Amazon’s opportunity in the U.S. Spanish-language book market is very large, as 77% of Spanish-language books ever published are available in the U.S,” Pedro Huerta, Director KINDLE Content, Amazon, told the audience of the Foro Portada Mexico, which took place in Mexico City last month. Huerta leads Amazon Kindle’s expansion into the U.S. Hispanic market and Latin America. Huerta is a Peruvian who currently lives in Seattle. Throughout his career Huerta has played leading roles at book publishing firms, including Mondadori and Bertelsmann, in Europe and Latin America. Huerta speaks Spanish, English and German. He obtained his Mechanical Engineering degree in Karlsruhe, Germany. Portada’s Debora Montesinos interviewed him in Mexico City.

‘Kindle provides an opportunity for any content to be available in all Spanish-language markets.’

Portada: How important is the U.S. Hispanic market for Amazon?
Pedro Huerta, Director Kindle Content, Amazon.: “There are 50 million Spanish-speakers in the U.S.. Until recently they did not have many Spanish-language book purchasing options. Today we are the number one bookstore in terms of sales of Spanish-language book in the U.S. I assure you that if you go to a book store in Los Angeles you will not find more than 1,500-2,000 book titles in Spanish. We offer 80,000 book titles in Spanish. Interestingly, small book publishers, like Cal y Arena in Mexico, sell many more Spanish-language books in the U.S. than they do in Mexico.”

What advantages are there in digitizing books as a tool that countries can use to grow their education levels?
P.H.: “The most important thing is that the Kindle plat form provides an opportunity for any publisher, and for any content, to be available in all countries where a particular language is spoken. This is especially so for Spanish-language markets in Spain, United States and Latin America. Before digitalization book publishing was in need of large investments in printing, distribution and marketing. That is why 90% of books ever written in Mexico have never been published. It is very difficult today for a book published on paper in Mexico to be available in all countries in Latin America. There is no more a need for that. The Kindle platform makes it instantly available, and that is what change affords us – it’s what makes the big difference between what we see in the physical world and the digital world.”

So digitalization seems to be a good thing…
P.H.: “Digitalization gives us the chance to offer many titles and entertainment opportunities that are not possible in the physical world. And at consumer-focused Amazon, we are trying to help by offering the best digitalized selection and the best prices.”

We are not necessarily talking about quality content then? Can it be any content, or do you filter it?
P.H.: “I previously mentioned that DTP (Desktop Publishing) is one of the fastest growing trends, so we have a team in place that also checks for quality, any kind of topic, or other things, because we also have a responsibility to the reader.”

And how big is that team?
P.H.: It is a very large and multilingual, or polyglot, team.

Have you thought of bringing the Kindle platform to children?
P.H.: “We already have a large selection of titles for children of different ages, and are increasingly working to improve our services and offerings. And I hope to share more news soon.”

Would you agree that children are a big market, since using technology comes natural to them?
P.H.: “That is precisely what we are seeing and we are trying to develop the best offerings for such children. What happens is that children are very different, depending on the age group, such as 4-8 years, 8-12 years, or 12-15 years. Sometimes we all think like children, but it is an important segmentation.”

What results have you had since starting up operations in Mexico a few weeks ago, and what are your future prospects?
P.H.: “We are very happy with what we’re seeing. Mexicans are enjoying our selection. We have significant price deals that have generated significant demand. And we are working on getting more titles, offering consumers better prices, and always making our site attractive to consumers.”

Can you say you’ve already achieved a critical user mass?
P.H.: “We are in the first minutes of the match – it’s still early, and we are working every day to impress, retain and charm our Mexican readers.”

Although it’s early in the match, you are the team scoring all the goals…
P.H.: “We’ll see.”

How many goals have you scored?
P.H.: “[Laughs] We are happy with the result, but it’s the consumer who is most important to us, so we cannot let our guard down. Every day is important to us, and every day we have to bolster consumer confidence in our store.”

After Brazil and Mexico, which country in Latin America is your next target?
P.H.: “Right now we are focusing on Mexico. Like I said, we only started six weeks ago. We are very happy with what we’re seeing and I think that we need time to settle down and position ourselves here, in order to become an even more important player in Mexico’s digital book market.”

Is your experience in Brazil and Mexico similar?
P.H.: “Yes, they are similar markets. In Brazil and Mexico, the most important thing is our obsession for offering a complete consumer experience: to supply everyone with the reader, offer the largest number of points of sale, offer all the free Kindle apps that exist for the tablet and phone, and in their languages in as many tablets as possible. In that sense, we are seeing an equally positive response in both Brazil and Mexico.


Pedro Huerta’s,presentation was one of the highlights of  yesterday’s Foro Portada Mexico (#PortadaMexico13), which gathered more than 120 leading marketing, agency and media executives at Mexico City’s Hotel Presidente Intercontinental.  Huerta leads Amazon Kindle’s expansion into Latin America, and his keynote speech “on the future of digital content in Latin America” was widely expected as the audience wanted to get insights on Amazon’s recent experience in launching the Kindle and Kindle store in Mexico and Brazil. Below the key points.

Huerta started his presentation by sharing data showing that 42% of “physical” books in the U.S were sold online in 2012. For the United Kingdom that ratio lied at 37%. In Mexico, and most other Latin American countries, that proportion is much lower, but the upward trend is very clear. However, while Amazon sells most of its books in digital format, 70% of books sold overall (both online and off-line) in advanced markets are in physical book format.

Pedro Huerta
Pedro Huerta, Director Kindle Content Amazon, during his keynote speech

Huerta noted that the opportunity for both publishers and authors in Latin America is huge: “Mexican publishers are currently only publishing 10% of the books that Mexican’s have ever written.” The much cheaper production costs for digital books should substantially increase that ratio.” Even in Spain, the largest Spanish-language book market, only 46% of the top 1,000 authors have books that are available in digital format, Huerta said.

We are in the fifth minute of a 90 minute soccer game.

“We are in the fifth minute of the 90 minute soccer game,” Huerta noted referring to the market for digital entertainment products and services. One major game changer is the fact that the transparency of the digital medium has made that books now are in heavy competition with other entertainment goods such as “movies, games and apps”. In addition, digital content tends to merge the type of content (e.g. audivisual content is integrated with written content and into games etc.)

“Attention is a scarce resource”, Huerta noted. Consumers have very little time that is why recommendation engines can work very efficiently.”  Another interesting feature of the digital medium is that a new author can share the same digital page on a recommendation engine with a Nobel price winning author. For good or for bad, this is what the democratization of content is all about, Huerta claimed.

Pricing: Cheaper than in print, but how much?

“The consumer knows that a digital book should cost less than a physical book. But how much less we really do not know.”  Huerta said that subscription models (e.g. Netflix) tend to be more profitable to publishers than one off-online sales.

In terms of what works for sales promotions, Huerta said that limited time offers at substantial discount  are very effective.  Huerta questioned whether all the books, online bookstores sell are ultimately read by the book buyers.

Key Digital Book Players: Google, Amazon, Samsung and Apple…

According to Huerta, the 4 key players in the digital book market are Google, Amazon, Samsung and Apple. He added that local players will also play a role. As an example he cited the Gandhi chain book and Sanborns (America Movil) in Mexico.

…Google and Apple have tailwind in less developed markets.

In terms of book market share, Huerta acknowledged that “Apple and Google have an advantage in less developed markets (those  markets, including Latin America, where Amazon’s Kindle  has not been present yet or was recently introduced in. This is because the relatively wide availability of both Apple and Android based tablets in those markets.