Israeli authors say steep discounts are hurting profits from new book sales

Hundreds of authors signed a petition warning that the deep discounts offered by bookstore chains could collapse Israel’s book industry, the Israeli daily Yediot Achronot reported.

The letter, signed by 277 writers, translators and artists, urges Culture and Sports Minister Limor Livnat to promote legislation prohibiting books from being put on sale in the first year after their publication. The signatories include noted authors Amos Oz, David Grossman and A.B. Yehoshua, among others.

“This whole story is an outrage,” writer Yoram Kaniuk said. “I am sick of seeing Knesset members fighting against literature and the author’s ability to see some profit from his work.”

The project marks the first time that so many members of the trade have joined forces against the book-selling giants, whose year-round promotions appeal to readers but significantly hurt authors.

Meanwhile, a report about Israelis’ reading habits showed that more than a million citizens checked out library books in 2011 — 50 percent more than in 2005.

According to the report, residents of the Gush Etzion Regional Council frequent libraries more often than residents of any other area. Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Beersheva residents visit their libraries least often, the report found.

In total, 18.3 percent of Israelis checked out books in 2011; on average, each reader borrowed 12 books.

“I’m not surprised to see that the numbers [of library patrons] in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem are low,” said Shahaf Hagafny, president of the Librarians and Information Scientists Organization. “The low prices of new books allow them to forgo the library.”

The data was released ahead of the third annual Reading Month, held in May. The Culture and Sports Ministry initiative is meant to encourage teens to read.

“The growth in the number of readers in Israel indicates that even in the age of the Internet and reality television, the public continues to cultivate a passion for books and culture,” Livnat said. —