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Brazil: A true competition between e-books and paper books?

Categories: Latin America, Brazil, Arts & Culture, Citizen Media, Economics & Business, Ideas, Literature, Technology

There is a great debate about whether the rise of e-books will mean the end of paper books. Those who are enthusiastic about new technologies (and tree huggers) defend the substitution of one for the other, whilst those who are more nostalgic argue that books are the perfect invention because, wherever you are, amidst a blackout or on the high seas, you can read them. So, is there really competition between these two letter medias?

Paulo Coelho\'s books – Free download Brazil’s highest worldwide selling author, Paulo Coelho [1], is a great supporter of the e-book [2]. According to him, the free distribution of e-books actually encourages paper books sales, because readers start reading on their computer and as soon as they become engaged in the story they run to the bookshops to buy them, as they still prefer reading on paper. Whether you like Paulo Coelho or not, the fact is that his sales tips can not be ignored.

Aside from the titles he makes available on his official website [3], where you find his books in eight different languages, there is also the surprisingly alternative blog [4] where you can find Coelhos’ titles even in languages not officially translated yet, like Serbian [5]. Blogger Pirate Coelho explains [6]:

“There is nothing wrong with that, if you can catch what I mean. I just googled his books and show you here what you can find about him.

Plus, he likes what I’m doing. If you don’t believe me, just check yourself. —> Look at his free download page with my old link! [7]

Does the distribution of free e-books, or parts of it, work well also for other Brazilian writers? Would there be any competition between e-book and paper book for writers other than the magical Coelho? In looking at the universe of e-books in the Brazilian blogosphere, one immediately notices that numerous authors are making their work available online as a means to spread the word about it. There are websites and blogs created solely for this purpose.

The Overmundo [8] [pt] initiative is a collaborative effort created specifically to disseminate Brazilian cultural production which does not get coverage in the mainstream media. Aside from keeping a cultural database to house the works, including e-books, the Overmundo website has the Overblog [9] [pt] resource, which is a blog to discuss the works available on their website.

A poet from Rio Grande do Sul, Me Morte, was one of the many that made her e-book of poetry, called Poemetos available on the Overblog [10] [pt] and reached a great number of visitors. One of her fans, Dan Lima, left the following comment for her:

Baixei seu livro e li vários dos seus delírios (você se diz gótica, mas aseus textos absolutamente contemporâneos). Uma linguagem moderna., abusada, mulher se afirmando, vociferando, poemas de fino trato…. vou lê-los depois com calma “meu gozo é literário, libertário”, É isso que seus poemas aprovocam: gozo e fruição dos sentidos e das palavras…e muito bonito, esteticamente. Parabéns!”

I downloaded your book and read many of your crazy ideas (you call yourself gothic, but your texts are absolutely contemporary). Modern language, cheeky, a woman in a process of self-affirmation, screaming out, poems of the finest quality…I will read them later in my own TIME, “my pleasure is literary, libertarian” And that is what your poems provoke: pleasure, the flow of the senses and the words…and a very beautiful aesthetic one. Well done!”

Another collective initiative is Portal for Literature and Art Cronópios [11] [pt]. The portal is a mix of library and cultural center, where texts are made available online and the blogs rule, as each new text gets a specific blog (called an e-blog) to be maintained by the author. Although these e-blogs do not get many comments, it seems that there are more authors willing to publish free online than readers willing to read them, one e-blog created after the Brasiliada by Nicolas Behr [12] [pt] text received some inspired readers feedback:

“Berh jotakalizou braxília com sua letra lâmina afiada em esmeril de algodão. Com certeza, JK construiu Bras´pilia e os candangos ficaram olhando…”

“Nicolas Berh jotakalized braxília with his sharp writing in cotton knives. Surely, President Juscelino Kubitschek [13] built Brasilia and the candangos [14] watched him do it…”

Aside from these collective initiatives, there are also writers who are bloggers themselves and publish their texts, or parts of them, independently online  for their readers. Some renowned Brazilian poets are doing just that, such us the poet Frederico Barbosa [15] [pt]. He is making available his entire collection in e-books, even in translations, but he also provides links to whoever wants to purchase paper copies. With a consolidated career, he seems to see no contradiction between e-publication and paper publication, his main interest being that the poetry reaches the reader, in whatever way they prefer.

Cláudio Daniel, another renowned poet, in preparation for the launch of the second edition of his poetry book Yumê, makes available one of his poems [16] [pt] as a bite:

Caros, no dia 25 de janeiro, domingo, a partir das 16h, na Casa das Rosas, acontecerá o lançamento da segunda edição de meu livro Yumê (…) Quem estiver vivo até lá, apareça… confiram abaixo um dos poemas de Yumê:


(no metrô) — primícias
de agosto —
(alguém) lendo Schopenhauer
uma moça com cabelos verdes
e os bicos (dos seios) cor-de-rosa
o (azul-prata-seda)
luxuosíssimo traje marroquino
e a lâmina — argêntea —
do assassino

“Dear all, on 16:00 January 25th, Sunday, at Casa das Rosas, there will be the book launch of the second edition of my book Yumê (…) Whoever is still alive by then, show up! See below a poem from Yumê.




(at the metro) — beginnings

of august —

(someone) reading Schopenhauer

a girl with green hair

and pink (nipples) tips

the (blue-silver-silk)

exquisite Morrocan vests

and the knife — silverish —

of the assassin”

Even for new authors such as Deborah Icamiaba (that’s me!), making texts available online has made lots of sense. In her literary blog [17] [pt], where she regularly posts her short stories, chronicles and poems, there are four long titles available as e-books in PDF: the Inside Ourselves short stories, the novellas Icamiaba Ressurgence, Mid-West Alchemy and the book of poetry: Pre-poetry [something of poetry, prose and prowess]. Each one of them had its own e-launch and were put up at a “virtual bookshelf” with the following message:

“Para obter este ou qualquer e-livro em PDF, deixe um post no blog.”

“To obtain this or any e-book in PDF format, please leave a post on the blog.”

Even though her blog receives hundreds of visits every month, not many visitors order Icamiaba’s e-books. The most successful launch so far was that of the collection of short stories Inside Ourselves [18] (right), for which she received 13 comments. This leads us to think that blog readers are not always interested in acquiring longer and denser texts.

Having e-books available online has not stopped Icamiaba from publishing on paper. At the end of 2008, two publishing houses became interested in publishing in book form her texts already available online.

Last, but not least, it is worth mentioning that in 2004 the Brazilian Government  created a website to make books by the classic Portuguese language authors [19], like Machado de Assis [20] and Fernando Pessoa [21], available, even though they are already very well sold at bookshops and newsagents in popular paperback editions.

Brazilian writers, publishing houses and government are betting on the dissemination of literary works on the Internet, seeing that there is more complementarity than competition amongst digital and paper medias – at least in times where the reader still prefers to read on paper.