The digital book is enjoying a period of bonanza like never before, because, unlike other industries, it grew in the midst of the pandemic and even replaced the printed book in the face of bookstore closures or problems in the supply chain. Therefore, it is important to analyze the future outlook, and what better way to do so than with the help of one of the forerunners of e-books in Mexico, Diego Echeverría.
Considered by Forbes magazine as a «pioneer of ebooks in Mexico», in 2013 this young publisher founded Editorial Ink, the first 100% digital publishing house in the country, with which he has published titles by renowned authors such as Guadalupe Loaeza and Francisco Hinojosa. Two years later, he created Ink it, a 360 platform that provides digital services around the world and distributes more than 60 thousand titles in major online stores. With 10 years of experience, Diego shares his perspective on the publishing industry.
Q. You are the founder of the first 100% digital Mexican publishing house and CEO of one of the largest distributors of e-books and audiobooks in Latin America. How did you get started in the world of books?
Diego Echeverría. Actually, my incursion into the publishing industry was a little bit by chance and a little bit by naivety… let me tell you about it. My now partner was on a business appointment with the representative of a North American publishing company. When I joined the conversation, I heard how the agent was offering to digitize her bestseller in exchange for very advantageous conditions. So, when I was alone with her, I proposed that we try our luck launching our own digital publications.
It all started with a title that led us to form a multidisciplinary team that would be the heart of Editorial Ink (many of its members are still with us today in the company). At that time, we managed to create a catalog of more than 200 titles. Word spread and soon publishers were knocking on our door with requests for us to transform their books into digital. However, the big breakthrough came when the phone rang, and on the other end of the line was an Apple representative looking for a content aggregator for iBooks: «Diego, would you be interested in this role?” Not knowing full well what a content aggregator is, without hesitation, I said, «Sure! What are the next steps?».
Today, we are content aggregators (e-books and audiobooks) in more than 60 outlets in 85 territories and offer digital services to publishers and self-published authors in 11 countries.
Diego Echeverría, CEO at Ink it.
Q. You are a «pioneer of e-books in Mexico», so you started in a very different scenario from the current one. How much has the digital book market changed from that distant 2013 to date?
Diego Echeverría. Well, the changes have been exponential: imagine that in 2013 Amazon had not arrived in Mexico or that most platforms such as Apple did not yet have digital bookstores created specifically for our country. And, well, at the other end were the publishers and authors. You won’t believe me, but my indispensable work tool was an iPad, not to take notes, but to show them what an e-book was. «Look, here’s the table of contents, here you can underline… and you can fit thousands of books in your account.»
Faced with the digital book, the response from our clients and authors ranged from «this will never replace the printed book» to what Guadalupe Rivera and Elena Poniatowska once told us: «Look, I have seen so many things in my life: the man in the Moon, color TV, the fax, the cell phone, the computer… don’t listen to them, of course this will take off!”
«My suggestion for authors and publishers is: place your title in as many channels as possible, serious and professional, and in as many supports as possible (audio, e-book, print).»
Q. We are overcoming two complicated years for the publishing industry, which, however, turned out to be favorable for e-books. What do you think will happen in 2022?
Diego Echeverría. It is a difficult answer. Actually, I believe that we have not yet fully seen the consequences of the pandemic in the economy and much less in consumption habits; however, it seems to me that, in the latter case, the confinement accelerated the digitization process, as many users/readers/listeners tried new media, new media, and new platforms. This generated a strong adoption curve, which is why we saw high numbers in sales and new accounts on platforms throughout 2020 and 2021.
We must be honest, this curve had a decrease related to the end of social distancing, but what is a fact is that we gained digital users, and there had never been so many before. In counterpoint, we have the publishing industry. During the last two years, unfortunately, we witnessed the closure of many publishing houses and bookstores. The pandemic left the finances of such companies very damaged. This could cause a drop in the investments that can be generated throughout 2022.
What is coming? I think what we will see is a hybrid market in which the industry will have to focus its energy on perfecting its online sales, whether of print or digital editions, as well as a consumer adapted to new technologies and accustomed to the immediacy of e-commerce and digital content. The changes that we live in 2020 and 2021 are here to stay and those companies that do not internalize them will be destined to fail.
Q. The audiobook has grown in a surprising way in recent months due, among other factors, to the fact that it goes well with the current lifestyle. Do you think that, in the future, this could mark the preference for the audiobook over the ebook?
Diego Echeverría. I would tell you that I have already seen that movie. I remember 7 or 8 years ago when the discussion was whether the e-book would replace print. Don’t get me wrong, the audiobook will have great growth and will compete with many entertainment platforms and, of course, will take its share of the paper book and e-book market, but I am convinced that both formats will coexist and not only that, but audio will help the visibility of the digital and paper book, just as it has happened between the e-book and the printed book.
Q. The needs of self-publishers and publishers are different, so their sales strategies should also be different. What channels or mechanisms are the most appropriate for publishers?
Diego Echeverría. I agree with you, the needs of publishers and self-published authors are different in terms of the production process. I mean, in order for their books to be published, they require different support. That’s where Ink it offers a solution that fits your needs exactly. For example, a self-published book might require the creation of its cover and the management of its ISBN number, unlike a publisher, who surely has both steps solved.
Now, as far as channels go, you’re really thinking as if this step in the process is a necessity of whoever produces the book, but I don’t see it that way. I like to look at it from the opposite perspective, that of the reader. The question then would be: what does the reader want? I think the answer is simple: to have as much content available as possible so that they can choose from a vast catalog. My suggestion for authors and publishers is: place your title in as many serious and professional channels as possible and in as many media as possible (audio, e-book, print).
Q. Finally, and thanking you for your collaboration, I would like to ask you: What are Ink it’s plans for the future?
Diego Echeverría. The million dollar question! We know that the world of digital publishing is changing rapidly and that, for publishers, it can be difficult and costly to keep up. That’s why we want to be the digital department that every publisher should have. To give our clients around the world a 360 solution that keeps them ahead of the curve and frees their internal structure from heavy workloads so they can continue doing what they do best: creating exceptional content.
Diego, always smiling, says goodbye to me. It is amazing how such a young publisher has managed to position himself as a reference in the Latin American publishing industry. Behind him, there is a story of hard work, perseverance, and tenacity. In his opinion, the digital book is a thriving and competitive area that needs players at the forefront of the ups and downs of the market. But how to achieve this? His proposal is Ink it, a platform to make authors and publishers success stories, like the one he represents.