Sunday, 19 February 2023 20:19

Professional. The book market after a year of full-scale aggression

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1. Publishing houses survived. The share of books in the Ukrainian language has increased significantly. Ukrainians read. New bookstores are opening. Distance sales to Europe increased. This is positive.

2. Now separate each problem. Let's outline them:
- piracy;
- a book from Russia;
- lack of library reform;
- lack of state policy in the industry;
- readers who lost their homes

3. Piracy, both paper and electronic, has changed in times of influx. If those who pirate Russian books in Ukraine and distribute them with false source data (either copy what was written in the stolen file, or put fake data from Kazakh, Lithuanian, or Latvian publishing houses, or even come up with something strange, publishing houses of Ukrainian higher education institutions of the Soviet era, etc.), before the large-scale offensive could be called small fraudsters, now they are real criminals who undermine the information security of a country at war. Electronic piracy is now divided into the websites of the aggressor country, which actually stopped the fight against piracy at home, but which are banned by Ukrainian law enforcement officers, websites of third jurisdictions where Russian pirates have hidden, and Ukrainian pirates who hide their faces behind patriotism and the desire to "advertise" books in Ukrainian and bring them to the reader who has no place to read a Ukrainian word in the conditions of war. But all criminals have no nationality, their nation is a crime. Those who transport Russian books through Poland, Turkey, and Hungary can be singled out. Formally, this is not prohibited by law, it is all for personal consumption. The person who sells these books to the end consumer on the market and on the Internet on one-day websites and in the marketplaces of well-known platforms violates the law. There are still a few such books and they are expensive, but do these people not understand what they are doing?

4. In June, the President did not sign the law, which was adopted unanimously by 306 votes, and which prohibits the import and sale of books originating from the Russian Federation and the Republic of Belarus. Did not sign, did not veto. The law simply disappeared. I am still hopeful that this law will be signed and published at any moment. Because even today, the remnants of books from the Russian Federation that entered the country last winter still have a significant impact on the market. Moreover, they become a cover for the activities of pirates who reprint them today. The war will end and the issue of informational aggression will arise again.

5. The state budget in 2022, of course, was not implemented in terms of humanitarian issues. Filling libraries could not be a priority for a country that defends the very fact of its own existence. But now, that the economy is recovering, budget processes are gradually coming to their senses, it is necessary to understand that public libraries today are the last place where Soviet and Russian propaganda products are concentrated. Today, there are, according to official figures, approximately 65 million books of Soviet origin, with Marxist-Leninist forewords that are morally and physically obsolete, and another approximately 20 million copies of books from Russian publishers that either promote Russian law enforcement or tell the story in such a way that as it is seen in Moscow. According to preliminary data, approximately 6 million copies of such products are prepared by librarians for cancellation per year, but this is approximately the same rate of cancellation that has been going on for years. The problem is not how to destroy waste paper, the problem is that there is nothing to replace it with. Most public libraries will simply cease to exist if the local government, which has not replenished the stocks of library funds for years, now decides to throw these illiquid stocks into the landfill. In the civilized world, a book in a public library works for a maximum of 10-12 years.

6. Does Ukraine need 15,000 public and the same number of school libraries (on the controlled territory as of 2021). No, if you take into account the European experience, invest money in premises, technologies, logistics, you need about a third of this amount. But not the mechanical closing of part of the libraries, but the conversion of premises, staff training, modern technologies. Should libraries alone change the industry? No, it will be replaced by relevant laws that will really close piracy, normalize spending on new library funds, and make education more important than diplomas. And the main thing is that they will be carried out. During the war, in the summer of 2022, legislators passed another very important law, regarding book certificates and bookstore leases. This law began to create a European culture of relations in the industry. Its effect is not suspended by the martial law budget law, but it is not implemented either. The experience of last winter, the law on e-support, showed that the number of potential readers is much larger than we thought, they are not included in the book market due to an objective lack of funds and lack of novelties in libraries. The intellectual health of the nation can be strengthened precisely through mechanisms such as existing support. Europe has enormous experience in such matters. Here, there are also targeted cultural certificates in Italy, and separate book certificates in Hungary, which allow the amount of purchased books to be deducted from taxes for teachers, etc.

7. A separate challenge in 2022 was the support of readers who left their native homes for the West of Ukraine and abroad because of the war. Publishers donated at least 2 million copies of books to their compatriots, but publishers cannot be the main donor of the cultural sphere, employees of publishing houses also have to feed their own families. Unfortunately, during this year, neither our state nor the governments of European countries created any systematic program aimed at supporting our industry. While every major city in Europe has a Russian bookstore, or a department in a bookstore of local network operators, there are only a few Ukrainian bookstores, these are small pockets of newly created Ukrainian institutions for refugees. Russians, even in the conditions of sanctions restrictions, were able to open a whole new network of bookstores in the capitals of the Baltic countries and Eastern Europe. The question of state policy regarding the provision of the cultural needs of refugees is particularly acute, they are actually displaced in Europe into the emigrant "Russian world". European governments have taken care of the material, we need to take care of the spiritual if we want to bring our fellow citizens home en masse. Each month abroad reduces the percentage of the future return.

8. And what about the statistics on the book market? No one really knows the situation for sure. The Book Chamber counted only 10 million copies of new editions for the whole year, I think this figure is underestimated by half, but even 15 million copies, some of which were printed until February 24, is a critically small figure. As of today, some of the printing houses have ceased to exist altogether, I am the owner of such a printing house in the town of Dergachi on the border with the Russian Federation, which lost most of its population after the liberation, electricity and other infrastructure were destroyed. Those book printers that remained are mostly located in Kharkiv and are loaded by 15-20% of last year's production volumes. Small printing houses in the West of the country are also not very overloaded. Thus, we are not only losing the book market, we are losing the production infrastructure. Renewal of such seemingly simple productions will take many years. It is the same with personnel in publishing houses. For a year, the industry survived on enthusiasm. If the publishers cover a significant part of the volumes with reprints and reprints, the authors, to a large extent, have lost their customers and readers. Having stopped the creative process, it is difficult to start it if the publisher does not have money for the order. First of all, this concerns publishers and authors of educational literature.

9. The book sales market, if counted in terms of money, has decreased by only 25-30 percent, but in copies, due to huge inflation in the industry, this smoking is about 55-60%. What other branch of industrial production has lost volumes so much? If publishers and writers are silent about the terrible state of the industry and sometimes encourage each other with sales statistics of Ukrainian classics and historical literature, this does not mean that market processes in the industry are improving. Many market participants have run out of stamina. I am one of those who, among my colleagues, takes the most optimistic position, I believe in the recovery of the market with minimal positive movements on the part of our country's European partners or Ukrainian officials. I see opportunities to fill the market.

10. Why are bookstores opened? First, there is still enough assortment, including books printed before February of last year and therefore cheap. Secondly, market participants counted on the implementation of the law on rent compensation by state institutions. Thirdly, many believe in a quick end to hostilities and a flow of aid from the West for reconstruction, including humanitarian aid. Those publishers who have not lost hope also invest their own small working capital in books, waiting for a miracle.
Colleagues, I ask you to express your own opinions regarding the volume of the market and further movements on it. Will the market traditionally fall in April with warming? Should we expect government programs? How to reach our readers in Europe?

On the photo is a monument to Grigoriy Skovoroda, which remained on the ruins of the museum

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Олександр Красовицький

Генеральний директор видавництва "Фоліо"

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