Gfk’s summary of the 2019 Brazilian book trade in 2019 at first glance makes depressing reading, with just 49 million books sold, pulling in, which resulted in revenues of R$ 2.1 billion ($500 million), reflecting a 9.2% drop in volume and 7% in turnover and an average book price of R$ 43.01 ($10.25)

But as the Brazilian publishing industry journal PublishNews notes, the year began with falls of 20% so we have in fact seen a stabilization in the market that can be cause for celebration.

The GfK survey, carried out in partnership with the National Bookstore Association (ANL), points out that there was a 9.5% retraction in the turnover of the specialized channel, bookstores. Other channels – here are supermarkets and self-service stores – grew 20.7%.

Self-help (+ 25%) and Administration / Economy (+ 21%) were the fastest growing genders. Public tender appeared with the biggest retraction (-52%).

While we can take the Gfk report as indicative (see the full report here) we must allow that the limitations are what is reported to Gfk by publishers and booksellers, which will not be the full picture.

As ever, many digital sales will go unnoticed, especially from self-publishers, as will many sales at book fairs and festivals.

We don’t have any reliable figures for self-publishing in Brazil, but we do have some indications of the scale of the invisible market happening at book fairs and festivals that takes place alongside mainstream bricks & mortar and online bookselling.

Take for example the São Paulo University Book Party that took place in November, attracting crowd of 80,000 booklovers that spent the USD equivalent of $4.5 million on books.

Also in December in São Paulo was the Brazil Comic Con. We don’t know how many books and comics were sold at that event, but with a record-breaking 280,000 visitors we can safely assume it was a significant number.

This was the story at the Rio Biennial.

 Brazil’s annual Flipoços sold books worth $500,000 in 2019.

Meanwhile Brazil’s publishers are also seeing more sales abroad.

Meaning that, important as the Gfk figures are, they show us just part of a much bigger picture of a book market that may actually be in much better health than at first appears.