Kobo, Amazon, and Apple are all interested in the Brazilian ebook market, but it looks like they have their work cut out for them. A several month old survey shows that hardly anyone in Brazil knows what an ebook is, and an even tinier number have even read them.
The Instituto Pró-Livro, a pro-literacy organization in Brazil, conducts a survey every year in Brazil on how and what the public is reading. The latest survey results were actually released in late March, but even though they are 4 months out of date I do not expect them to be off by too much (they're so bad that even a large shift will still be bad).
The Instituto reported in theirthat when asked, a full 70% of respondents indicated that they didn't know what an ebook was. In a national population of nearly 200 million that's a startlingly large number of people who had never heard of the idea that you might read a book on a screen.
Of the 30% who did read ebooks, you might want to sit down before learning how many bought ebooks.
It was only 13% (of those who knew about ebooks). If you considered it as a part of the total population it would be around 4%. Damn. And of the ones who aren't buying ebooks most are simply downloading for free online and about a third reported pirating their ebooks.
BTW, this is also far lower than the numbers Bowker released earlier this year; they found that 18% of Brazilians had bought ebooks. But other than that Bowker's survey data showed a similar ebook buyer profile: 52% were women and most had a college degree. But the local survey did show the 18-24 age group dominating, not the 25-34 age group that Bowker identified. I'm at a loss to explain the difference.
As scary as these numbers are, it's actually good news for whichever major ebookstore launches first. With so few people even knowing about them, Brazil is a virgin market for ebooks. Once the publishers get moving in the right direction and once local devices get cheap enough there's no reason Brazil won't see a surge in the growth of the ebook market.
Still, success is not guaranteed; Amazon and Kobo still have to overcome what's likely the cause of the piracy: there aren't very many ebooks to buy.Right now there are under 20 thousand local titles available in the Brazilian ebook market, and until that increases (drastically) the ebook market will stay small.