Ebook Sales Channels in the Spanish Market

In the last post in our Spanish market series we explored sales channels for print books in Spain. Today, we’re shifting our focus to the channels for ebooks in this market, and the opportunities they present for Canadian publishers.

The “intangible” nature of ebooks makes them easily transportable and distributable wherever there is an Internet connection and a reading device (e.g., a mobile phone). This feature allows ebooks to be exported to anywhere in the world and through any online bookstore regardless of the country and language of origin. Thus, a Canadian publisher can easily sell ebooks in English and French through any of the Spanish and Latin American online bookstores, and can often also market their books directly.

Of course, the online bookstores channel is much broader than brick-and-mortar. The reason is obvious: adding to Spanish online bookstores are the global ebook vendors such as Google, Amazon, Apple, Fnac, B&N, and Kobo, all of which sell books in Spanish. Unlike traditional book sales, ebook sales through bookstores have been increasing since 2011. The majority of sales (74.5%) are made through distributors, proof that Spanish publishers find this method the most effective in reaching their readers.

International giants Amazon, Apple, and Google, followed by the Spanish Tagus and the French Fnac, sell the most ebooks. Almost all Spanish bookstores with a website sell ebooks in Spanish, but few of them have ebooks in English or French.


In September 2014, the Ministry of Culture of Spain launched eBiblio, a free online ebooks lending service through public libraries. eBiblio provides 200,000 loan licenses for 1,500 titles for public library cardholders. Each license allows an average of 28 uses or single loans, which means that in this first phase, the initiative will enable 5.6 million free readings. In terms of users, this figure represents 47.5% of the population registered in public libraries. eBiblio works with a technology platform by Libranda, common to all libraries except for the Basque Country library, which has its own. Launched in 2010 by the main Spanish publishing groups, Libranda is a company dedicated to the distribution of digital content. Its eBiblio system replicates the cloud ecosystem and provides users with a “double download” – streaming, and iOS and Android – for online and offline reading. Simply by downloading the app from the library, users can access the books they borrow from their reading device. Libranda has also been commissioned to provide the selection of 1,500 titles subsidized by the Ministry of Culture (1,000 fiction titles and 500 in other content), a figure still too small to cover the users’ demand. In less than two months after its launch, the eBiblio ebook loaning service had reached more than 25,000 loans and 11,000 active users around the country. At present, the Spanish library catalogue includes few ebooks in foreign languages. Most of these ebooks are in English and French and are geared to learning languages. According to library managers, the number and selection of these ebooks is not enough to cover the growing demand for ebooks in these languages. For example, the new digital library of Euskadi, called “eLiburutegia”, aims to sell subscriptions to schools, with a budget line included for ebooks in English and French, next year.

Here, there is a huge business opportunity for Canadian publishers as they could provide their catalogues to the library channel.

Subscription Models

Spain was the first country to have an ebook subscription platform. Symbols, a pioneer in applying the “Spotify” model to books, was founded in Spain with extensive global impact. Since then, there have been many companies that have joined the subscription channel. We highly recommend that Canadian and Spanish publishers, alike offer their ebooks through any or all of these subscription channels in order to reinforce the traditional sales channels. There are five companies that offer subscription reading in Spain: 24Symbols, Nubico, Amazon, Suscribooks and Skoobe.

The Direct Sales of Ebooks

The digital environment for direct sales is similar to the one for traditional books: there is a high percentage of business-to-business (B2B) activity reflected in the direct sales of books to libraries and other institutions. However, the specifics of selling through the Internet also leads to new forms of selling directly that publishing houses are beginning to adopt:

  • Direct sales to readers through a publisher’s website: While large publishing houses sell direct and manage their own fulfillment, small and medium publishers use bookstore affiliate programs to sell their catalogues.
  • Direct sales to subscription channels: Although these channels are also available via the digital distribution platforms, the subscription companies have worked to sign contracts directly with publishers.
  • Direct sales to libraries: Still a fledgling business, for the time being libraries turn to distribution platforms, but it is expected that in the near future they will also deal directly with publishers. It is estimated that within a year, the direct sales business will exceed 50% of an ebooks publisher’s sales total income.

In next week’s installment, we’ll be back with more advice from our Spanish market guide consultants, Aranxta Mellado and Silvia Mas, on options for exporting books to Spain and some recommendations for entering the market.

Interested in learning more about selling books in Spain? Download our full market guide.

12/03/2015 | Digital, Export, Market Guides