Page 23 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 23

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17
L
a p id e
— B
ooks
in
t h e
L
a nd
o f
t h e
B
ook
The average Israeli, booksellers note, purchases books not
merely for reading purposes, but also to build up a library—
both as a hobby and as a status symbol. The book shelf is part
of the interior decoration in any Israeli home, particularly in
bibliophile Jerusalem, even if half of it is made up of cheap
paperbacks and pocket-books which their owner cannot bring
himself to discard.
This may explain why, differing from other countries, there is
a fairly small market in secondhand books in Israel. The Israeli
considers his books as much a part of his property as his own
apartment or car.
Since the establishment of the State there has been a slow but
steady rise in book consumption, and publishers could count on
a constant increase in demand. This applies to original works as
well as to translated publications and reprints, mainly in the
fields of literature, science, textbooks and Judaica.
The following table shows the constant growth in book publish-
ing between 1949 and 1962:
1949J50
1953/54
1956/57
1958/59
1961/62
Belles-lettres
in Hebrew ......... 50
78
99
102
129
Belles-lettres
in translation ..... 85
98
76
72
156
Children’s books .... 50
95
157
219
304
Textbooks ............. 75
90
133
159
257
Science ................... 20
42
78
120
221
Others ..................... 560
398
541
990
1,078
Total .......... ............ 840
796
1,084
1,662
2,145
Two conclusions can easily be drawn:
1. The number of new works in Hebrew has increased only
slightly in recent years, while editions are decreasing in volume.
In 1930 a new Hebrew novel would appear in an edition of at
least two thousand copies, while today only 1,500 to 1,900 copies
of the average “firstling” novel are printed. A book of poetry in
pre-war days came out in 1,200 copies, while today most budding
poets must make do with an initial printing of 800.
2. There is a noticeable increase in the sale of foreign literary
works in translation, due to a growing desire on the part of
young readers to break out of what one journal calls “the prison
of monolinguism.” Moreover, mass distribution, particularly
through the evening papers, has made it possible to sell trans-
lated books often more cheaply than the original.