The Word / The Legislator Has Declared War on Me

What do I want? To own lots of books, and for the books I write to reach as many readers as possible.

Simple, isn't it? I want a big library, a deep one, with all sorts of hues, that's all mine.

Until not long ago, I was in paradise, as in recent years book prices have been falling, with retailers fighting over my pocket well beyond the traditional Book Week. Accordingly, my library blossomed. I added books written in Hebrew, or translated into it, along with some poetry. I also wrote a few books, which were able to reach more readers than I'd expected. I saw my books on sale everywhere. Good!

Though books are my spiritual occupation, they are not my main livelihood. So I was doubly delighted that my messages were reaching wider circles of readers thanks to their low price for everyone.

But I suddenly learned that I'd become the No. 1 enemy of culture in Israel: Not only do I want to buy books at discounts, I want mine to be bought cheaply. The legislator declared war on me - wanting to stop me from disseminating my books widely, and from reading too much as well.

I published my books through two houses, and don't care what my publishers think of me. I don't work for them and don't need to do as they say. My relationship with publishers is based on the understanding that it is a means, and my books are the end. I write out thoughts - my claims and values that I want to share with the public. My publisher and distributor are my platform. Unfortunately, I need them.

Suddenly voices are rising, claiming they're better than me at negotiating on my behalf. They know better than the retailer where and how long my books should be presented. Most importantly, they're also better at economics than everyone else: they will set the prices of my books, and during sales, too.

Sorry, but I don't want any of their favors. Don't meddle in my library. Don't riffle the pages. Get out, now. These sales are good for me and I want them to last forever, so my children and their friends can enjoy another generation of real books before this traditional industry is also killed off by technological gimmickry.

I know some of these legislators genuinely want to save literature and authors. I understand them. But if somebody wants to support me as a writer, kindly let him do so without imposing added tax on me as a reader. Let me write, and let me read. There is no sense in legislation that seeks to shackle competition, and in exchange promises me less books on my shelf. Who wants to go back to a state that controls the price of pickled fish and books?

The proposed legislation would actually benefit only one party other than its authors: writers who have difficulty writing, or getting distributed. They'd earn a few pennies more, at the price of expelling others from the book stores.

If somebody really wants to be a real knight-errant, let him fight to establish a national culture fund that would encourage quality original literature - like the support given to cinema, theater and music. Most importantly, let him see that the government restores literature to mainstream education, to train the next generation of readers. They'll figure out what to buy, and where.

The author is a writer, former Knesset speaker and former chairman of the Jewish Agency.