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Broadman & Holman leads in Spanish Bible sales

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Growing up in the Dominican Republic as the son of missionary parents, Jim Cook could not imagine that, one day, the language and culture he absorbed as easily as the sun on the Caribbean beaches would be a major asset in his career.
As international sales and licensing manager for the Southern Baptist Sunday School Board’s Broadman & Holman Publishers, Cook’s major focus is making available Spanish resources in the United States and Latin America. He also is responsible for the sale of B&H English products outside the United States and the licensing of products for translation into other languages by other publishers.
In 1996-97, B&H licensed books and videos for publication in 13 other languages including Afrikaans, Korean, Indonesian, Chinese, German, Portuguese and Romanian. English titles were licensed in Canada, England, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Philippines and several Caribbean nations.
B&H published its first Spanish Bible, a bilingual edition, in 1985 “to fulfill the need for Hispanics in the United States learning English and also for missionaries to Latin America learning Spanish,” Cook said.
In just 12 years, B&H has become the largest publisher of Spanish Bibles sold through trade stores, with Spanish Bible sales comprising 36 percent of B&H Bible sales. Only the Bible societies which distribute low-cost Spanish Bibles and Bible portions through churches, ministries and individuals, publish a larger volume of Spanish Bibles.
Sixty percent of B&H Spanish Bible sales take place outside the country, with Mexico and Argentina representing the top Latin American markets.
Most-popular B&H Spanish Bibles include: Biblia de Letra Grande, Tamano Manual (hand-size giant print Bible), Biblia de Letra Grande con Referencias (giant print reference Bible) and Biblia Ultrafina con Referencias (Ultrathin reference Bible).
Cook began selling Spanish Christian resources in 1973 for another publisher. In addition to the technical skills of contracting with distributors and taking and filling orders, skills in building and maintaining relationships are a must in Latin America.
“A huge part of what I do is building relationships,” Cook said. “Understanding the culture and speaking the language is a big part of doing well.”
Business dinners are more important in Latin America than the proverbial business lunch in the United States. Restaurants rarely open before 9 p.m. and dinner often is a multi-course event that can last four hours.
“That is when a lot of business is done,” he laughed.
Cook is not satisfied with the growth B&H has experienced in international distribution. He sees a future of great potential.
B&H will publish its first Portuguese Bible, the Rainbow Study Bible, in 1998.
“There are more evangelical Christians in Brazil than the rest of Latin America,” he said.
Also in 1998, B&H will release the Holman Bible Dictionary and five general books in Spanish. In addition to books and Bibles, Cook said B&H offers non-language-specific items such as offering plates and communion ware and other church supplies in Latin America and to Hispanic churches in the States.
When Cook seeks to introduce B&H resources in another country, “I go to a local Christian bookstore, find out who they are buying from and try to set up a relationship. It’s not a lot different from the U.S. except that there are far fewer Christian stores.”
An estimated 7,000 Christian bookstores operate today in the United States compared to about 1,000 in all of Latin America, he said. Also, the United States is the fourth- or fifth-largest Spanish-speaking country, with 22 million Hispanics, according to the 1990 U.S. Census.
“The better distributors (in Latin America) have stores in the capital city,” Cook said. “They send guys out with a van load of products, similar to the way business was done in the U.S. 50 years ago.”
However, Cook emphasized Latin Americans demand top quality products. For example, young people are accustomed to learning about available resources on the Internet.
He predicts that within five years B&H could be selling as many Bibles and Christian resources in Portuguese as they currently do in Spanish. Bibles in Korean and Chinese could be the next languages for B&H Bibles.
While international sales currently represent only 12 percent of B&H sales, Cook predicts they will grow to as much as 20 percent in the next five years.
B&H currently markets its language resources in the United States through the annual Christian Booksellers Association convention and its Spanish products at Expo-lit held each May in Miami. In 1998, B&H will co-sponsor book fairs in Panama in February and Santiago, Chile, in August.
“The evangelical community is growing at a very fast rate in certain Latin American countries,” Cook said. “They are hungry and eager for Bibles and Bible study material.”

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  • Linda Lawson