, regional, and international cooperation will be essential to keep our region’s publishing sector growing.
Hugo Setzer is the CEO of the Mexican publishing house Manual Moderno and president of the International Publishers Association.