Publishing Perspectives has noticed that Brazil—with a population of nearly 200 million—represents the 8th largest book market on the planet and, despite the “global” recession, its publishing industry is doing fine. On that page, YouTube interviews (in English) really fill out the story—and continually expose the interviewer's surprise that the Brazilian market can thrive independently of the US/European conglomerates and their business models.
One strong sector of the market is door-to-door sales, especially outside the major cities. But in case that sounds old-fashioned, rest assured that Brazil is also facing the e-book revolution (covered here, in Portuguese). The publisher Edidouro, despite some stumbles with Rubem Fonseca's O Seminarista, has promised all its titles in e-book format beginning next month at their (ahem) Amazon-like shop LojaSingular. Saraiva is developing an even more ambitious, iTunes-like platform, working with many publishers and targeting music and videos as well as e-books. Yes, the Kindle is coming—but on December 15th, Gato Sabido will launch an e-book store and its own reader, based on the British Cool-er.
For American readers, it's time to learn that Paulo Coelho no more represents Brazilian literature than Dan Brown represents American literature. Publishing Perspectives, in a "bonus" feature, solicits suggestions of Brazilian books that should be translated into English. The brand-new winter issue of The Quarterly Conversation includes a nice appreciation by Michael Moreci of Machado de Assis, the nineteenth-century master who belongs on any list of the world's great writers; in the fascinating feature "Translate This Book!"—expert recommendations of texts overdue for a proper English translation—I put forth the case for Machado's short stories. The American Benjamin Moser has written Why This World, the first full biography of Clarice Lispector, one of the few authors who can match Machado's stature in Brazil; the book has been well received (New York Times, New York Review of Books) and translated (I want to write "back") into Portuguese.
The apparent success of Clarice, in Brazil is the exception that proves the rule. Somehow it seems foreigners keep getting the idea that they can impose their culture on Brazil, but it just doesn't work. It didn't work in the 1550s (according to Hans Staden); it didn't work for Henry Ford. The Brazilian poet Oswald de Andrade, in his "Manifesto Antropófago" of 1928 (an English version is here), famously re-purposed Staden's cannibal imagery, calling for foreign cultures to be not adopted, but ingested, digested, and turned into Brazilian culture. There's no reason to doubt it will happen again and again.
For the Americans it's better, perhaps, to stick to translation.
Two sites—and their blogs and Twitter feeds—keep me up to date on what's going on in Brazilian publishing: 30 Por Cento and Livros e Pessoas. I'm always happy to hear about others!