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Todos somos lectores: Reporting from the 2012 Guadalajara International Book Fair

At 26 you can claim a life of your own and Guadalajara’s 26th International Book Fair (FIL) has certainly lived up to that expectation, having been called the most important book event in the Spanish language by Spain’s leading daily El País, which carried a supplement dedicated to FIL events.

This year Chile was the featured country (also “honored” in 1999) and its book stand experienced such an avalanche of readers that by the second day a young writer said “I want to move to Mexico, here thye read my books,” pointing to her recent novel…clearly on the way to selling out.

Among the profesionales del libro were 100 librarians from the United States as part of the ALA-FIL Pass program, while fewer in numbers than in previous years, they were quite an enthusiastic group of book buyers. Jesus Alonso Regalado (SUNY-Albany) can probably claim to be the single most eager client: he acquired more than 100 new titles at the Chilean stand…and still had several days left!

As usual, the media conglomerates held the largest and most visible stands but there were also signs of other voices with Corredor Sur; Contrabandos; EGALES or Chile’s independent publishers and the more alternative Furia del Libro, all pointing to a segment of the book industry that struggles to remain competitive.

What was to have been a celebration of the literary prize awarded since 1992 became a cause célèbre: this year’s winner, Peruvian writer Alfredo Bryce Echenique, was accused of plagiarism. His name, while barely mentioned by organizers, still appeared in news coverage. With multiple events held in his honor, it almost felt as if the recently deceased Mexican writer Carlos Fuentes had been the winner. In fact, it was Fuentes who had calmed FIL’s boisterous crowd at the opening ceremony six years earlier as it booed the outgoing Minister of Culture.

The current Minister, Consuelo Saizar, has gained more respect than her predecessor. For a recent profile in the popular culture monthly Gatopardo, Saizar noted among her accomplishments the acquisition of personal libraries of several Mexican writers. These collections are housed in the Biblioteca de México “José Vasconcelos and are being made available to users in a state of the art facility similar to that of Guadalajara’s recently opened Biblioteca Pública del Estado de Jalisco “Juan José Arreola.”

This new Jalisco State Library has a capacity for 2 million volumes and among its holdings is the Benjamin Franklin collection of works on the United States. On FIL’s opening day, the United States ambassador presented a book donation to augment this collection at a ceremony attended by several REFORMA colleagues and I. This modest attempt at cultural diplomacy is noteworthy and could be replicated elsewhere, it costs so little and goes so far.

Librarians were not just book buyers: Paloma Celis Carbajal (Univ. of Wisconsin) participated on a panel discussion about the editoriales cartonersas; Patricia Figueroa (Brown University) was busy interviewing new writers for Nuevas Referencias, her bilingual blog; and I presented on
e-books.

One of the local dailies misquoted some of my presentation but Milenio’s summary of the current e-book landscape in U.S. libraries and the need for additional Spanish language digital content was right on the mark.

I hope to continue presenting with humor and tono jocoso, as the Guadalajara daily complimented this humble experto!

Adan Griego, Stanford University Libraries

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

SALALM’s Presence in Iberoamerican Book Fairs: 2011-The Year in Review

The 2011 book fair cycle for Iberoamerica probably started with Havana, whose book festival celebrated its 20th anniversary in February and is often attended by SALALM librarians and book dealers. This year Teresa Chapa (North Carolina) and Eudora Loh (UCLA) were present and went to a satellite book fair in Matanzas, where they also visited Editorial Vigía (home to those colorfully unique hand-made books). Given the commercial restrictions imposed by the United States on the Island, for many of our libraries Cuban research materials have an unusual trajectory of more than 8,000 miles (Havana-Montevideo) before reaching our bibliographic shores.

Mexico City’s Feria del Libro de Minería already in its 32nd year is organized by UNAM and takes place usually in late Winter at the historic Palace of Mines, much smaller than Guadalajara’s FIL (and less focused on “profesionales del libro”). SALALM vendors attend regularly and report that many regional publishers have opted for Minería due to Guadalajara’s high priced exhibit space.

April brings International Day of the Book and Buenos Aires has traditionally scheduled its annual book festival to coincide with this date and can claim one of the oldest (37 years), and largest book events in the Spanish-speaking world reaching more than one million visitors. This year the city was also named “capital mundial del libro” by UNESCO and Nobel laureate Vargas Llosa was a keynote speaker, sparking a polemic, even before the fair opened its doors.

