Door-to-Door Book Sales Boom in Brazil

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Yep, you read that headline right, I did indeed say the words “door-to-door” and it’s not even 1955 any more. Because honestly that was the last time I thought anyone did anything door-to-door, except maybe dress up in costumes and beg for candy on the last night of October.

But according to, it looks like Brazil has found a unique solution to its lack of book distributors. Brazil is a single country spreading across 50% of South America, with 27 states and
some 190 million people living in different conditions. A nation such as this offers many opportunities and while the book business continues to grow year-on-year in Brazil, it also presents equally daunting challenges.

Book distribution is a big problem in Brazil and with 5,565 cities and a mere 3,000 bookstores, it’s not hard to see why. If you run the numbers, you come up with roughly one bookstore store for every 64,255 people. And most of these are located in the largest and most developed areas, making independent stores rare indeed. The southeast (and most developed) part of the country contains more than 56% of all bookshops, while the north (amongst the poorest regions) gets just 3% of the total. This makes it hard for people to get to book and it shows – number of books read by Brazilians is only 4.7 per year and if you deduct books read at school that number drops to 1.3 books per year.

It’s a vicious circle; as less people show an interest in books, booksellers are less likely to open shops. But is a lack of interest in reading really the cause or could it merely be the difficulty of acquiring books where there are no bookstores?

Judging by the growth in door-to-door book sales, it looks like people in areas not served by stores do want books. Door-to-door book sales is proving to be an important distribution strategy for publishers. . In 2006, door-to-door represented 5% of all sales – in 2008, the number of sales grew to 13%; by 2009, the segment was close to 17% of the market. Best of all, bookshops have yet to lose any of the market share, which suggests that the business is growing across all segments.

According to the Brazilian Association of Door-to-Door Booksellers (AssociaƧao Brasileira de Difusao do Livro – ABDL), there are 30,000 door-to-door booksellers in Brazil and some 32 publishers who cater to this market. They calculate that publishers netted approximately R$668 million in 2009 ($297 million), which was up 74% compared to 2008. In 2010, door-to-door sales went up 80% , estimated at R$ 1 billion ($590 million).

Surprisingly, Avon has become one of the most influential of all door-to-door booksellers in the country, thanks to an extensive network of sales reps. The company is an important partner for publishers, who develop exclusive, and often inexpensive editions, for Avon’s catalogue. Not unlike being picked for Oprah’s Book Club in the US, being chosen for Avon’s catalog is also highly attractive to authors/

Eventually as the country’s economy grows, more bookstores will likely begin venturing into remote cities. Until then though, many will still rely on the door-to-door sellers to reach them. This continues to help literacy — which in turn increases demand. This will lead to a better future for Brazilian readers, publishers and bookseller alike.

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