E-book Sales Up 1,200% for Brazil’s Companhia das Letras

By Roberta Campassi

Companhia published Steve Jobs' biography in 2011

In July 2010, Companhia das Letras launched its first 12 e-books. It was the beginning of a project which today comprises 200 titles and is growing. According to the publisher, which had a 45% stake acquired by Penguin in December, the number of e-books sold in 2011 was 1,200% higher than in 2010.

Companhia doesn’t reveal quantities though, according to executive director Matinas Suzuki, the number is equivalent to the amount of sales registered during the Bienal de São Paulo, the largest book fair in the country, frequently regarded as the biggest sales event of the year.

It should be taken into account that the sales figures from 2010 covered only six months, and as the initial basis was too small, any increase has to be factored into the overal increase in percentage terms.

Suzuki, however, claims that there are enough reasons to see the results as optimistic: “If we take into account that there aren’t many e-book titles available, and not many e-readers are in use in Brazil, the numbers are a pleasant surprise and demonstrate that changes may come faster than we had previously imagined,” he says. In December, Companhia das Letras announced that one of the reasons it was partnering with Penguin was to leverage the know-how the foreign publisher had already acquired in the digital publishing industry.

Another source of Companhia’s enthusiasm derives from the strong e-book sales of Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson. Soon after it was released in October, it became the best-selling e-book in Brazil. While most e-book sales compare to just 0.5% of the physical sales, Steve Jobs ended 2011 with the equivalent of 2.7% of sales. As esganadas, a best-selling thriller written by Brazilian author Jô Soares, also launched as an e-book in October, also proved popular as an ebook. Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy and Caim by José Saramago also made the list of top ten bestselling e-books for the company.

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