Book Publishing’s Bilingual Boom

From Publisher’s Weekly:

With more than 40 million Spanish-speaking readers and language learners, according to the Census Bureau, the U.S. has the fourth-largest Spanish-speaking population in the world, after Mexico, Spain, and Argentina. What’s more, if demographic trends continue, the Instituto Cervantes estimates that by 2060, 27.5% of the U.S. population will speak Spanish, which would make it the second-largest Spanish-speaking country in the world, after Mexico. It therefore comes as no surprise that the U.S. market for Spanish-language books is growing. Accordingly, PW is now offering a quarterly spotlight on developments in that market. This will include discussions with authors, booksellers, librarians, publishers, and others in the value chain.

The U.S. market for Spanish-language titles is largely being driven by bilingual families, schools that offer dual-language classes, and libraries that service communities with large numbers of Spanish speakers. In addition, there are heritage-language customers who want to practice their Spanish, and language learners seeking cultural immersion.

Bilingual books have proven popular with children, parents, and students alike. In 2022, two new services, Enlingos and Curio, launched to cater to this audience, offering subscription boxes for bilingual and Spanish-language children’s books.

Historically, one of the most prolific and inclusive publishers of bilingual books is Star Bright Books in Cambridge, Mass. Founded in 1994 by Deborah Shine, a former bookseller and publisher from South Africa, the company offers more than 200 board and picture books in monolingual and bilingual editions covering 33 languages. After English, Spanish is most widely represented on the list, which includes 27 monolingual Spanish titles and 68 bilingual books.

“There are some immigrant families that want books in their native language, while others want books they can read in their native language, while their child may only speak English, so they will also read to them in English,” Shine says. “It varies.”

Accordingly, Star Bright often offers multiple editions of the same title, including English, Spanish, and bilingual versions. “In our bilingual books, we always put the foreign text above the English translation, which is often different from how other publishers do it,” says Shine, who is in her 90s and continues to run the company. “English is always secondary to the foreign language in our books.” Star Bright’s latest release is Arletis, Abuelo y el mensaje en la botella by Lea Aschkenas, illustrated Cornelius Van Wright and Ying-Hwa Hu. The picture book, which tells the true story of a young Cuban girl who strikes up an unlikely pen pal friendship with a Californian, is offered in English and in a Spanish translation by Lawrence Schimel, senior editor of Swiss publishing house NorthSouth Books. “The book was written in English and then we had it translated,” Shine says. “It was a natural decision to publish it in Spanish, for the story’s main character is Cuban and it is set in Cuba. Our Spanish titles are typically bilingual, but for this book, we decided to do a Spanish-only edition.” The book has a print run of 4,000 copies for each edition and has been chosen as a Junior Library Guild Selection.

Link to the rest at Publisher’s Weekly