Publishing wars: Ukarine has banned Russian books

Author : Oleksandr Kirpichev

Source : 112 Ukraine

Fighting against the propaganda broadcasting is Ukraine's need, and the struggle with the Russian books is just a clever political trick
10:05, 27 January 2016

The idea to ban the import of books from Russia will be shock therapy for Ukrainian readers and Ukrainian publishing houses that face retaliatory sanctions and would lose income due to the growth of book piracy and smuggling. This issue was analyzed in details by Oleksander Kirpipchev, director of a large bookselling company “Forсe Ukraine”, in his blog.

According to him, the discerning reader whould be targeted first, educated members of the middle class that buys business books, books of modern authors (which ussually appear faster than in Ukraine) or photo albums of art.  

"If the ban touches Daria Dontsova [Russian writer of yellow-back detective novels], her paperbacks  will be brought in bags or printed in pirate way. Readers with high queries would suffer a lot. The ban will complicate their lives, and push in a gray zone of illegal trade. Because Ukrainian publishers will not publish the prohibited books the very next day after ban and the pirates will not spent their money for piece-by-piece," said Kirpipchev.

According to him, in place of the current realities of the Russian book is a niche for intellectuals and professionals of a fairly narrow profile like designers, psychologists, and art-managers.

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According to the founder of Ivan Bohdan, qualitative publications of modern business literature are represented by 90% of Russian book. In general, only 30% of Ukrainian books are sold through the online stores, although the whole list of the top sales for 2015 was presented to Ukrainian book. The ban will hit the online book stores as well.

Hipsters would be the first to suffer in this struggle with the Russian imports for alleged mass audience of fans of the detectives.

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Journalist and blogger Yuriy Romanenko actively defended the readers of this niche: "The problem is not what type Russian publishing houses. The problem is that Ukraine does not print the needed books. Ukrainian market does not benefit from it. Normal authors do not come out of nowhere. Normal translators do not appear out of nowhere too. No one will translate The Cambridge Ancient History, where one is worth 50 USD (what is equal minimal Ukrainian pension) or monograph on the Chinese economy over the past five years. In the first case, very few people will buy it. In the second case, there are nearly 50 people who are interested in this book in this country".

According to the head of "Force Ukraine" Russian publishers sell 1% of their circulation Ukraine. Import of books from Russia is catastrophically falling for several years: in 2012 it amounted to 33 mln USD; in 2013 - 22.8 mln USD; in 2014 - 11.9 mln USD; in 2015 - 3.06 mln USD.

That is, within three years of delivery from Russia fell by 10 times, and during the last year in comparison to 2013 – by seven times. Businessman cites his own practice: the company supplies include 50 thousand items a year, but most of the items are delivered individually, 17 units of the same name -  and this is for the whole Ukraine.

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“The dominance of Russian books in the Ukrainian market is a stereotype that has emerged in the realities of the 2000s, when the Russian publishing houses held more than 90% of the market. The threat of monopolization and fierce competition have disappeared for various reasons. Now Ukrainian publishers are increasing their segment on the back of the economic crisis and the persistent reluctance of Ukrainians to read. Export of Ukrainian books in Russia in 2015 amounted to 13 mln USD. If Russia takes the measure of the response, the Ukrainian side will lose more," the head of the bookselling company.

The idea is not to ban Russian imports has not economical background, as well as ideological. If the goal is to fight against the propaganda, then why it is proposed to ban all books published in Russia. We could impose an embargo on specific names or authors.

We remembers some attempts to stop the import of propaganda literature: state broadcasters has formed the short list of 38 products of anti-Ukrainian nature. In addition, the book is not as powerful tool of propaganda and mobilization of anti-Ukrainian sentiments, like television, to introduce a total ban.

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"The massive impact on the residents of Donbas had the scenes from the Russian news, but not reading books. Therefore, the fight against the propagandistic broadcasting is out need, and the struggle with the Russian books as response to the propaganda is just a clever political trick," said Kirpipchev.

The ban does not affect the linguistic situation: initiators do not hide the fact that the book will be published in Russian, but only on the territory of Ukraine. Including branches of Russian publishing houses, which they will have to open here.

The idea of ​​new sanctions is no more than a PR of the politicians, notes Yuriy Romanenko.

"Traditionally, when the economy is weak, Ukraine launches another media bubble to distract the public's attention ... The eternal theme is the prohibition of imports of books from Russia. Now it began to swing again," says journalist for "Glavkom”.

The head of the publishing house "Basics" Dana Pavlychko called the idea of ​​banning populist and expressed her doubt that it will help the Ukrainian market, which is filled with contraband: "Do not go down to populism… It is very easy to start screaming about the ban and shake Ukrainian society. The embargo is not conducive to the development of the industry. Prohibitions do not work".

According to the director of "Force Ukraine", an ambitious reform plan of the ban might not materialize - there is no money in the budget.

"If they ban all the Russian imports, it will not result into rapid reforms (which are not even designed), and the market becomes shady. This would stimulate smuggling and pirated products,” notes the director. A great reform, in his view, must begin with the fight against piracy and smuggling, which has been destroying the economy of the book market for years.

"Closing the legal import is a shock therapy. The ban does not accelerate the receipt of rights, translation and publishing of what is already published in Russian for the demanding educated reader. Prohibitions do not run industry, they squeeze the market," highlights the businessman.

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