June 1, 2010

Hebrew Book Week - Part I: an Admission of Guilt

Tomorrow marks the start of "Hebrew Book Week" in Israel - an annual week-long book selling event, held every year since 1961 (and often extended, especially in the bigger cities, to ten days of book fairs). As in previous years, one can expect the usual questions to be asked by the usual commentators - is this a cultural event or merely a marketing ploy? Is it fair to the authors to sell their books as if they were clothes (e.g. buy one get one free)? Are the big publishers burying the little ones? Are too many books being published? And finally, do people actually read all those books that they buy?
This year there's another twist added - e-books. Though the Amazon Kindle is unavailable and mostly unknown in Israel, the iPad made headlines over here (especially after there were some murmurs that customs agents might prevent imports of the device), though probably for non-reading related reasons. Last week, however, the first Hebrew language e-reader was unveiled - e-vrit (evrit means Hebrew), retailing at 1,400 NIS (about $360) marketed online and at the Steimatzky chain of bookstores.

I must admit I don't read enough Hebrew literature; there are a couple of authors I really admire (Yaakov Shabtai and Hanoch Levin, both deceased), and I occasionally pick up a book by one of the more famous writers, but other than that I'm not really well-versed in the field (only about 7% of my library is in Hebrew), and since I hope to publish my first book here, I should probably learn a little bit more about the market and my future peers (or competition), so I'm going to dedicate the next few days to Hebrew literature and publishing in Israel in general (because apparently the only thing that motivates me these days is doing research for this blog).

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