Reflections about Books and Publishing Industry in Iran

My first acquaintance with books dates back to ca. 1973, when I was a 3-year-old child. My elder sister used to read or recount some books for us, and one of those books has remained very vividly in my memory: "The Story of Doctor Doolittle" by Hugh Lofting. At those days in the small town of Boshruyeh, my sister used to borrow books from the General Library. Now that I think about what I recall of those days, it is quite clear for me that book reading was more widespread in our community in those days.

I continued to enjoy books, especially fiction books, into school years. But the crucial point was in 1980 when I was introduced--this time personally--to the General Library of Boshruyeh. Since that memorable day when a cousin of mine told me about the library until today, I have not spent a single day without reading books.

I was especially interested in novels, and they were mostly classic works, like Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens and The Black Arrow by Robert Louis Stevenson. A large number of these books were published by an institute called the Center for Translation and Publication of Books, which changed its name after the 1979 revolution. What is noteworthy about those books is that they were "authorized" translations, in contrast to most foreign books which are translated and published in these days, since these latter books are generally published without observing the international Copyright law.

Even when I was a little schoolboy, I dreamed of creating books. Some times, I used Handicopy papers to create a few copies of a tale I had invented and illustrated myself (though I never was much of a painter), and thought of handing out those copies as books to my classmates!

Now, I have eventually found the opportunity to translate and publish a few books. And there is the all-important issue of Copyright in Iran.

Unfortunately, the international Copyright law is not enforced in Iran. Maybe one of the most profitable parts of the book industry in Iran is the offset-printing and distribution of foreign books. This doesn't even entail a little creative work and it should surely be forbidden by the government.

As a translator, I would like that my books be published after the authorization of the Author and the original Publisher. But the situation in Iran is so that this does not seem to be practical. For one thing, a novel book may not sell more that 2,000 copies (say, $4 a copy), and this hardly exceeds the expenses the publisher has sustained for publishing it. But it may be better to negotiate for a symbolic agreement at the very least. Anyway, I am not a publisher.

It should be noted that while honorable creators and publishers may not be able to pay for royalties to acquire the authorization for publication of a foreign book in Iran, there are some people who have misused the current situation to earn very large amounts of money without doing the slightest creative work, by just publishing the original book without paying the royalties.

I understand that the prices of foreign books are generally so high that an average student in Iran can not usually pay for them. But the government has always allocated some money for buying foreign books for students, and that seems the proper way, because it does not infringe the international laws.

I hope the copyright law is established in Iran very soon, so that the rights of foreign authors and publishers are not wasted in this country.

1 comment:

Rosemary Welch said...

I wrote my first short story for my sisters when I was in third grade. I love to read and write also. If you could translate Manifist-i Jumhurikhvahi for me, maybe I could get you some books? Are there any you want? I would pay you for the translation. I do not speak Persian (Farsi).

It was a joy to read your love for books. I hope you have time for many more. Have a very nice day.