Southern Exposure

Desde as Entranhas dos Labirintos Latinos.

Thursday, November 06, 2003

Reading in Brazil

I came across some interesting statistics about the publishing market in Brazil in the September hardcopy issue of Primeira Leitura. This data came from a survey conducted by the Camara Brasileira do Livro.

  • Total books printed, 2002: 338.7 million
  • Active publishers: ca. 530
  • Points of sale: ca. 5000, of which 1200 are bookstores in the classic sense of the term
  • Active market: 17.2 million literate persons older than 14 who bought at least one book in the past year.
  • Active readers: 26 million people read at least one book in the last 3 months, corresponding to 30% of the literate adult population
  • Average number of books read per active reader in the past year: 12
  • Purchase of books other than textbooks per capita (all literate adults): 0.66
  • Only one-third of literate adults enjoy reading
  • Of every 10 non-readers, 7 are from classes with "low purchasing power"
  • 47% of literate adults claim to have fewer than 10 books in their homes
  • 16% of the population own 73% of the books
  • Half of all books read in Brazil are not purchased
  • More than half of book-buyers in Brazil live in the South and Southeast regions

To put some context on these figures, the following data from the
CIA World Factbook on Brazil.

  • Population: 182,032,604
  • Literacy: (definition: age 15 and over can read and write)

    • total population: 86.4%
    • male: 86.1%
    • female: 86.6% (2003 est.)

  • Age structure:

    • 0-14 years: 27.1% (male 25,151,855; female 24,196,506)
    • 15-64 years: 67.2% (male 60,667,014; female 61,683,580)
    • 65 years and over: 5.7% (male 4,232,784; female 6,100,865) (2003 est.)

In considering that 58% of book buyers live in the South and Southeast, one must remember that this is the wealthiest and most heavily populated region of Brazil, including the major cities of Rio and Sao Paulo. I suspect literacy is higher in these regions than elsewhere.

I thought some of these numbers were shockingly low, particularly when it comes to buying and owning books. I've been told that Brazil to put it...not a country with a strong focus on letters. There are great Brazilian writers and poets, but the Brazilians are not great readers of them, this survey seems to say.

It's pretty disappointing that only 30% of literate Brazilians have read a book in the past 3 months. On the other hand, I was fairly impressed that the average active reader managed 12 books per year - that's pretty respectable for an average. The challenge, it seems, is in getting literate people to pick up books and read.

Books in Brazil are relatively expensive. Brazil's salario minimo is just R$240, or about US$84 at today's exchange rate. While this goes further in Brazil than it would in the US, it still makes books priced at R$40-50 costly, even for those who earn well above the minimum.

Just after Lula was elected I heard a comment to the effect that it was shameful that this country alcohol, tobacco and football were so cheap while books and medicines were so expensive; that priorities were misplaced. While this is surely true, I suspect savvy politicians would think twice before pricing bread and circuses out of reach of the average guy. In the meantime, publishers have to live with small print runs that keep their costs high and make books so relatively expensive.


Post a Comment

<< Home