The Latino Market: Tongue Twister
They also use technology differently. Hispanics text more than any other ethnic group, for instance, and are more active in social media—whether it's linking to something, posting a video, updating a blog, or "Liking" a band. Downloading a book while checking a Twitter feed doesn't seem like much of a stretch for people who download games and music in higher numbers than any other group. Latinos may have less home Internet access, but they make ample use of the access they do have.
And something is definitely happening. In February, Spanish-language publishing juggernaut Santillana USA announced a 78 percent increase in ebook sales between November 2011 and January 2012—that's just for the U.S. and Puerto Rico. A company spokesman thought it might be because of all the tablets that went on holiday sale. Whatever the reason, it opens possibilities.
Arte Público has numerous digital projects going, including a vast, virtual collection Kanellos describes as "all of the written culture of Latinos from the colonial period to the 1960s." The database is about half-digitized right now, and can be accessed at libraries—mostly academic ones—that subscribe to it.
But that's rarefied air. Kanellos predicts a wholesale conversion even of public school systems. "What we see in the future, school systems will do away with textbooks and give students something like iPads. Digital is just exploding."
It's also helping publishers to promote their titles, which isn't always easy in a niche market with small budgets.
Vintage Español director Jaime DePablos says, "Due to the relatively small size of the market, advertising is generally too expensive for us. Facebook and tools like Google Ads have made this noticeably easier for us to reach readers."
John Byrd of Cinco Puntos says he's also using digital tools. "The nice thing about social media is that it gives you data to work with so you can start to see what works and what doesn't. Writers are always impressed with how much we can accomplish on a lean budget."