Amazon.com, hoping to capitalize on the growing power of Latino spending, has launched its first Spanish-language e-book store.
Tienda Kindle (eBooks Kindle en Español) offers over 30,000 titles, including longtime classics like Paulo Coelho’s “El Alquimista (The Alchemist)” and Gabriel García Márquez’s “Cien años de soledad (100 Years of Solitude).”
Analysts say the move shows how more and more companies are beginning to understand how Latinos are a growing force in the digital world. They are also realizing that Latin America is not a place to ignore.
“Publishers recognize that globally, Spanish is a primary language,” said Seneca Mudd, director of Interactive Advertising Bureau’s Multicultural Council and an expert in digital marketing. “These moves represent the magnitude of the Americas as a hemispheric marketplace.”
A recent study by Pew shows that 21 percent of adults have read e-books in the past year, and that number keeps ticking upward. In a three month period, between December 2011 to February 2012, it increased by three percent.
And Latinos are not lagging behind. A study by Zpryme Research and Consulting shows 19 percent of the people they surveyed would buy smartphones, with about 29 percent of first-generation Latinos saying they would buy tablets.
“It’s absolutely a growing market,” said Ariel Coro, a leading technology expert and founder of TuTecnologia, said about Latinos gravitating toward e-books. “When you look at a company like Amazon, they don’t make a move like this without doing extensive market research and analytics.”
But some say while it’s admirable that Amazon is realizing the influence of Latino consumers, tablets and e-books are still too cost-prohibitive to most Hispanics.
“It’s wonderful. It’s important to have more and more Spanish-language books available no matter what format they are,” said Aurora Anaya-Cerda, owner of La Casa Azul Bookstore in New York City’s El Barrio. “But tablets are very expensive, and that’s a limitation because many Latinos just can’t afford them.”
In her bookstore, which predominantly caters to Latinos, she said most of her customers prefer old-fashioned paperbacks or hard covers. During author readings, crowds show up holding paper books. The few that are holdings e-readers, like Amazon Kindles or the Barnes and Noble Nook, tend to be second-generation Latinos that feel more comfortable reading in English. E-readers usually run from about $70 to over $200.
“I do see Latinos buying e-readers, but not in a significant rate,” she said.
Coro, however, disagrees. His book, "El Salto," which was released a few months ago by Vintage Spanish, a division of Random House, and is about emerging technologies in modern society, sold just as well in e-book format as it did in paper format, he said.
“One of the challenges people have is that they don’t always have access to the books they want to read and have trouble finding them in stores,” Coro said. “This makes all the books available in one digital store.”
Kindle en Español offers popular, and even lesser known, titles by Hispanic authors in Latin America and the United States. It also offers customer service in Spanish.
“We expect our Spanish-speaking customers to enjoy both the newly-added books in Spanish, and the improved shopping and reading experience—including dedicated customer service in Spanish—that we’ve added to e-books Kindle en Español,” Russ Grandinetti, vice president of Kindle Content, said in a statement. “And we’re looking forward to continued expansion of our store for Spanish-language readers around the world.”