Iran’s books are shrinking due to US sanctions

For fans of sanctions-stricken literature in Iran, the new novel has long provided a brief respite after a severe economic crisis caused by international pressure over Tehran’s challenged nuclear program.

But now losing yourself in a good book is getting harder, as publishers deprived of money are struggling because the price of paper is rising.

“If last year the 200-page novel was sold for 400,000 riyals ($ 1.60), today its value is 1,000,000 riyals ($ 4.10), most of which is the cost of production,” Reza said. Hasheminejad, who runs the publishing house Ofoq.

Iran does not produce its own paper for the publication, so it counts on imports, and although it is not subject to sanctions, it must be paid for in foreign currency. This means that the price of the book directly depends on the fluctuations of the Iranian rial.

In this way, publishers not only reduce the number of published titles, but also reduce the number of pages they print by reducing the font size.

“The publishing house has gone through a serious crisis that could become existential,” said Emily Amrai, director of the Houpa publishing house’s collection.

While publishers around the world are facing increasing challenges in how people read and consume literature, Iran is facing an additional challenge.

The United States, led by former President Donald Trump, unilaterally withdrew from a landmark agreement in 2018 to prevent Iran from acquiring an atomic bomb – a goal Tehran has always denied – after which Washington re-imposed tough economic sanctions.

“As soon as US sanctions were resumed in 2018, the price of paper rose,” Amrai said.

– “Miracle” –

Austria is in the process of renewing talks with Iran, but until an international agreement turns the page, the impact of sanctions is growing.

“The devaluation of our currency against the dollar, the global rise in the price of paper paid in dollars, and the rise in the cost of transport, also paid in foreign currency, have plunged publishing into decline,” said Hossein Matevali. owner of Houpa, a company that specializes in children’s books.

Because book prices in Iran are fixed, profits are tied to rapidly fluctuating paper prices.

“Between receiving the manuscript, calculating it and setting the price of the book, I can lose everything if the price of the paper suddenly rises,” said Hasheminejad.

“It’s because I’m at the mercy of currency fluctuations.”

As for the authors, they are paid according to the number of pages in the book, whether they are known or not.

“Today, selling books is a miracle, because most buyers belong to the middle class, and given the economic conditions, their priority is to get basic necessities, such as food,” said Hasheminejad. “I’m very interested in how people still buy books at such prices.”

Bookstores in Iran are similar to stores anywhere in the world. As well as shelves of Iranian writers, popular vendors include translations of foreign works – from 20th century European classics to books on self-help and psychology.

Recent hits include translations into Farsi, which tell Mary Trump about her uncle Donald Trump, as well as memoirs of former US First Lady Michelle Obama.

– “Shock” –

But as the crisis deepened, several small publishers were fired.

“Today, many independent publishers who have published great works have been eliminated from the market,” Amray said.

Larger publishers had to adapt to survive.

“We have minimized profits to retain our customers, we have reduced printing and page breaks, and we are publishing digital books to avoid paper and reduce costs,” Hasheminejad said.

“But it will only last a year or two, even for the most reputable companies.”

So far, books printed before the recent paper price jumps have provided a buffer, but those stocks are running out.

“In a few months, when the books stored in the depot run out, the customer will be shocked when he sees the new prices,” Hasheminejad warned.

On Enghelab Street, Tehran’s main book market, retired teacher Behjat Mazlumi, 60, can no longer afford second-hand books.

“I couldn’t buy the book for many years,” Mazlumi said. “Even street vendors sell books at a very high price.”

The price increase will also have wider implications, experts say.

Hasheminejad said that children in poor areas, where access to literature is so limited, will soon find themselves in full.

“Today we see people in some disadvantaged areas who can’t even speak Farsi properly,” he said. “They will certainly have difficulty.”

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The nuclear deal with Iran is “in sight” after the resumption of talks

Vienna (AFP) February 8, 2022

Negotiations to renew the agreement with Iran on its controversial nuclear program resumed in Vienna on Tuesday after officials said the agreement was “approaching”. The talks, which involved Britain, China, France, Germany, Iran, Russia and indirectly the United States, were suspended late last month so that diplomats could return to their capitals for further instructions. Recovery comes after the parties in recent weeks cited progress in seeking to revive the 2015 agreement, which was supposed to … read on Iran’s books are shrinking due to US sanctions

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