for next year

The book phenomenon

Each and every day, approximately 300 books are published in the Czech Republic. This mere statistical fact says nothing about the Czech reader or even about literary and cultural background in the country, however, I must admit that this number does have some kind of effect upon me. And this is not only because no matter how hard I try, I will never be able to skim through even the catalogue cards of these books in a library file, let alone read the books themselves.

While a book some years ago was an effective weapon, a voice of the intellectual élite copied out at least ten times in order to guarantee its survival, today books are free of all such pressure from society. The print medium is now rather a low-key one, not attracting much attention, yet it has remained what it has always supposed to be. Books as a medium, once purely aesthetic in appeal and philosophising in tone, have become objets d‘art. The exclusion of books from the sector of media that has a significant influence upon society is clear from the ever-decreasing interest amongst readers of literature. However, contrary to this is an increasing trend amongst people active in the art world to write and have works published.

Those three hundred new titles per day may never find their three hundred readers, but they do have three hundred authors, editors, publishers, and, last but not least, three hundred typographers. A pessimist might suggest that due to there being so many books, there cannot be enough talented individuals behind them, be they artists or authors. However, as a publisher and an optimist directly involved in this chain of culture, I feel the opposite. From a passive role of a reader, we are gradually becoming active creators. Whoever has a computer, writes; whoever has a good computer, typesets, and those that also have good software, can design covers. Bearing in mind that books can no longer change the world.

Let us be thankful for TV, newspapers and the Internet, that they have taken away from the book the onus of evangelising humankind. Let us be happy for minor accomplishments, such as our meeting today. And it’s just as well that there are more authors present here today than just ordinary people. Nobody else is going to try to get our things their way.

Petr Minarik