Why are books so outrageously expensive in Brazil?

That’s from a reader request.  I’m no expert on Brazil, but here are a few possibilities:

1. Most Brazilians do not read.  I don’t mean they can’t read, I mean they don’t read for leisure so much.  I was stuck at the Sao Paulo airport for seven hours and did not see a single person reading a book, not once.

Taking that as given, low demand means high prices.  That’s why Stephen King paperbacks are cheap and Edward Elgar (the name of an academic publisher) tomes go for $100 and up.

2. Brazilian retailing is not in every way efficient.  Efficient retailing in the traditional sense is, by the way, bad for the quality of your food because it means it is easy to serve large numbers.  And Brazil has some of the world’s best food, and so inefficient retailing for its books.

3. No other supply source is right nearby and the Portuguese language does not produce an extremely thick market.  Note that the Portuguese of Portugal is very different from the Portuguese of Brazil.

4. The Brazilian currency may be overvalued at the moment, at least in purchasing power parity terms, due to Brazil’s commodity exports.


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