Berliner Boersenzeitung - Novel crisis: Iran's books shrink as US sanctions bite

EUR -
AED 3.920887
AFN 76.465468
ALL 101.859613
AMD 421.338696
ANG 1.918641
AOA 894.145378
ARS 928.032932
AUD 1.654222
AWG 1.921743
AZN 1.818657
BAM 1.956936
BBD 2.149448
BDT 116.837832
BGN 1.955801
BHD 0.40234
BIF 3050.21371
BMD 1.067635
BND 1.450863
BOB 7.372246
BRL 5.588105
BSD 1.064533
BTN 89.063456
BWP 14.713749
BYN 3.483322
BYR 20925.64275
BZD 2.145846
CAD 1.468452
CDF 2978.701043
CHF 0.971457
CLF 0.037877
CLP 1045.13936
CNY 7.724126
CNH 7.733077
COP 4155.39492
CRC 533.422178
CUC 1.067635
CUP 28.292323
CVE 110.327502
CZK 25.245269
DJF 189.570058
DKK 7.460209
DOP 62.928007
DZD 143.880566
EGP 51.777401
ERN 16.014523
ETB 60.573185
FJD 2.423213
FKP 0.857057
GBP 0.856296
GEL 2.839915
GGP 0.857057
GHS 14.318111
GIP 0.857057
GMD 72.545747
GNF 9151.441606
GTQ 8.279691
GYD 222.888358
HKD 8.359827
HNL 26.281874
HRK 7.559026
HTG 141.103903
HUF 392.803867
IDR 17263.655269
ILS 4.044633
IMP 0.857057
INR 89.17559
IQD 1394.509607
IRR 44907.39077
ISK 150.291195
JEP 0.857057
JMD 165.51842
JOD 0.756635
JPY 164.584472
KES 141.431638
KGS 95.024943
KHR 4305.560161
KMF 494.959771
KPW 960.871724
KRW 1465.574525
KWD 0.328874
KYD 0.887115
KZT 478.037533
LAK 22648.148781
LBP 95329.845417
LKR 321.486645
LRD 206.371094
LSL 20.389155
LTL 3.152448
LVL 0.645802
LYD 5.195089
MAD 10.805423
MDL 19.023044
MGA 4670.777325
MKD 61.655795
MMK 2235.529284
MNT 3683.340547
MOP 8.586485
MRU 42.358426
MUR 49.697792
MVR 16.4956
MWK 1845.297246
MXN 18.110909
MYR 5.099559
MZN 67.797822
NAD 20.306665
NGN 1239.054146
NIO 39.183299
NOK 11.722476
NPR 142.507072
NZD 1.801105
OMR 0.410979
PAB 1.064513
PEN 4.005425
PGK 4.046406
PHP 60.897661
PKR 296.343535
PLN 4.337213
PYG 7878.574045
QAR 3.886722
RON 4.974749
RSD 117.128948
RUB 100.517841
RWF 1372.215943
SAR 4.00485
SBD 9.048403
SCR 14.423255
SDG 625.634196
SEK 11.663273
SGD 1.450558
SHP 1.348903
SLE 24.392576
SLL 22387.772567
SOS 610.156962
SRD 37.127534
STD 22097.885521
SVC 9.314408
SYP 2682.464944
SZL 20.259046
THB 39.203208
TJS 11.630152
TMT 3.74206
TND 3.376899
TOP 2.555864
TRY 34.669096
TTD 7.228196
TWD 34.52784
TZS 2751.836247
UAH 42.09403
UGX 4061.300799
USD 1.067635
UYU 41.413461
UZS 13490.83234
VEF 3867563.274368
VES 38.694891
VND 27123.262962
VUV 126.751783
WST 2.99323
XAF 656.347275
XAG 0.037593
XAU 0.00045
XCD 2.885336
XDR 0.808881
XOF 656.347275
XPF 119.331742
YER 267.282166
ZAR 20.266375
ZMK 9609.993453
ZMW 26.906621
ZWL 343.777981
  • SLAC

