Authors Demand Protection From Royalty-cutting Book Chains

Oz, Grossman, 270 others sign letter urging Culture Minister Limor Livnat to press passage of 'Book Bill.'

Over 270 writers, translators and editors signed a letter to Culture and Sports Minister Limor Livnat, urging her to continue pressing for protection of Israeli authors' royalties.

The letter was written as Livnat prepares to submit a bill that would bar retailers from discounting new books for the first 18 months after publication. It provides authors with an eight percent royalty on the first 6,000 copies sold, and 10 percent thereafter. Retailers would be allowed to lower prices for Hebrew Book Week and before holidays.

Despite the limits on discounting new books, the authors say it would reduce book prices because publishers would price their offerings reasonably to start with, rather than relying on cut-rate sales to generate demand.

The writers said the intense competition between the two largest bookstore chains, Tzomet Books and Steimatzky, is endangering the viability of many publishers and severely reducing author royalties. Signatories included Yoram Kaniuk, A.B. Yehoshua, Amos Oz, David Grossman, and Sayed Kashua.

Some 30 authors also sent a letter to Tzomet Books and Steimatzky demanding that they stop selling books at "shameful and humiliating sales that plunder us of our assets." Signatories to this letter included Nir Baram, Yossi Sucary and Zur Sheizaf.

The writers' demands reflect similar agitation on the social networks in recent weeks. Author Alex Epstein issued a "Call to the People of the Book," in which he asked the book-buying public to patronize only small private bookstores because "Tzomet and Steimatzky only like money. Don't buy in chains that treat their workers like slaves," he wrote. "Don't buy in chains that show contempt for works of philosophy, that hate works of criticism and want the classics forgotten. Don't buy in book cemeteries."

Tzomet Books CEO Avi Shumer said: "We respect all authors who would prefer not to be sold during sales."

Steimatzky CEO Iris Barel said her company is the only one that supports Livnat's "book bill."

"We indeed believe that a book needn't cost NIS 89 and could be drastically reduced in price," she said. "But we must be concerned that authors, certainly those writing Hebrew works, can make a living. A state without original literature is a deficient state."