Russian company wants to increase reading in Latin America

Bookmate, a Russia-based company that offers books through mobile applications and the web, will start offering its service to five Latin America countries within the next two months as it introduces its Spanish-language catalog that already has 40,000 titles.

The hope is that Latin American smartphone users will decrease time spent on games and turn to literary classics.

¨We are readying the launch for next week in Guatemala. Then, in the rest of August, we will be in Paraguay and Colombia. In September, we will launch in Bolivia, Honduras and El Salvador," Paola Landazabal, Bookmate´s regional manager for Latin America and Spain, said by telephone from Moscow.

"It is the first launching for the Spanish-speaking world. The distribution through Telco for Spain is not planned until October," she said. The company, which currently has offices besides Russia in Sweden and Singapore, will eventually expand to large Latin countries including Mexico.

"Bookmate is a service through subscription and you then have access to all the books we have in our catalog in nine different languages," she said. A subscription costs a fraction of the price of one book or it is free if users have an operator that has a partnership with Bookmate, like the association with Tigo Mobile in Guatemala and Paraguay.

Landazabal said that Bookmate, which has 2.8 million users worldwide, expects to add some 30,000 Latin American readers to its user base within two months.

Smaller and often overlooked countries like those in Central America "are showing a very high level of smartphone use," she said.

The company is not worried about other existing or potential new book subscription services.

"Our competition are really the games and other digital distractions," she said. The company wants Latin Americans waiting in line at banks to instead spend time reading books or fragments. Readers are changing and unlike in previous decades where one reader would finish a book in two weeks nowadays we see more readership of fragments," she said.

The presence in Latin America of book piracy, or marketing of illegally made copies that pay no royalty, indicates that there is a reader demand for books, she said. Based on market research, the company will offer classics but also wants to reach niches with business or religious books.

Bookmate is part of Russia-based Dream Industries, which was founded nearly a decade ago and offers other products distributed through Internet, like music.

"We work with publishing companies and have a system of royalties," she said. The company also works with a platform for self-publication which authors can use to obtain royalties.

Bookmate has as part of its plans the penetration of the U.S. market but it will do so by first targeting Spanish speakers there, she said. Other plans worldwide include the launching of books in audio format.