Market Focus: Inside the Hispanic Book Market
While the Hispanic population in the United States is expected to expand to nearly 50 million by 2010, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, current purchasing patterns indicate that this 16 percent of the nation may not buy books at the same rate as the remaining 84 percent.
Book publishers have different theories as to why this growing market hasn't yet met expectations in terms of sales, as well as some ideas on how to better serve this segment. From embracing Hispanic celebrity influencers to tailoring content to reflect the nuances of this particular culture, publishers may have to adapt and mature before the market segment can reach its full potential.
Strength in Numbers
If the U.S. Census Bureau projection holds true for 2010, the Hispanic population in the United States will have more than doubled since the 1990 figure of 22 million.
"The market for books in Spanish is not proportional to the population, and that has proved to be a disappointment to many publishers," says Larry Bennett, vice president of digital print media and world language materials at Charlotte, N.C.-based book distributor Baker & Taylor. "Many publishers looked at the more-than-50-percent growth of the Hispanic population between the 1990 census and the 2000 census, and said, 'Oh my goodness, there's a huge opportunity here.' And [publishers] were consequently surprised that the sales were not as robust as they thought. But having said that, there's still a robust market.
"There are about 40 million Hispanics in the United States. But, of them, about 15 million are bilingual …, [and] they tend to want to read in the native language of the author," he adds. "… Then, there's some 10 to 15 million who are Spanish-speaking only, and they obviously favor Spanish-language books. And then, there are another 10 or 15 million who are English-speaking only. They might be third, fourth, fifth generation, have a Hispanic name, but only speak a few words of Spanish and certainly not enough to read a book in Spanish."