Russian Publishers Balk at Government Ebook Mandate

In Feature Articles by Eugene Gerden

Russian publishers are fighting a government mandate that requires them to offer ebook editions of all their titles for a new national digital library.

By Eugene Gerden

Russian FlagFearing lost sales and potential piracy, the Russian Book Chamber (RBC), the Russian association which unites the country’s leading book publishers, has opposed a state proposal to oblige publishers to produce electronic copies of their new books.

According to Pavel Zotov, Executive Director of RBC, this may even result in a collapse of the Russian publishing industry. “The Russian government has decided to save money on digitization. At the same time the problem also lies in the fact that Russia still has very poor legislation in the field of copyright. The provision of an electronic copy of each new book to NEL will result in huge losses of publishers.”

The government plans to use the required electronic copies for stocking the newly established National Electronic Library (NEL), which is an electronic collaboration between federal, regional and municipal libraries as well as of the funds of academic and educational institutions, says Zotov.

At present the NEL only works with a small share (no more than 10%) of all publications issued in the country, but has announced plans to increase this number dramatically.

Before the mandatory production of electronic book copies is possible, there is a need to design and implement a regulatory framework for the production, say the publishers.

In the meantime, according to a spokesperson for the Russian Ministry of Culture, the government will buy copyright for the desired titles to make them available in the NEL. The rights purchases will cover a limited number of “checkouts,” and will be subject to renewal as required.

According to Maxim Ryabyko, head of the legal department of Eksmo, Russia’s leading publishing house, the company opposes such an initiative because it limits publishers’ ability to protect their content from unauthorized proliferation.

Microsoft to Help Digitize St. Petersburg’s Books

In the meantime, Microsoft has signed an agreement with the 197 libraries of the city of St. Petersburg to digitize its collections and transfer the files to the Microsoft Azure cloud platform, where they will be stored for a period of 100 years.

The project is estimated to be valued at some 50 million rubles (US $890,000).

According to Anton Zhandarov, head of IT sector of the Mayakovsky Library, one of Russia’s best known literary institutions, approximately 120,000 books — or 17% of the library’s holdings — have already been digitized. The resulting files are equivalent to one petabyte, while the volume to be transferred to the Azure  platform each year will vary in range from 100-500 terabytes.

According to Zhandarov, the Azure platform offers improved safety, security and affordability over other existing solutions.

The transfer of Russian library books to the cloud became a pressing issue following a fire at the Library of the Institute of Scientific Information on Social Sciences (INION) of Russian Academy of Sciences, which destroyed some 1.5 million books and historic documents.

About the Author

Eugene Gerden

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