Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The Economist on Spanish Book Market, and some thoughts

The article, dated January 17th, 2008 and entitled "Lost in Translation No More," had a couple of interesting things that caught my attention. I read literature in Spanish when I get a chance. In that regard, I mostly enjoy contemporary fiction, some classics, and a few miscellaneous things. Buying Spanish books when I was at the previous job was one of the highlights of my library career so far, and one that I sorely miss where I am at now. Anyhow, some of the highlights:

  • "The market for books in Spanish is thought to be the second-largest in the world. It is the biggest for books in translation, which account for about a fifth of the 120,000 Spanish titles published each year."
  • "And the enthusiasm at Guadalajara notwithstanding, the industry frets that readers are scarce or, sniffily, that they prefer self-help books to more elevated fiction." I have to make a remark here at the risk of coming off as a snob, but this is partially true. All one has to do is look at any Criticas catalog or the latest list on their website to see that a very large number of their selections falls in the dreaded (to some. Hey, if that's your reading taste go for it) self-help category. Now, I would not harp on Criticas if it were not for the fact that it is emerging as the place to go for librarians when it comes to guidance about Spanish book selections, especially since they pride themselves on reviewing the books in English, making it easier for librarians with no Spanish knowledge to make selections. In its defense, I will say the publication is more geared to public libraries, which have the type of demographic that would find self-help and similar more appealing. As an academic librarian, I did pick out some things out of Criticas (when they pick out literary selections, they do pick very good ones), but I knew to look into other sources as well. That I am a native Spanish speaker certainly helped; I could and often did just go directly to publisher websites for information and selections. All I am saying is that, to an extent, the article's observation is a valid one. Take it as it is presented. And by the way, this is not unique to Spanish books. English publishing I am sure decries the fall of Western Civilization every time the latest James Frey wannabe publishes yet another fake memoir.
  • "Novelists and poets in Latin America are often prominent public intellectuals. In Mexico writers can still benefit from generous tax breaks, stipends and government appointments. 'The idea is that culture generates the nation,' says Álvaro Enrigue, a novelist." Now there is an idea, that culture generates the nation. And one that is seriously lacking in this nation.
The article gives a nice little overview of the book publishing industry in Spanish with a little history, just enough to give you a context. And why would you want to read this? Well, maybe you should consider the fact that a very large segment of the U.S. population reads in Spanish and probably make a pretty good market for those books as well. There is a reason after all why more libraries are expanding their Spanish books collections.


CW said...

I would love to learn more about the Chinese language book market! I just wish my reading speed in Chinese was faster...

Angel, librarian and educator said...

Heck, I just wish I could read Chinese, or a couple other languages. I always wanted to learn a couple more languages, just to be able to read the books written in their original form. I am betting Chinese would be fascinating given such a long history.

Best, and keep on reading and blogging.

Great Translation said...

I think it's great the country is diversifying a bit more. I moved to the USA about 12 years ago and I have seen a huge difference in the Spanish integration.

Thanks for the article!