Exports and e-books temper Spanish gloom

Spain's increasing involvement in the Eurozone crisis, along with government austerity measures and unemployment of around 25% is the gloomy backdrop to Liber, the most important book fair in Spanish-language publishing, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary at the 2012 edition, being held from 3rd–5th October in Barcelona.

Recent figures from Federación de Gremios de Editores de España (FGEE), the Spanish Publishers' Association which sponsors Liber, show domestic sales fell 4.1% year on year to €2.78bn (£2.42bn) in 2011. Sales in 2012 have been even worse. "We believe that the 2011 rate of decline has doubled in the first half of 2012," said Antonio Maria Ávila, FGEE's executive director. Ávila attributed the situation as much to lower consumer spending as to government cuts.

Exports are a bulwark in hard times, as highlighted by figures from the Spanish Federation of Book Chambers. Exports climbed 5.4% to €482m (£419m) last year. The EU was the main market (€305m), up 13.3% on 2010; France (€108m) and the UK (€82m) were the top earners. Combined sales to the US and Central and South America slipped 4.8% to €168m for reasons including protectionism, transfer of production from Spain and exchange rates.

Some Spanish publishers have had subsidiaries in Latin America for decades and others have ramped up, or started operations, recently. Portuguese-speaking Brazil, which in previous years had been a main export market in Latin America, saw a slight fall in 2011 because some Spanish publishers had transferred production from Spain.

A big focus at Liber will be new technologies. A year after Amazon.es launched, Kindle sales are helping to transform reading habits. "E-book sales are continuing to show exponential growth between 100% and 200%," said Luis Federico Rodríguez, general manager at Publidisa, the company behind a market-leading e-book and Print-on-Demand (POD) platform.

The main feature of 2012 has been the way in which the concept of the hybrid bookshop—physical stock, e-book and POD—has become essential to adapting to new market conditions, Rodriguez added.