Valencian publishers. Questionarie

Ginés Vera (Los ojos de Hipatia): When did you begin your activity as a publishing house?

Vicente Ferrer (Media Vaca): We published the first three books in 1998. It will soon be our 20th anniversary.

G. V.: In your opinion, are people reading more or less than when you started out?

V. F.: I do not know. I know there are statistics and I admit I have not read them with sufficient attention. I think the situation will not be so different, since the reading rates at the time were not high. Those who read then probably continue to read now, although there may not be as many great readers today with the necessary time to read a lot of books. Perhaps the biggest difference is that today’s readers are not exclusively or primarily book readers.

G. V.: The CIS (Spain’s Centre for Social Investigation) barometer displays comparative statistics with other EU countries, in which it is revealed that 35% of Spanish people ‘never or hardly ever’ read. To what do you think this is due, that people in our country read so little despite publishing so many books a year?

V. F.: It is quite optimistic to believe that people are going to read more because more books are being published. The question we should ask ourselves is: why are so many books being published if no one reads them? Perhaps because the publishing business does not have much to do with people becoming readers. If there were a direct connection, so many badly written and poorly edited books would not be published; or those of questionable interests; or those that are absolutely dependent on fleeting trends; etcetera.

G. V.: In the Valencian Community, in addition to books in Spanish, titles in Valencian are also published. How do you place the bilingual offer with respect to other communities in which only books in Spanish are available?

V. F.: The offer is extremely unequal. Production in Valencian is mainly aimed at school or university audiences, sectors which are profitable. Making a double edition in Spanish and Valencian is double the cost and it usually represents a great risk that small companies (the majority in the Valencian Community) can rarely afford. To this reality we should add that many Valencian speakers cannot read or write in Valencian; their use of the language is mainly oral. It is a shame we have lost a tradition of literary magazines in Valencian, and that there are no popular children’s publications in Valencian, because they would be very useful to familiarise readers with the written language. 

G. V.: The crisis in the publishing sector, and especially when speaking to booksellers, seems to have come from long ago, before the famous 2007 bubble. How has the current crisis affected your publishing house, considering whether the previous statement is true?

V. F.: The crisis, of course, comes from much earlier. It would be difficult to find a period with no crises (understanding ‘crisis’ not as a period of change but of scarcity). Book consumption is not popular, neither in the Valencian Community nor, in general, in the rest of the country: people prefer to spend their money on other things. Crises have had little effect on us because we make a type of book which cannot aspire to large sales, and which hardly leaves a profit margin: books of images that do not conform to a trend criteria and which require excellent printing, special care of the files, suitable paper, etc.

G. V.: Let’s talk about solutions, from the different agents in the sector we hear proposals such as the need for a greater institutional boost to the book sector, is that true? Is it a matter of greater monetary investment, of a larger budget from public entities?

V. F.: If people do not like to read, why should they be interested in adverts aimed at promoting reading? It is not only a question of money, although it is obvious everything is. It is also a question of education, and in this regard it is important that books are not associated with compulsory reading, as is the case at school, but with enjoyment. It is essential that public libraries are well stocked, open to everyone, and managed by people who are trained and resourceful, who will act as true activists in favour of reading. I have recently seen in several Spanish cities some modern library spaces which have become meeting places for students and local residents. Normalising the coexistence with books is a necessary first step that should be taken.

G. V.: Lastly, we would like to know what challenges and perspectives you predict for publishing houses regarding new technologies, new readers, and the cultural offer, not only of books but also of digital applications, videogames, and such; the 2.0 era.

V. F.: We are interested in the content, rather than the format. I believe that many literature publishers agree on this. However, we are aware the format is important. Used as I am to reading books, I would find it difficult to read on papyrus, for example, which is an earlier technology. There is a novelty factor which is difficult to predict how it will evolve. In my opinion, paper books and new technologies will coexist for a long time, because books are a good invention and because both offers do not have to be mutually exclusive.

‘Valencian publishing houses: a look into the challenges of new generations’. Article by Ginés Vera published in the cultural magazine Los ojos de Hipatia, no. 8, July 2017, pp. 18 and 19.

[In the image: Valencian croup, drawing by Alejandra Hidalgo.]