Funding fillip for Russian trade

The Russian government will help its ailing book industry by investing up to RUB 3bn (£63m) to support domestic publishing this year, taking the money from a federal “Culture of Russia” arts funding programme.

According to the Federal Press and Mass Communications State Agency (FPMC)—the government body responsible for developing Russia’s publishing industry, which is co-ordinating the Culture of Russia scheme until 2018—the funds will enable the publication of at least 550 new titles, mostly by Russian authors.

A FPMC spokesperson said preference would be given to scientific, technical and encyclopedic literature, as well titles on culture and art. Within the subsidy, about RUB 300m (£6.3m) will be invested in publishing books of “social importance”, books targeted at disabled people and literary translations.

At the same time, around RUB 100m (£2.1m) will be spent promoting Russian books abroad, notably helping publishers and booksellers participate in trade events such as BookExpo America, London Book Fair and the Frankfurt Book Fair. Vladimir Grigoriev, FPMC’s deputy head, said this could boost the translation of Russian books into foreign languages. He added that Russian publishers had been struggling with foreign sales since the mid-2000s: “The majority of domestic publishers have been unable to secure their positions in the global book publishing market.”

The government will increase funding of domestic book fairs, exhibitions and contests, with a particular emphasis on competitions for children’s and teenage titles. Money will also be made available to small independent publishers, many of which have found it hard to survive following the economic downturn.

Last year was a brutal one for Russian booksellers and publishers, with sales falling 10.5% year on year to around RUB 67.9bn (£1.43bn). The Russian market has declined from RUB 94bn, or 27%, since 2008. There has also been a steady decline in book production, which in 2012 amounted to 3.5 books per person—almost 18% less than in 2011, and 35% less than in 2008.

Meanwhile, the Russian government is also considering reducing or abolishing VAT charged on books—currently 18% for most trade books and 10% for educational titles—and providing other tax benefits to the sector, while taking a tougher stance against piracy by amending existing anti-counterfeiting legislation.