    0.0050

    10.305

    +0.05%

  • RBGPF

    1.1780

    52

    +2.27%

  • NGG

    1.0700

    64.59

    +1.66%

  • SCS

    -0.0200

    11.82

    -0.17%

  • BCC

    -1.1100

    137.8

    -0.81%

  • AZN

    0.2650

    68.53

    +0.39%

  • CMSC

    0.0200

    23.92

    +0.08%

  • CMSD

    0.0500

    24.27

    +0.21%

  • RYCEF

    0.0750

    5.015

    +1.5%

  • GSK

    -0.3500

    39.6

    -0.88%

  • RIO

    1.0900

    66.78

    +1.63%

  • RELX

    0.1700

    41.45

    +0.41%

  • JRI

    0.1200

    10.98

    +1.09%

  • BCE

    0.0200

    32.24

    +0.06%

  • BTI

    0.2100

    28.59

    +0.73%

  • VOD

    0.0900

    8.28

    +1.09%

  • BP

    -0.2600

    38.37

    -0.68%

Novel crisis: Iran's books shrink as US sanctions bite
Novel crisis: Iran's books shrink as US sanctions bite

Novel crisis: Iran's books shrink as US sanctions bite

For literature lovers in sanction-hit Iran, a new novel has long provided a brief respite from a grinding economic crisis triggered by international pressure imposed over Tehran's contested nuclear programme.

Text size:

But now losing yourself in a good book is becoming harder, as cash-strapped publishers struggle because the price of paper is soaring.

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

Iran does not produce its own paper pulp for publishing so relies on imports, and while those are not under sanctions, they must be paid for in foreign currency. That means the price of a book depends directly on the fluctuation of Iran's rial.

So publishers are not only slashing the number of titles published, but also cutting the number of pages of those they do print by shrinking the font size.

"Publishing has suffered a major crisis -- which could become existential," said Emily Amrai, collection director at the Houpa publishing house.

While publishers worldwide face growing challenges to the way people read and consume literature, Iran is facing an extra problem.

The United States, under former president Donald Trump, unilaterally withdrew in 2018 from a landmark accord to prevent Iran from acquiring an atomic bomb -- a goal Tehran has always denied pursuing -- with Washington then reimposing tough economic sanctions.

"As soon as the US sanctions were reinstated in 2018, the price of paper rose," Amrai said.

- 'A miracle' -

Long-running negotiations to revive a deal with Iran continue in Austria, but until an international agreement turns the page, the impact of sanctions grows worse.

"The devaluation of our currency against the greenback, the global rise in the price of paper paid in dollars and the increase in the cost of transport -- also paid in foreign currency -- has plunged publishing into the doldrums," said Hossein Motevali, owner of Houpa, which specialises in children's books.

Because book prices are fixed in Iran, profits are pegged to the rapidly fluctuating price of paper.

"Between receiving the manuscript, laying it out, and setting the price of the book, I can lose everything if the price of paper has gone up suddenly," Hasheminejad said.

"That happens because I'm at the mercy of the fluctuation of the currencies."

As for the authors, they are paid by the number of the pages in the book, whether they are famous or not.

"Selling books is a miracle today, because the majority of customers belong to the middle class -- and given the economic conditions, their priority is to obtain essential goods such as food," said Hasheminejad. "I really wonder how people still buy books at these prices."

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

Farsi translations of Mary Trump's tell-all on her uncle Donald Trump, as well as the memoir of former US first lady Michelle Obama, have been recent hits.

- 'Shock' -

But as the crisis deepens, several small publishing houses have been driven out of business.

"Today, many independent publishers, who have published excellent works, have been eliminated from the market", said Amrai.

Larger publishing houses have had to adapt to survive.

"We have reduced our profits by as much as possible in order to keep our customers, we have reduced printing and pagination, and publish digital books to avoid paper and reduce costs," said Hasheminejad.

"But that will only last a year or two, for even the most solid companies."

So far, books printed before recent spikes in paper costs provided a buffer, but those stocks are running low.

"In a few months, when the books stored in the depots are exhausted, it will be a shock for the customer when they see the new prices," Hasheminejad warned.

On Enghelab Street, Tehran's main book market, retired teacher Behjat Mazloumi, 60, already struggles to afford second-hand books.

"I haven't been able to buy a book for years," said Mazloumi. "Even street vendors sell books at a very high price."

The cost rise will have wider impacts too, experts say.

Children in poorer areas where access to literature is already limited will soon find themselves priced out completely, Hasheminejad said.

"Today, we see people in some disadvantaged areas who cannot even communicate properly in Farsi," he said. "They will certainly experience difficulties."

(A.Berg--BBZ)