By Eugene Gerden
The Russian government is considering a set of new measures to support bookselling. A recent order from Russia’s Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev to the Ministry of Culture requested they develop proposals.
According to Medvedev, the growing popularity of electronic books has had a negative impact bookselling and publishing.
Daria Simbaeva, chief specialist of regulatory department of the Ministry of Culture, said the proposals are forthcoming and will include support for entrepreneurs involved in the book business.
According to Izvestia, one of Russia’s leading business papers, the proposals are likely to include tax benefits, as well provisions to provide lower-cost real estate, which can prove crippling to businesses in large cities, such as Moscow and St. Petersburg.
Several of Russia’s leading book sellers and publishers have already praised the effort. Boris Kupriyanov, the owner of Phalanster, one of Russia’s largest chains of bookstores, said that creation of conditions for the increase of the number of bookstores in Russia is acute.
Kupriyanov, said, “Bookstores are experiencing difficulties, including high rents, and the state should support them. We must understand that this is not only an investment in business, but also an investment in our culture and education. The question is whether we want to live in an enlightened society with reading population or not.”
A similar position is shared by Vera Baidak, head of Octopus publishing house. “These measures should be designed much earlier,” said Baidak. “We lost a lot of famous book houses that simply could not pay all the costs. Today, many bookstores are selling all sorts of products, which sometimes have nothing to do with books, just to stay afloat. The approval of new measures will allow them to focus on their core activities.”
The initiative to provide support to domestic booksellers was for the first put forward on the end of November 2013 by President Vladimir Putin, when he lamented that Russian were no longer as well read as they were under the USSR. According to Putin, the average Russian reads just nine minutes a day and this decline of interest in literature will lead to a diminishment of culture in Russian society and a distortion of it’s values.