On the 13th, the Masterclass hosted by Skeelo editors showed to professionals in the world editorial market a little of what is behind the curtains in term of digital book distribution strategies in Brazil. The online class was promoted by Brazilian Publishers – a partnership between the Brazilian Book Chamber (CBL) and the Brazilian Trade and Investment Promotion Agency (Apex-Brasil) – and is one of the new models of digital content at Frankfurt’s International Book Fair.
Skeelo has been successful with a very modern business model in a world of streamings and curatorships: in partnership with phone carriers and automatic toll payment systems, audiobooks are provided as additional bonuses to these services.
The initiative started from a known issue in Brazil: low reading levels. A 2020 survey estimated that an average Brazilian reads 2.43 books per year. For a country with internationally renowned authors such as Machado de Assis, Clarice Lispector and Rubem Alves, this is concerning. And Breno Lerner, Skeelo’s editor, started the class with the following question: “Why is such a multicultural country like ours reads so little?”.
At the start of the 21st century, there were around 3000 book stores throughout Brazil, and at least one book store at every city. “Constant social, economic and political crises increased the average price for books”, Breno explains. “The two largest book stores in the country, responsible for 50% of big editors sales, have recently declared bankruptcy. This made editors lose their space for selling physical books.”
But Breno says it’s not the case of Brazilians simply not being of reading. Quite the contrary: other experiments done with books in newsstands or door-to-door were successful with the public. And with the recent growth of the digital market with online stores, ebooks and audiobooks, comes the opportunity of expanding this market without this focus solely on classic brick and mortar book stores.
Rodrigo Meinberg, Skeelo’s founder and CEO, discussed how the advent of Brazilian newspapers was historically important to reach non-readers, who in time came to enjoy reading. “Data on reading newspapers was never accounted for in reading statistics in our country. Moreover, the beauty brand Avon is the leader book-seller in Brazil, with its catalog being sold door-to-door. This shows that the struggle does not lie on readers, but rather on distribution”, he explains.
Distribution to All
Through lots of research, Skeelo founders believed that the answer for the systemic reading problem was at the tip of their fingers: cellphones, ever so present throughout Brazilian social layers, could be used for distributing classic and modern best-sellers at a reduced cost. All of this through an easy-to-use app, with ebooks and audiobooks, in addition to Minibooks (books that can be read or listened to in 15 minutes).
Currently, Skeelo counts with over 133 million subscribers. And we can’t just look at distribution: with the partnership of digital influencers in several audiences and the support of multiple editors and popular authors in the country, market penetration is certain to reach audiences and foster good readings.
Rafael Lunes, Skeelo’s co-founder, explains that partnerships with phone packages are crucial for the platform’s success. “We believe that most of literary consumption will take place in smartphones. It is the most connected device. The gateway for online content consumption”, he says. “And why wouldn’t books be a part of it? If we use smartphones for videos, music and games, why shouldn’t we use it for books? With easy distribution in partnership with phone operators, we offer new opportunities for users to become readers”.
In Brazil, phone operators offer not only calls and data packages, but benefits such as music and video streaming, discounts in some stores. The idea of also offering an audiobook every month, selected by a curatorship, represents the next logical step to integrate culture consumption in a single place, in addition to enabling a social aspect in reading: always keeping up with what your friends are reading.
Rodrigo Meinberg recalls Paulo Coelho: “He wanted that every time a soft drink was sold, a copy of his book was also sold. And how are we going to do that in a market that considers the book’s price rather than scale?”, he asks. “The value of a book is not the price tag or what’s in the cover. The value of book lies in the readings it brings. Acknowledging that the author did a good job.”
Skeelo’s Masterclass on the distribution of digital books in Brazil was only one of the several attractions of which Brazilian Publishers took part in Frankfurt’s Book Fair. To learn more about the fair, click here and read about its programme.
About Brazilian Publishers
Created in 2008, Brazilian Publishers is an industry project to foster exports of Brazilian editorial content, result of a partnership between the Brazilian Book Chamber (CBL) and the Brazilian Trade and Investment Promotion Agency (Apex-Brasil). The initiative aims at promoting the Brazilian editorial industry in the global market in a guided and joint manner, contributing to the operationalization of book editors.