In 2016, Argentina’s book market generated $540 million in revenue, up from $905.5 million in 2015. The figures, which highlight the dire state of the country’s publishing sector, were compiled by Argentine consultancy Promage, which released the figures Thursday at the Buenos Aires International Book Fair in Aires.
The 40% drop can be directly attributed to government policy changes instituted by Argentinian President Mauricio Macri, which was inaugurated in December 2015. Among the measures affecting the industry was that of floating the Argentinian peso in the international exchange of currencies, which led to a devaluation. currency by almost 50%. The decision to halt nearly all government purchases of textbooks, which accounted for $132 million in sales for the publishing industry in 2015, was also deeply damaging.
“[Last year] was particularly difficult,” said Javier López Llovet, general manager of Penguin Random House for Latin America and Argentina. “People are still buying books, but they’re buying less. If in 2015 they went to bookstores and bought two, three books, now they buy one. If Argentina’s economy was better, we would do better.”
Publishers had hoped a change of government would give the book industry a boost, particularly after Macri appointed a former book publisher, Alejandro Pablo Avelluto, as his culture minister. But Avelluto said TP shortly after taking office that “editors should not expect special treatment”.
One of the few bright spots under Macri was the end of a bizarre practice regarding imports, stipulating that for every peso of imported product, the importer must export an equivalent amount of “Argentine product”. After the regulation change, book imports jumped 75%, from $40 million in 2015 to $70 million in 2016, according to Promage.
In 2014, Argentina had the third largest Spanish-language book market in the world, according to the International Association of Publishers, behind Spain and Mexico. When updated statistics are released later this year, falling incomes could put Argentina in fourth place, behind Colombia, which has a larger population and has been politically and economically stable in recent years.
Leonardo Neto is the editor of PublishNews Brazil and contributed reporting from the Buenos Aires International Book Fair.