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Dispatch from the South: Santiago’s International Book Fair-2012

For Chilean publishers this has been a hectic month with both the LIBER-Barcelona and Frankfurt book fairs in October, while preparing for the country’s most important cultural event of the year: the 32nd annual Santiago Book Fair (FILSA).

The Fair opened to the public featuring Ecuador’s president not only as the main political figure of the país invitado, but also as an author himself. There followed a one day hiatus for municipal elections where the ruling conservative party unexpectedly lost several important posts. I arrived as the polls had closed and one of the winning candidates celebrated in the capital’s Plaza de Armas.

Unlike previous years, the professional days were held after the Fair’s official opening with Education and Library conferences complementing several panel presentations on publishing. Nowadays, such a discussion cannot avoid at least a round table on e-books.

One of the speakers from Brazil reminded attendees that the future had already arrived and that reality included e-books. Perhaps the engaging appeal to retool from a neighboring Latin American country found an audience more willing to accept that call than those that have previously come from United States or European presenters, where often a local response is: “that’s over there, in our countries….”

Also attending was Amazon’s representative for the Southern Cone, based in Buenos Aires, noting that Chileans are among the top consumers of digital content, with the obvious call for publishers to add their titles to the Kindle’s many e-book options. Interestingly enough, the Fair itself had a space showcasing a Kindle and Nook e-readers, featuring publicity from Buscalibre; Amabooks; and DigitalBooks sharing the same area with the alternative publishers of La Furia del Libro that included several graphic novel titles.

Many of the same media comglomerates seen at other Spanish-speaking book fairs were present, always with the most visible spaces. Even when they dominate the publishing landscape, these publishers don’t always distribute Latin American authors within the hemisphere. So, it was not unusual that Oswaldo Bazan’s latest novel published by Mondadori in neighboring Argentina could not be found either at the Fair or some of the likely bookshops in the city, Metales Pesados and Ulises. One of the few exceptions is Pedro Lemebel, perhaps the country’s best known chronicler who filled up the Fair’s largest auditorium at the launching of his latest book Háblame de amor.

Long distance travels often bring insomnia and late night local TV programs can sometimes lead to great discoveries, as was the case of the young writer ADO (Antonio Díaz Oliva) whose novel La soga de los muertos was the subject of a long interview.

This year, Chile is the featured country at the upcoming Guadalajara International Book Fair and the more than 150 US librarians attending will see a wide selection of publishers and titles. Cuarto Propio’s gender studies and social science/humanities books, Lom’s humanities and social science collection (much of it already available as e-books via Digitalia), and Uqbar’s film studies titles will most certainly be of interest to academic libraries. For the public library sector, Literalia will bring several children’s books. Pehuen will also have children’s titles, along with a series of photography books documenting the indigenous Mapuche culture, which can be of interest to both public and academic users.

US book lovers may soon be able to read some of the same books that the more than 260,000 attendees browsed at FILSA-2012. Check it out at your the nearest library!

Adan Griego,
Curator for Latin American Collections-Stanford University Libraries

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