Page 22 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 23

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B O O K S I N T H E L A N D
OF T H E B O O K
B
y
P
ing h a s
E.
L
apide
L
e t y o u r
bookshelves be your gardens! Bask in their paradise,
gather their fruit, pluck their roses, take their spices and
myrrh!” Rabbi Judah Ibn Tibbon exhorted his Talmudica
disciples some nine hundred years ago, and modern Israelis still
seem to heed his injunction—at least in so far as book purchases
are concerned.
A study made by UNESCO in the early 1950s put Israel in
second place in the world—after Iceland—as regards the annual
number of books published and sold: 65 books for every hundred
thousand inhabitants. Although many of the new immigrants
who arrived in the country during the last ten years came from
regions of a comparatively low cultural level, Israel has managed
to keep its place in this field. In 1963, the number of books per
hundred thousand population rose to 82, some 1600 titles for
just over two million Israelis, compared to the U. S. where, for
a population of 192 million, only 18,060 new titles appeared
last year.
Book sales, totalling over $13,000,000 in 1963, are also high
in proportion to the population. The expenditure on books
per capita comes to approximately six dollars a year, more than
twice the rate of England, where the average expenditure
amounts to less than three dollars per annum.
Publishing circles operate on the assumption that the Israel
population is divided equally among “readers” and “non-read-
ers.” This supposition is borne out by a survey conducted re-
cently by the Central Bureau of Statistics on the reading habits
of the Jewish population above the age of 14. Their findings
proved that the number of foreign language readers is not only
very high in itself (58% of the reading public) but that there
is a correlation between reading frequency in Hebrew and
in other languages, i.e. most foreign language readers also
read Hebrew. Since, according to the census of 1962, 32.8 per
cent of all Israelis speak only Hebrew, while over two-thirds
know at least one additional language, the number of multi-
lingual readers in Israel is on the increase.
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