Bookselling in Mexico

Last month, I attended the International Book Fair in Guadalajara, Mexico. I’m not quite sure what I was expecting, but it blew me away and gave me a renewed vision—and hope—for the publishing industry.

Jovenes Gr

Here are a few of the details:

  • The Guadalajara International Book Fair is sponsored by the University of Guadalajara. It has been held every year for the last 20 years.
  • It is a general market fair. Thomas Nelson was the only major Christian publisher exhibiting.
  • Most of the booths were very sophisticated. It reminded me of BEA. Lots of beautiful product everywhere. Great graphics and great signage.
  • The exhibit floor was open from 9:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. every day for “professionals” (e.g., publishers, booksellers, printers, the media, agents, authors, etc.). At 5:00 p.m., they opened the show to the public. The floor closed at 9:00 p.m.
  • Over 525,000 people attended. The aisles were jammed. I have never seen so much excitement about books. And—here’s the best part—probably half of the attendees were under the age of 30.
  • Almost 17,000 booksellers attended. Thirty-nine countries were represented.

All exhibitors were allowed to sell. All the major retail chains in Mexico, including the primary Christian one and the primary Catholic one had large stores on the floor. Publishers were selling to consumers, too, directly out of their booths.

I also visited five bookstores in the city of Guadalajara—three general market stores, the largest evangelical store, and the largest Catholic store. All five were promoting the book fair. They were running “publisher specials” in their stores in honor of the fair. The booksellers were excited about this show because it dramatically raised the visibility of books, not only in Guadalajara, but all over Mexico.

The show was covered non-stop by the national and local media. With this kind of size, it captured everyone’s attention. I gave three interviews to the national media.

The show sponsored multiple lecture tracks and panel discussions. I stepped into a few. They were also jammed—standing room only. Some had overflow rooms with video feeds because they couldn’t get everyone in the main meeting room.

The primary draw of the show did not seem to be big-name authors per se. Instead, from what I could tell, people were drawn primarily by the shear size of the show and the fact that they could see virtually everything that was happening in the publishing world—in one place.

Somehow we need to recover this kind of enthusiasm in the United States. In the meantime, we will continue to move aggressively into Mexico and Latin America.

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