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For four straight days last week (September 11 – 14), the second annual International Symposium of the E-Book in Spanish (El Libro Electrónico en Espanol) was held in Mexico City.

If the event’s name doesn’t ring much of a bell, that’s probably because it gets very little attention from the English-language press. But according to a recent write-up in Publishing Perspectives, Mexico (and to a lesser extent, the the Latin American world itself) is a locale all digital reading enthusiasts should be keeping close watch of.

“Digital publishing is gaining an ever-greater foothold in Latin America,” writes Edward Nawotka, the article’s author. “And despite its lag in both reading rates and digitization of content, Mexico is leading the way.”

Of course, Mexico is still very much in the early days of its digital reading evolution. But Mexico is also a huge, developing nation with a megacity that’s home to a sizable population of wealthy and tech-savvy citizens—and those contradictions are exactly the sorts of things that’ll make Mexico’s digital growth such an interesting transformation to watch.

A few interesting items from the Publishing Perspectives piece:

Mexico is attempting to lead the push towards a common digital platform for the whole of Spanish-speaking Latin America. While the article didn’t make clear who or which organization(s) is spearheading this ambitious effort, it did mention that Mexico is working towards the goal with a group known as CERLALC — the Regional Center for the Advancement of the Book in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Trade publishers in Mexico, and throughout Latin America, are only now considering including digital sales figures in their annual statistical reports, according to the article.

The E-Book Symposium focused “more on academic subtleties than commercial value,” but only because commercial digital publishing is still in its infancy in Latin America. Interesting enough, though, “the shadow of Amazon … briefly loom[ed] over the event,” according to the article; Amazon’s director of Kindle content for Latin America, Pedro Huerta, was one of the week’s keynote speakers.

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For a slightly different take on the topic, take a look at this write-up, which appears on the University of Alberta’s humanities blog. The blog’s author actually watched the symposium as it was being streamed online; he got the sense that “the presenters focused too much on the ‘sensuality’ of the physical book (and the materiality and history of the book) and comparatively little on eBook-specific issues such as business models, metadata, etc.”

He added that “Some participants in the stream went ahead tweeting their own alternative symposium, offering numbered points on specific issues related to the eBook phenomenon, content they felt had been largely absent from the presentations.”

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Finally, take a look at this thoughtful and well-written piece by M. Christopher Johnson, who edits the Latin American Startup Blog for All Things D. Johnson’s article doesn’t mention Mexico City’s E-Book Symposium, but rather focuses on the fact that Mexico, and a few other Latin America cities, now have their own versions of Mountain View and Palo Alto, metaphorically speaking:

“Latin America — in America’s backyard — is witnessing an unprecedented expansion of its indigenous technology economy. Long considered a relative backwater, rich in minerals, natural resources, and tin-pot dictatorships, Latin America in 2012 is quietly cultivating a culture of technology entrepreneurship virtually unheard of in other emerging economies.

“From Chile to Mexico, pockets of local start-up enthusiasts who have long labored in obscurity are coming to the attention of a small but growing group of investors and other entrepreneurs from the United States and beyond. And interest in start-up companies, never particularly high on the radar of graduates of the best universities in Latin America, is on the rise. Business schools across the region now regularly host pitch contests and hackathons, encouraging the next generation of business leaders to embrace the concept of the knowledge economy.”

 
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