By Eugene Gerden
The Russian government has developed a new package of measures aimed at promoting the use of ebooks throughout the country.
According to Vladimir Medinsky, Russia’s Minister of Culture, the government is in the midst of planning a new network of national electronic libraries and intends to gradually shift of Russian secondary schools and higher education institutions to ebooks. The initial plan calls for the establishment of 50 libraries and significant expansion over the next several years.
At the same time, a new all-Russian digital hub for ebooks will be housed at the Boris Yeltsin Presidential Library, which was established by Vladimir Putin and currently remains one of Russia’s largest national libraries. In addition to ebooks, the new hub will become a base for periodicals, archival and historical documents, as well as digitized scientific and educational films.
According to Medinsky, a new library card will be launched that will allow library patrons to read books via the Internet from the central electronic library, should they not have access to a local branch.
Starting in 2015, all Russian educational institutions will incorporate the use of ebooks as a partial replacement for paper books — a program announced by Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, a strong proponent of digital publishing.
In contrast to Medvedev, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has stated that he believes the rapid spread of ebooks in Russia may pose a threat to the country’s book market and will result in the further decline of demand for reading among the country’s citizens. As proof, Putin has noted that, according to official statistics of Russian Ministry of Culture, Russia is no longer in the list of the world’s most well-read countries, spending an average of 9 minutes a day on reading.
The Russian market for electronic books is expected to reach 500 million rubles (US$16.12 million), which is almost double that of 2012, when it was worth 260 million rubles, according to Sergei Anuriev, CEO of LitRes, Russia’s largest distributor and ebookstore.