Ten SALALM dealers and librarians were present, witnessing a constant mention of ebooks. It seemed like a continuation of similar discussions from LIBER-Barcelona 2010 six months earlier when the Ministry of Culture’s representative mentioned “contenidos digitales” and “libros electrónicos” several times at the opening ceremony. This year Buenos Aires was no exception and a one day seminar on ebooks was held at the Fair during the professional days. My presentation ended just on time for the 50 attendees and I rushed to hear Argentina’s Telefonica launching of its ebook service.

In May, several SALALMistas arrived in Bogota to participate in the city’s 24th annual book fair. The year before a visionary from MIT had scared participants at the Primer Encuentro del Libro Digital when he predicted the end of “libros de papel” in just a few years. This time a series of presentations included strategies for publishers to market digital content. David Block (Texas) documented some of the collective activities from our group and the Fair’s own blog provided a more detailed account of events.

For the Caribbean, Santo Domingo’s outdoor book festival is always a lively event. As in previous years, SALALM vendor Libros de Barlovento was present and Darlene Hull noted that “there were more booths offering religious publications than in the past. We even found some Christian hip-hop and Rap,” not surprising since the Vatican was the “país invitado.”

By Summer’s end, it was Madrid’s turn to host LIBER 2011 and ten eager SALAMistas landed in the Spanish capital for LIBER’s 19th anniversary. Even before the first “profesionales del libro” stepped into the IFEMA exhibit halls, several SALALM members were already busy sharing professional experiences to a packed audience of more than 150 Spanish librarians.

In between meetings with publishers and cultural outings, our group also visited the Arrebato, Sins Entido, and Tres rosas amarillas bookshops in the mythical Barrio de Malasaña, at times feeling that Almodovar or any of his La Movida characters of the 1980s had just left or was about to arrive.

This year LIBER included a digital corner that showcased all sorts of ebook initiatives, with a ubiquitous Javier Celaya as its most enthusiastic supporter. Former SALALM vendor Maria Jose Acuña provided a summary of this “novedad“.

Back in the Southern hemisphere Santiago celebrated its 31st annual book fair with barely enough time for many of Chile’s publishers to unpack from LIBER and Frankfort . For the first time digital projects/companies like Buscalibros, Dimacofi, and ebookspatagonia were showcased at the main entrance of the exhibit hall held at the former train station Mapocho, now a cultural venue.

On the day I arrived Amazon’s representative for Latin America presented a videoconference and encouraged publishers to enter the digital arena, reminding them all that Amazon would arrive in Latin America soon and will most likely revolutionize the book industry, as it had already done in Spain only a month earlier. A few doors away a two day e-book seminar sponsored by CERLALC was also being held. “If you don’t do it, some else will do it” noted the main speaker to the mostly 40 something audience during the morning session I attended. It seems everyone wants to enter this yet uncharted market with concerns that a Napster-like entity will cause irrevocable damage to book publishing as it did to the music industry.

The year ended with Guadalajara’s FIL “echando la casa por la ventana” as it celebrated 25 years in what has become the most important book festival in the Spanish speaking world. Germany was the featured country this year and Chile will be the “país invitado” for 2012.

It has not gone unnoticed that no Central American country has been given that honor and I could not help but wonder if that was one of the reasons why this year’s international pavilion had a special stand showcasing publications from throughout the region. This, in addition to the “cámaras del libro” and other vendors from some Central American countries, which had separate stands.

The ever present discussion on digital content seemed to continue here as part of the program for the X Foro Internacional de Editores y Profesionales del Libro ‘Analógico / Digital. Dos soportes, un futuro’.

FIL closed on Sunday (December 4th) with a record of more than 658,000 attendees. Probably the event that will be remembered most was the presentation the night before by the telegenic presidential candidate Enrique Peña Nieto who could not name books that influenced him most that was followed by series of jokes through the social networks.

SALALM members were active not only as book buyers but also sharing professional experiences with Mexican colleagues.

Thanks to Patricia Figueroa (Brown), Jesus Alonso Regalado (SUNY-Albany) and Teresa Chapa (North Carolina) who corrected errors/made suggestions in earlier versions of this report.

Adan Griego (Stanford)

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