By Jaroslaw Adamowski
In Romania, Mihai Mitrică, the executive director of the Romanian Publishers’ Federation (Federației Editorilor din România), says that “survival” is the best word to characterize the current state of the country’s publishing industry. “Note that a publisher as renowned as Humanitas ended last year with a loss of 400,000 euros,” Mitrică told local broadcaster Radio Romania Iasi in a recent interview.
Humanitas is the country’s leading publishing house which evolved from state-owned publishing house Editura Politică following the end of communism in Romania. It publishes both domestic and foreign authors, including Paul Auster, Salman Rushdie, Yann Martel, and Umberto Eco.
“There are many reasons for such a state of affairs. I think that it starts with education. We have schools which cannot transmit the love for reading to children, because it maintains that literature is intended for school children,” the official said.
That said, Romanian publishers are also struggling against unfavorable legislation which fails to promote reading, according to Mitrică.
“First, we should eliminate all legislative aberrations which take money away from cultural institutions and instead try to make money off them. I’m referring to the Cultural Stamp Act which forces publishers to pay a share of their revenue to the Administration of the National Cultural Fund, which equates them with the National Lottery,” Mitrică said.
A draft law on the introduction of a so-called culture stamp was passed by the Romanian Senate in December 2014, stirring controversy on the potential impact of the new legislation on Romania’s publishing landscape.
Under the plan, the new tax in the amount of 1 lei (US$0.25) is to be applied on all cultural products, such as books, ebooks, DVDs or tickets for cultural events, with the revenue to be allocated to the authors’ and artists’ associations. Despite this, organizations such as the Romanian Publishers’ Federation and others have blasted the measure, stating the cultural stamp would further increase the prices of cultural products, and limit Romanians’ access to culture.
According to the publishers’ association, to date, no other EU member state has decided to implement a similar tax. The draft law is currently debated by the Chamber of Deputies, the lower chamber of Romania’s parliament.