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América Gutiérrez Espinosa berichtet von der CONTEC Latin America 2023

Journalist América Gutiérrez Espinosa (left), Reynaldo Infante, World Voices, Dominican Republic (right)

© private, Centro Cultural de España

CONTEC, the meeting that shares experiences and reflections from Frankfurter Buchmesse with the Latin American region, was held in Mexico City on July 5th and 6th. During the keynotes, round tables and workshops, 33 professionals from different countries discussed three topics: sustainability, translation, and audiobooks in Spanish.

By América Gutiérrez Espinosa

Frankfurter Buchmesse held the CONTEC meeting at the Centro Cultural de España in Mexico City, a free event for training, exchange and professionalisation around the topics that permeate the publishing sector and its relationship with other cultural and creative industries.

For two days, 33 speakers from different countries shared their ideas and experiences on sustainability, translation and the audiobook format in Spanish. Marifé Boix-García, Frankfurt's vice-president for Latin America and Southern Europe, referred to the main themes of this meeting as "fundamental content for making decisions in the publishing market, which are usually discussed at  Frankfurter Buchmesse with the creation of communities in mind and which involve the protagonists of the publishing world: authors, publishers, distributors, agents, booksellers and readers."

Sustainability for our books

You can't just sit and wait for inspiration to come; you have to go and look for it and it was in this spirit that, during the first day of activities, the speakers made a clear and coherent call for active engagement in support of sustainability, not only from the point of view of the carbon footprint of raw materials, but also from the point of view of active participation in the elimination of exploitation gaps.

Hugo Setzer, President of the Mexican Chamber of Books (CANIEM), emphasized that we have less than a decade to act together to prevent the advance of global warming. He was also forceful in mentioning that within the 17 goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the book industry must coexist with climate justice to understand the unequal impact along the book production chain, including paper, printing and publishing processes, waste and energy use in buildings and transport.

In this regard David Hänssler, head of the Interest Group: Sustainability (IG Nachhaltigkeit) of the German Publishers' Association (Börsenverein des Deutschen Buchhandels), moved away from the catastrophic tone and presented a realistic and lucid perspective of experiences and ideas for the publishing industry to build models of environmental and social best practice. He also urged that ethical management is possible to make a sustainable business. He delved into the publishing supply chain and showed how each choice affects the environmental credentials of a book's production in all its dimensions.

During the first panel of the day, Arantxa Mellado, Spanish publishing analyst and director of LiberExpress, joined Hugo Setzer and David Hänssler to exchange ideas on how to make the publishing sector more sustainable. In this respect, Mellado stressed that one of the key points is to reduce the number of books being printed, , to analyse editorial funds on new releases and to respond to market demands in an efficient way, reducing print runs or resorting to print on demand, as well as using 100% certified sustainable paper or implementing zero waste.

On the other hand, José Manuel Anta, director of the International Publishing Distribution Association (IPDA), explained that technology continues to revolutionise the book ecosystem, as the digitisation of processes in the supply chain has become fundamental for distribution efficiency.

At the end of the day, the Metabooks teams from Mexico and Brazil of, the project developed by MVB and Frankfurt Buchmesse to adapt the VLB metadata platform to these markets, held a workshop for publishers to talk about the importance of metadata to make books visible.

Translate, transfer, transform

During the afternoon, CONTEC addressed the role of translators in the Spanish-speaking world, in a program developed jointly with the Mexican Association of Literary Translators (AMETLI).

María Fernanda Mendoza of AMETLI and Aranzazú Nuñez, director of the International Book and Audiovisual Fair of Querétaro, stressed in their respective interventions that translation has transcended an authorial sphere and is not just a mere tool in international and global communication: today's translator not only applies knowledge of meaning or semantic representation to become a bridge between the source and target language, but also performs a profoundly individual and intimate act of creation.

Mendoza emphasized the modalities under which translation work is carried out. She also referred to the contracts that recognize his or her rights as an author and that translations, whether as commissioned work or professional services, must move towards a fairer and more equitable model. "No more global sessions for the universe and now the metaverse," Mendoza demanded.

CONTEC was the ideal place to recognize that a good translation can open new markets and bring new sources of income and opportunities that should also be extended to the translator. At the end of the day, Aránzazu Nuñez focused on the relationship between translators and publishers, on seeing the process of translating as permanent decision-making process, where "the translator decides and then reconciles these choices with the publisher. Honesty is necessary in this creative accompaniment and a key part of the success of its transition to other languages and formats".

Listening is also reading

Within the framework of CONTEC, the first Latin Audio Forum was held on Thursday 6th, in collaboration with the Chilean company Audiobuk, a meeting that brought together the advances, concerns and challenges of audiobooks in Latin America.

An audiobook is not only a book read aloud that is recorded and released to the world. Michele Cobb, executive director of the Audio Publishers Association (APA) in the US, gave an overview of how audio publishers buy rights, create and promote original audiobook content, while large publishing houses have been busy strengthening their audio divisions.

Dominican Reynaldo Infante of World Voices inspired the audience when he spoke about the importance of creating content aimed at Latino audiences that shuns clichés and stereotypes, not forgetting that this large audience includes many regional audiences. In this reflection, audiobooks must meet the differentiated needs of audio-readers. For the producers of this reading format, the challenge is to ensure that the text achieves certain rhythms, tones and accents without losing the intention of the written text.

It was Santiago Ramírez, founder and executive producer of Audiobuk, who shook the prejudices of the format and confirmed that a book in the voice of a skilled narrator, and in the hands of audio professionals, can be a great success. The return to orality is instinctive, what has changed are the mediums and their place in the industry. For Ramirez, exploring the creative possibilities of the audiobook offers infinite possibilities.

In sync, Carlos Rojas Urrutia, head of Spanish content at Zebralution, German distributor of audiobooks, music and podcasts, invited the audience to continue in the audiobook gap in Spanish, convinced that the future is promising, even if the road ahead is uncertain. Audiobooks are being integrated into the preferences of users who consume music, and this is where the market gets into another dimension.

Cristina Flores and Santiago Ramirez of Audiobuk were responsible for a luminous workshop, in collaboration with the broadcaster Everardo Camacho. This activity opened the ears of publishers. It also highlighted and gave names and roles to each of those who work in the art of narrating and recording audiobooks. Flores pointed out that it is vital that an audiobook is well-directed, containing pauses, syntax, punctuation and emotions. Being part of the audiobook world means renewing oneself in a unifying challenge that transcends the development of technological infrastructure, without underestimating the reach of artificial intelligence but with the necessary tools to keep it human.

Among the creative minds who also shaped the second day and the closing of CONTEC 2023 were Emma Rodero (Professor at Pompeu Fabra University), Wendolin Perla (Head of Content at Podimo Mexico), and Ana Clements (broadcaster and voice coach), who demonstrated that all the effort in the world is for nothing if you are not inspired and able to share it.


America Gutiérrez Espinosa is a Mexican editor, journalist, bookseller and screenwriter who has worked for Discovery Channel, History Channel, National Geographic, A&E, Instituto Mexicano de la Radio, Grupo Expansión, Sin Embargo, Penguin Random House Grupo Editorial (Mexico) and Librerías El Sótano. She is currently chief for the Latin American section at Publisher's Weekly en Español in Mexico.

More about CONTEC https://www(Öffnet neues Fenster).buchmesse.de/en/highlights/professional-programme/contec