Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

US Book Industry Learns a New Language Large Chains Find That Their Spanish-Language Titles Are Selling `Quite Well'

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

US Book Industry Learns a New Language Large Chains Find That Their Spanish-Language Titles Are Selling `Quite Well'

Article excerpt

JOHN GRISHAM'S novel "The Firm," Stephen King's thrillers, Eric Carle's "The Very Hungry Caterpillar," and Brian Weiss's "Many Lives, Many Masters" are all popular books in English - and now brisk sellers in Spanish.

At least three large United States bookstore chains - New York-based Barnes & Noble, Waldenbooks Inc., based in Stamford, Conn., and Landover, Md.-based Crown Books - are increasingly stocking shelves in selected stores with Spanish-language titles. These chains have discovered new profits in a previously ignored market of more than 17 million US Spanish speakers. "We have had double-digit increases in both sales and profits over the last two years," says Spencer Gale, senior buyer at Waldenbooks. "It was an untapped market for us." The three chains declined to give sales figures.

In the past, readers looking for books in Spanish had to hunt for them in specialty or college bookstores and usually paid an extra $5 to $10 a book because of added import and translation costs. But Spanish-language books are selling so quickly, Mr. Gale says, that mainstream US publishers are moving into the market and that in turn should bring down prices.

In January, St. Martin's Press in New York published its second simultaneous English and Spanish hardcover printing of "Wings of the Morning" by Cuban pilot Orestes Lorenzo. In July, Danielle Steele's new book, "The Gift," will be coming out in both Spanish and English. "El Regalo" will be printed in paperback.

"I see {Spanish language} as a significant new market for all ... publishers," says Michael Denneny, senior editor at St. Martin's Press. There are nearly as many Latino people as African Americans, and more Latinos than gays and lesbians. Yet the industry publishes far more books directed at those groups than at the Latino market, he notes.

The fervor over Spanish printings is partly thanks to Laura Esquivel, author of "Como Agua Para Chocolate" (Like Water for Chocolate), a book that demonstrated the profits to be reaped in the US from Spanish-language books.

It "galvanized both bookstores and publishers to think this {market} is not a fluke," Gale says. …

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