Crisis in big bookstores forcing reinvention of Brazil’s publishing industry


After the announcement that two of Brazil’s big bookstore chains will seek relief under the country’s bankruptcy law, the local publishing industry finds itself at a “key moment” demanding “reflection (and) creativity” in preparing for the “new actors” that will be part of the sector, experts say.

Whether for economic or cultural reasons, selling books in Brazil has never been easy, but the publishing industry had attained a certain stability and enjoyed skyrocketing profits over the past two decades in keeping with the economic boom that the South American giant experienced.

Brazil has never consolidated itself as a world power in publishing, although the sector’s big firms had continued to maintain the “illusion” that country would “make it,” according to what publisher Luiz Schwarcz, the founder of the Companhia das Letras publishing house, which is associated with Penguin Random House, told EFE in an interview.


“It’s a crisis stemming from the difficulty the big bookstore companies had in adapting to a Brazil that never came about. Brazil’s growth has stopped, but the publishing market as a whole continues living under that illusion of growth,” he said.

In the last few weeks, the Saraiva and Cultura booksellers, the two major bookstore networks in the sector, announced that they would file for bankruptcy and close dozens of their stores all across the country.

The two firms are responsible for 40 percent of the sales in Brazil’s publishing sector, Brazilian Book Chamber president Luis Antonio Torelli said.

“The problem is the business model of the major chains, which transformed themselves into megastores. That model is very difficult to administer and eclipses the main product, which is books,” Torelli said.

Given this “tragic” scenario, both Torelli and Schwarcz agreed that the Brazilian publishing industry - just like those in France, Spain, Germany and Argentina - needs to “reinvent itself,” and to do that it needs to focus on smaller stores as the business model “of the future.”

Although 40 percent of Brazilians admit that they don’t read much, the “only way” to create new readers is by “transforming bookstores into cultural centers” which interact with local residents, according to Libreria Simple book chain partner Adalberto Ribeiro.