borrow all the “V” books
Norway has had an impressive contract between publishers and bookshops, ensuring that bookshops must stock at least one copy of every book published in the last year (or is it two years?) and fixing the price of books, so that a book will cost the same in a tiny Northern village as in Oslo, and so that best-sellers to some degree sponsor less sellable books. In addition there’s a standard contract between authors and publishers, guaranteeing minimum payments to authors. Norway has a few other ways of stimulating Norwegian literature too, notably libraries, which are of course financed by the state, buy a thousand copies of every book (or is it novels and poetry only?) published in Norwegian, except for a handful a year that are nullet, or deemed unworthy of being called literature. Although it sucks that none of this funding of literature accepts online writing as potentially literature (if it’s online it’s an “unpublished manuscript” and not eligible) it’s certainly paid off: Norway has a vital and largely high quality literary production that is really impressive given that only 4.5 million people or so can actually read and write this language.
Now the modernisation department (is that such a retro name for a new government department!) is suggesting free pricing of books and dropping the standard contracts. Authors in Bergen are putting up an impressive fight, a Forfatteraksjon against the new deal. They point out that Germany and France have recently adopted the equivalent of the Norwegian system, because free pricing doesn’t work.
The most amusing part of Forfatteraksjonen should be the collective loan of every book in Bergen library written by an author who’s name begins with V. Valgerd Svarstad Haugland, the minister for culture, has chosen to remain silent on this issue, you see, until the modernisation department has finished streamlining and market orienting everything. Emptying the library’s shelves of all the books beginning with the letter V speaks then to Valgerd’s silence.
If you want to go, it’s at 6 pm tomorrow, Monday, and you’ll get to borrow a white coat if you’ll borrow a bunch of books written by people starting with V. They promise it’s a legal demonstration. Wimpish as I am I worry about library fines, but heck, they’re authors, they’ll return the books in good condition.
Oh, and there’ll be lots of readings and such the rest of the week. Should be good.