Strong Moscow Book Fair Still Offers Mixed Signals

In Growth Markets by Eugene Gerden

Authors speaking at the 26th Moscow International Book Fair. (Photo: Press TV)

Authors speaking at the 26th Moscow International Book Fair. (Photo: Press TV)

By Eugene Gerden

Overall, Russian publishing is serving up mixed signals: for the first six months of 2013, 59,000 titles were published in Russia — an increase over the same period in 2012 — but the print run totaled some 246 million copies, which is lower than 2012, said Vladimir Grigoryev, deputy head of the Russian Federal Agency on Press and Mass Communications (Rospechat), speaking at the Moscow International Book Fair, which took place this past weekend.

Some 200,000 books from 1,200 publishers were offered for sale during the event, the oldest and largest book fair in Russia. Among the titles attracting the most attention were The Story of One Hostility by Paul Basinskiy, Andrew Bitov’s Empire in Four Dimensions, Alexander Ilichevsky’s Orphic, Alexander Kabakov’s The Old Man and the Angel, and Yuri Polyakov’s Gypsum Trumpeter — as well as a new edition of the Bible, with illustrations of Salvador Dali, which is being sold in a limited-edition of 500 copies and priced at 190,000 rubles (USD$6,300).

But, according to Michael Seslavinsky, head of Rospechat, it was children’s publishing that took center stage at this year’s event, with more than 25 children’s book publishers participating. Hungary served as this year’s guest of honor country and publishers from 56 countries attended.

Hungary was the Guest of Honor country at this year's event.

Hungary was the Guest of Honor country at this year’s event.

The Moscow Book Fair has been held biennially since 1977 and starting from 1997 has become an annual event. The beginning of 2000s was considered as a golden age for Russian book business, when its annual profits were at historical highs. However the global recession resulted in a significant decline of the market and an interest to reading in Russia.

The event takes place at the All-Russia Exhibition Centre and is divided into two halls, the first of which — known as the “Author’s site” — was designed for events with famous writers, as well meetings between Russian and leading foreign publishers, while the second hall built for exhibitions, was dominated by AST and Eksmo, Russia’s largest publishing houses.

In addition to the numerous notable Russian writers on hand — including Andrew Bitov, Lyudmila Petrushevskaja, Edvard Radzinsky, Dmitry Bykov, Lydmila Ulitskaya, Dmitry Gluhovskij, Denis Dragynsky, Nick Perumov, Viktor Erofeev, and Andrei Usachev, among others — several famous foreign novelists attended the fair, including Bernard Werber, Janusz Leon Wisniewski, and David Mitchell.

While this year’s event attracted some 200,000 visitors, the Fair has come under fire from some of Russia’s leading publishers for focus on major players. Alexander Ivanov, chief editor of the independent publisher Ad Marginem, noted that the book fair remains primarily a venue for 5-7 major publishing houses, which can maintain the largest booths and offer the most enticing presentations.

As per tradition, “The Russian Book of the Year” prize was awarded during the fair, this year going to the five-volume anthology: A Poet in Russia is More than a Poet: Ten Centuries of Russian Poetry, edited by Yevgeny Yevtushenko, the well-known Soviet and Russian poet.

About the Author

Eugene Gerden

Eugene Gerden is an international freelance writer who specializes in covering global book publishing and bookselling industry.