Top Publisher Stops Accepting New Writers as Protest Against Bookselling Duopoly

Publisher criticizes the Knesset for its delay in passing a law intended to protect authors and increase competition in the publishing sector.

The New Library literary imprint has announced that it has stopped accepting book manuscripts from new writers, as a protest against what it terms the intolerable situation of the local book market.

According to a notice of the decision that was posted on the imprint's website over the weekend, New Library will "continue to publish translations as well as original works by authors whose books we have published previously, but as long as the book market continues to behave as it has, we will not continue to look for new voices."

The announcement goes on to express the imprint's "disgust with the Knesset's extended delay in passing the 'Book Bill,'" a draft law intended to protect authors and increase competition in the publishing sector. The bill, sponsored by Culture and Sports Minister Limor Livnat, would bar retailers from discounting new books for the first 18 months after publication and stipulate the terms for paying royalties to authors.

Last month more than 270 writers, translators and editors signed a petition stating that steep retail discounting as a result of the intense competition between the two big bookstore chains, Tzomet Sfarim and Steimatzky, jeopardizes Israeli publishing and severely reduces author royalties.

The New Library is a partnership between Kibbutz Hameuchad Publishing and Siman Kriah.

The imprint's literary editor, Prof. Menachem Perry, has been in the industry for more than 40 years and has much to say about the current state of the market.

"For five years I've been raising the alarm about the imminent national disaster, and all of the darkest prophecies are being realized," Perry says. "We're in the final moments."

Perry says that over the next two years all of Israel's literary publishers will collapse, like dominoes. "Their balance sheets show heavy losses, and that's how long their cushions will last," Perry says. "We'll be left with only two or three commercial and cynical publishers, for whom quality is at the bottom of the ladder. In another two years Kibbutz Hameuchad will no longer exist, Am Oved will disappear and even a publishing house like Keter will be moribund, not to mention medium or small publishers."

The antitrust commissioner, Perry says, will one day face a committee of inquiry "to determine who was responsible for the national disaster of the collapse of Israeli literature."