Venezuela’s National Book Centre understands the role of digital in building a nation of readers. Other countries should take notice

Venezuela’s National Book Center (Cenal), backed by the Ministry of Culture, gave a three day workshop on the value of digital publishing at the end of January.

Cenal president Raul Cazal stressed the need for quality content, but the workshop was focused on the mechanics of ebook production and distribution with the aim of boosting the country’s publishing industry by attracting more people to the pleasures of reading.

In marked contrast to the prevailing views in some countries, where digital reading is seen as somehow inferior to reading in print and a threat to the printed book industry, the Cenal approach has been positive, focusing on the benefits of giving consumers choice and of expanding publisher horizons.

That’s a point worth dwelling on.

Venezuela may only be at 51% internet penetration right now, but that’s still 17 million people online, making a potential digital reading market comparable to the Netherlands.

While Amazon has no Kindle stores in Spanish South America, Apple Books and Google Play Books are both options and Kobo is available across the continent, alongside regional digital players like Bajalibros.

But the real value of embracing digital will be the reach it will give Venezuelan authors and publishers across Ibero-America and beyond.

 

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