Books will be found in eastern bazaars

Books will be found in eastern bazaars

The Ministry of Digital Development is looking for contractors for the participation of representatives of the book industry in international book fairs in Egypt, the UAE, India, Cuba and other friendly countries. Previously, publishers could count on government support when participating in exhibitions in the UK, Germany and the USA, but now they are unavailable, and the ministry is refocusing on other areas. Kommersant’s interlocutors doubt the bright prospects for exports, but believe that publishers can purchase foreign bestsellers in the original language that are unavailable for translation from local trading houses for resale in the Russian Federation.

Kommersant found ten tenders from the Ministry of Digital Development on the government procurement portal for organizing Russian participation in international book fairs in 2024. Their starting price ranges from 1.5 million to 11 million rubles. Among the events are the fair in New Delhi (India; held from February 10 to 18), Havana (Cuba; from February 8 to 18), Cairo (Egypt; from February 29 to March 9), Beijing (China; will be held from 19 to June 23), Tehran (Iran; from May 7 to 17), Sharjah (UAE; from November 1 to 12), etc.

The main goals of Russian participation in these events in the terms of reference are “demonstration and propaganda” of the best works of literature and art by authors from the Russian Federation, strengthening “mutual translation activities”, assistance to Russian publishing houses in expanding the market for book sales and rights to publications, as well as attracting local specialists (publishers, translators, etc.) to “the work of modern Russian authors.” The Ministry of Digital Development notes that, for example, the Soviet Union for many years published books in all Indian dialects for the “brotherly Indian people.”

“Kommersant” the ministry clarified that “in addition to meetings with modern Russian writers and book presentations, the program pays attention to events aimed at promoting the Russian language, obtaining education in Russia, as well as popularizing the Russian Federation as a country with high tourism potential.” This is not the first year that the ministry has been organizing the participation of Russian publishing houses in international book exhibitions, “however, before the directions were different. Among the priorities were fairs in London, Frankfurt, Bologna, Book Expo in the USA,” says a top manager of one of the publishing houses. Traditionally, the Ministry of Digital Development also participated in exhibitions in the CIS, the source adds.

In the post-Covid year, when it was necessary to support the industry, publishers, with the help of the state, could take part in the Frankfurt exhibition at the Russian stand and present their products there, explains Olga Kiseleva, head of strategy for the Mann, Ivanov and Ferber publishing house. “But since contacts stopped (after the outbreak of hostilities in Ukraine.— “Kommersant”), we have never heard of such cases,” she notes. Eksmo-AST and Alpina declined to comment. “Rosmen” did not answer “Kommersant”.

Kommersant’s interlocutors on the market say that at the end of 2023, the export of book products, which fell sharply in many areas in 2022, did not recover, but, on the contrary, decreased by another 10–20% or more. “Book fairs are designed to increase rates by building relationships,” they note. The volume of exports of Russian-language books to other countries is small, confirms Olga Kiseleva. Supplies to Kazakhstan, China and a number of other directions began to grow, but “in terms of money these figures are insignificant.”

Officials and book publishers may have completely different motivations, market participants say. “In this case, it is more important that at book fairs in India, Egypt and the UAE there is a chance to buy limited quantities of bestsellers, unavailable for translation in Russia, in the original language for resale,” says a Kommersant source in the book industry.

Thus, the Eksmo trading house began selling the autobiography of British Prince Harry “Spare” in the original language on marketplaces in March last year, Vedomosti reported. The general director of the publishing house, Evgeny Kapyev, clarified that the products were purchased from a wholesale distributor from the country where the book was officially released in English: for this there is no need to enter into a licensing contract.

Yulia Yurasova

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