Domestic Economy

Print Industry Attracting Investments of Firms, Banks

Business & Markets Desk
Print runs of as low as 1,000 make the prices of books published in Iran much higher than those in other countries.Print runs of as low as 1,000 make the prices of books published in Iran much higher than those in other countries.
Iran has the fifth largest publishing industry in the Middle East

Parian Publications is one of the few, if not the only, Iranian publisher that has managed to attract the investment of industrialists for many of its works, including three books showcased during this year’s Tehran International Book Fair.

In an exclusive interview with the Financial Tribune, Farzad Farbod, the head of Parian Publications, added that two books were sponsored by Rafooneh Company (producer of cleaning products) and one by Charsou Cineplex.

“The interesting point is that Rafooneh sponsored a book about a messy kid. This is an intelligent form of advertising compared to other promotion tools. Television and billboard advertising are expensive. People throw away newspapers after reading, but no one rids themselves of books. The logo of a sponsor who invests in a book remains there forever, particularly children’s books,” he said.

On whether other organizations have showed any interest in putting their money into book publishing, Farbod said, “Talks are underway with a few banks. They could be of great help but sadly they prefer to sponsor sports teams rather than cultural products.”

 Status Quo

An official with the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance said Iran has the fifth largest publishing industry in the Middle East.

“About 150 million books were published and 130,000 tons of paper were imported by the country in the last Iranian year (March 2015-16),” Mahmoud Reza Barazesh added, noting that the country’s annual paper consumption stands at 1.5-2 million tons, IRNA reported.

However, this figure includes the number of textbooks published in Iran.

Farbod cited the example of Sweden’s biggest publisher, Bonnier, and said, “Only its book club for Afghan immigrant children has been required to buy 1,000 Persian-language books. We don’t have such a thing here. Iran’s main agency for children’s book and literature, i.e. the Institute for the Intellectual Development of Children and Young Adults, does not even buy 100 copies of a book from the publishers.”

Noting that the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance recently bought 100 copies of his books, Farbod said actions speak louder than words.

“Why don’t cultural organizations, namely IIDCYA, Tehran Municipality and the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting help both improve libraries and support publishers by purchasing books?” he asked.

  Poor Reading Culture Lamentable

Lack of reading culture and poor efforts by state cultural organizations to address this issue are to blame for the abysmal state of the Iranian publishing industry, Farbod said.

Print runs of as low as 1,000 make the prices of books published in Iran much higher than those in other countries. For example, the price of a hardcover in Sweden is equal to that of a paperback in Iran, since it costs more to produce 1,000 copies of a book than it does to produce 20,000, according to Farbod.

“In our country, books might wait for years before getting sold, which means publishers also have to wait for years to recoup their investment. As a result, the re-printing prices of books go up, at time 50% higher than the first edition,” he said.

Parian Publications is a small, independent, yet successful publishing company. It is unique in publishing only science fiction and fantasy literature. It won three accolades in children’s literature last year (March 2015-16), including the Hans Christian Andersen Literature Award, which is billed as the Nobel Prize for children’s literature.

“But these awards have had almost no effect on our sales. In fact, publishing cannot be treated as a business in Iran. Six years past its establishment, Parian has not made a cent in profit,” he added.

  Playing by Int’l Rules

Iran is one of the countries that has yet to sign on the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works. The convention was established in 1886 to guarantee copyright protection for artists and writers. This means that unfortunately, Iranian publishers are free to publish any foreign book without paying for its copyright.

This is while Parian is among a handful of Iranian publications that purchases the translation and publishing rights of foreign books.

“We seek to set a standard. I personally like to play by the book. I believe if a system is to change for the better, we must start with a change in ourselves. Despite the high price tag it carries for us, purchasing the right to reprint the works gives us a big advantage,” he said.

Farbod said he owns a publication company in Sweden named Rhyton Publications that has so far published two books on Iranian culture and literature.

“In fact, showing respect for copyright is like a long-term investment for us, giving us the edge both at home and abroad. By going down that road, I can now cooperate with international giants, including US HarperCollins and Quirk Books as well as Germany’s Carl HanserVerlag, UK’s Bloomsbury and, of course, Sweden’s Astrid Lindgren Foundation and Bonnier,” he said.