April 11, 2021

"It is strange that a public publisher such as the Culture Fund competes with the private ones" | Culture

"It is strange that a public publisher such as the Culture Fund competes with the private ones" | Culture



Aware of the Mexican editorial power, the Frankfurt fair -The biggest book contest in the world- has been organizing for three years a few days with different representatives of the sector in Mexico City. Its vice-president, Marifé Boix García, receives EL PAÍS at the Cultural Center of Spain in Mexico before this year's edition to analyze the North American country's publishing market, its relationship with the Guadalajara fair and the challenges of the publishing world.

Question. What is the future of the sector? The electronic book did not take off as expected.

Answer. It is true that it stagnated but at the same time Bookwire -the largest online platform in Spanish- says that its sales have grown 52% from 2016 to 2017 in Spain and Latin America. So somebody has to be buying it. But perhaps the bulk of readers is not there yet. You have to investigate when you read, what you read and see how to serve.

P. Is Amazon an enemy?

R. It is the largest bookstore in the world. I do not consider it an enemy. I believe that bookstores have to take care of their clients and put the reader in the center. They have to serve with quality and speed with what Amazon does. Although obviously it is difficult to compete with them.

P. What would be the biggest threat?

R. Let readers opt for other forms of entertainment: series for example.

P. What does the new model of the Fondo de Cultura Económica look like, its merger with Educal and the General Directorate of Publications?

R. I still do not know very well the details but I think it has always been a bit strange that a publisher like the Fund, which belongs to the State, compete with private publishers. I am aware of the important role of the Fund for decades. But I have been present at meetings of publishers in Frankfurt and its bargaining power has no competition. No other publisher can offer to pay the rights and also guarantee the distribution in its chain of bookstores. I do not like that because it is the government competing with the industry. It would be better to see how to encourage industry, reading and sales. And something similar I also see with the General Directorate of Publications.

P. Why?

R. I believe that independent editors can be encouraged with training or with other types of alternatives beyond the financing of a publication via coedition. Because in this way the editor learns that he has found an option to finance that book and does not encourage growth.

P. Which model do you consider most appropriate for the new Fund?

R. I do not know. What I think is that it has enormous potential because it is present in all Latin American countries, including Spain. I found it very positive, for example, that they held the independent book fair in their facilities. That kind of initiatives where they can embrace others who can not finance this type of projects.

P. And the entry of private capital?

R. Yes, why not.

P. Private publishers often complain that they have no presence within the Mexican delegation at the Frankfurt fair

R. The booth Mexican is organized by the Caniem -patronal editorial- but most of the books there are by Conaculta, the Fund or co-published books with public participation. Some years we have tried together with the Caniem and the DGP to bring independent Mexican publishers through a contest.

P. Does this happen with delegations from other countries?

R. No. That's why we launched the calls. Because we complained and it seemed to us that it could not be that what is presented in the booth of Mexico are almost all government publications.

P. How is the relationship between the Frankfurt Fair and the Guadalajara Fair?

R. They have an old connection. The legendary director Peter Weidhaas was a close friend of the first FIL directors and those relationships have been maintained over the years. He was the one who gave them the advice to try not to be dependent on the Mexican publishing house. Precisely because of his experience with German publishers. Because he saw that there are always too many interests and you can not work as an international fair. They followed the advice and work from the university.

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