Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Bookshare without Borders: #2/3

Random House Mondadori and Expanding the Spanish-language Bookshare Program

Benetech’s strong relationships with numerous partners across sectors are fundamental to our continued success. These relationships generate countless ideas for using technology for social good. Together with our partners in the nonprofit, technology, government, academic and publishing sectors, we participate in new cultural and technological movements, deriving new knowledge that we apply for social gain. In this second installment of the three-part blog series (the first one is here) on Bookshare International, I’m excited to share some of the ways in which our Bookshare library is part of the latest trends in the digital publishing world and is thus going deeper and serving many more people.

Digitization and globalization are giving rise to growing publishing markets that promise new business opportunities. Aiming at the revenue potential of these growth markets, the main international players in the world of digital content distribution – such as Amazon, Apple and Google – are racing to enhance their platforms with non-English content. Spanish publishing is one of the hottest digital battlegrounds. The investments that Amazon, Apple and Google, among others, are making in aggregating Spanish-language digital content signal their priority on developing the Spanish-language markets in Latin America. For more on this point, see this editorial by the inimitable Javier Celaya (more on Javier later in this post).

Globalization and the digital transformation of the book industry also stand behind the recent big news in the publishing world about the mega-merger of Penguin and Random House, says Ed Nawotka. Ed is an expert on international digital publishing issues and Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives, the online journal of international publishing news and opinion that’s been called “the BBC of the book world.” In a recent blog post, Ed explains why growth markets are key to this proposed merger of two of the publishing world’s biggest players. Penguin, he points out, is a growing power in China, India and Brazil, while Random House is pervasive across Spanish-speaking Latin America. Random House and Bertelsmann, its European owner, are already huge players in Latin America thanks to Random House Mondadori, Bertelsmann’s trade book publisher in Spain and Latin America and one of the world’s largest and most prestigious Spanish-language publishers. Penguin Random House will therefore combine to create synergies overseas and deliver billions of dollars in annual sales.

At Benetech, we also have a strategy for internationalization and globalization aimed at bringing our technology solutions to a growing base of users. We, too, are working hard to expand Bookshare into more geographies and languages. As I mentioned in the first installment of this blog series, developing new language capabilities is one of the pillars of Bookshare International. Now we, too, are investing major efforts in aggregating Spanish-language titles. The crucial difference is that, as a nonprofit, we’re on a quest to ensure that our Bookshare library serves anyone who needs it, regardless of where they live. Our goal is to provide accessible books to many more people worldwide, rather than make the maximum financial return.

We’re very excited to announce that Random House Mondadori has recently signed our Bookshare agreement, giving us world rights to their titles. Random House Mondadori is one of Spain’s top three publishers and also has significant market share in Mexico and across South and Central America. Based in Barcelona, Spain, Random House Mondadori originated from a joint venture between Random House and Mondadori, an editorial book and magazine leader in Italy (following the announcement of the merger of Penguin and Random House, Bertelsmann has acquired the 50% stake in Random House Mondadori that had been held by its Italian partner – a move that reinforces the company’s focus on developing Spanish-language markets in Latin America, as Ed Nawotka notes). Random House Mondadori is the first Spanish publisher to partner with us and its support of the Bookshare community sends a great signal to the other Spanish publishers we have approached. We trust that this is the beginning of a thriving Spanish-language Bookshare program and we’re looking forward to partnering with many more publishers and other collaborators in the global effort to provide accessible content in Spanish to people with print disabilities.

Developing and implementing growth opportunities with new digital partners require skill, expertise, and collaboration. Benetech is very fortunate to have Robin Seaman, our accomplished Director of Content Acquisition, as the driving force behind our expanding partnerships with the publishing community. There’s a great deal that happens on the way to a signed Bookshare agreement, which is why Robin spends a major portion of her time traveling between book fairs and meetings with publishers and other stakeholders. Our partnership with Random House Mondadori is a case in point and I’d like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who helped us throughout the process.

Special thanks go to long-time Bookshare partner Random House who introduced Robin to Carmen Ospina, Director of Digital Strategy and International Business Development at Random House Mondadori; and to Javier Celaya, founder of the socio-cultural website Dosdoce.com, Director of the Master in Digital Communications program at the University of Alcalá de Henares in Spain, and the digital go-to guy in the Spanish-language world. Javier helped us consolidate our relationship with Random House Mondadori and is working to help us obtain content for Bookshare from other Spanish publishers.

Finally, we’re grateful to the Lex Mundi Pro Bono Foundation for matching us with pro bono attorneys who drafted a very impressive agreement tailored to Spanish law concerning serving individuals with print disabilities. Special thanks go to Charles Coward and Xavier Domènech of the Barcelona law firm Uría Menéndez. The Lex Mundi Foundation is a nonprofit affiliate of Lex Mundi, the world’s leading association of independent law firms. It calls upon Lex Mundi’s unique global network of top-tier commercial law firms to provide legal assistance to select social entrepreneurs on a pro bono basis.

Thanks again to everyone who contributed to our great win on the path towards meeting the accessibility challenge with a growing collection of accessible Spanish-language titles. We invite you to check out the Bookshare catalog for updates on our Spanish collection. Please stay tuned for the next and final installment in this three-part blog series on our work to expand the proven Bookshare model internationally.

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