Thursday, December 20, 2018

Fewer than Half of All Books Now Published in Russia have Print Runs over 500 Copies

Paul Goble

            Staunton, December 18 – Forty-seven percent of all books published in the Russian Federation have print runs of under 500 copies, an especially dramatic decline from Soviet times when books were published in enormous tirages and one that highlights the decline in reading in a country that has long prided itself as “the most reading country in the world.”

            In an article on the Babr24 portal, Dmitry Verkhoturov notes that while in 2003, the total print runs of all books and brochures in Russia ran to 707 million copies, in 2016, that figure had fallen to 471 million in 2017. The average tirage fell from 8600 copies to 4070 copies over this period (

            That means that the number of books per capita fell from 5.3 copies in 2003 to 3 in 2016, the Siberian journalist says. And the books have become shorter as well with the average size falling by “more than 50 percent” over that period. In short, “books are becoming ever less needed by Russian society, an indication of its gradual intellectual degradation.”

            Some observers say the printed book is being displaced by the electronic one, but the statistics do not bear that out, the journalist continues.  Electronic books currently number only 2.5 percent of that of printed ones.  And because reading is confined to those with less education and money, that figure is unlikely to grow rapidly.

            In the past, Verkhoturov says, the intelligentsia was the chief consumer of books; but now the country has “decided to get along without an intelligentsia.  That is to say, “it has decided to get along without a special social structure which seeks and concentrates knowledge and transmits it in a ready to use form.”

            “Books,” he says, are a means of concentrating and transmitting knowledge,” and if they are rejected, then society is rejecting what they contain as well. That is what is happening in Russia today, and there is no sign that the trend will do anything but accelerate in the coming years.

            Indeed, there is every reason to believe, Verkhoturov concludes, that it will become irreversible with “the dying out of the remains of the Soviet intelligentsia and the contraction in the number of those who fill the thinning ranks of the intelligentsia now.”

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