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Editorial Note

Culturelink review, no.42/April 2004 - contents - imprint - archive

Book Publishing: A Creative Industry

Simultaneously with the appearance of the present issue of Culturelink, you will receive at your e-mail addresses the second issue of C-News. Why did we launch C-News? Although the majority of the Culturelink Network's members, according to a survey conducted two years ago, wished to continue receiving the journal in its printed (paper) form, we decided that alongside the regular periodical journal and its annual Special Issues and research studies (Culturelink Joint Publication Series), there was room, and the need, for an occasional C-News bulletin, a brief publication of 1-2 pages highlighting the items of information found on Culturelink's web pages but not on its printed versions and derivatives. These are short-lived items of news and information, those that came too late for inclusion in the Culturelink review, or those that we would like to remind you of as a particular date approaches. The first issue was very well received, and we can promise to make the future issues even more interesting and relevant.

In almost every issue of Culturelink we discuss the deep changes taking place in contemporary societies. The Dossier in the present issue carries three chapters from a book by Joost Smiers, in which the author says that we must learn "to combine the freedom of cultural communication with implementing regulatory systems in favour of cultural diversity, and not be hindered by any trade retaliations or by cultural industries that occupy too large a share of the cultural market or limit the cultural offer to stars, bestsellers and blockbusters". Recently, Le Monde Diplomatique published an article in favour of books and book publishing. Since 23 April is the World Book Day, we would like to bring to your attention many warning voices that speak of the dangers of book market unification. Thus, the French writer Pierre Lepape notes what he calls the "dictatorship of world literature". His analysis points to an overconcentration of book publishers: book publishing is rapidly declining in the developing countries, but there are also serious imbalances in the West European book markets, with a widening gap between the United States and Great Britain on one side and the rest of the Western countries on the other side. The West European publishers try to sell their publications in the United States, even at symbolic prices, or they seek a British publisher as a partner, which is the first step towards an “American dream”. Statistics show that no more than 3 per cent of the total book production in Great Britain are translations of foreign works; in the United States, the corresponding figure is even lower - 2.8 per cent. Developments in the publishing industry and book distribution in recent years, with an overconcentration of large publishing houses and the drive towards immediate profits, have seriously disrupted the operating conditions for the publishing industry and threatened the book with extinction. The book is seen as a product that lags behind most in terms of the submission to the norms of financial profitability. The worst problem, as Lepape sees it, is that writers writing in other languages stand little chance of being noticed. Only Paulo Coelho and Umberto Eco have made it to the bestseller lists and found their place among the "glamorous stars" of what is now known as world literature. The recognition of a writer as a member of world literature is nowadays devoid of any literary or aesthetic criteria. We ought to fight against the view of the book, and culture more generally, as a commodity, as a trade product like any other, and for the protection and promotion of diversity of cultural contents and artistic expression in our complex world.

Biserka Cvjetičanin