Closing the books on Book Week [pg.24]

When it comes to disclosing their sales figures from this year's Hebrew Book Week, publishers and organizers are not exactly open books. Tsila Chayoun, the head of Programming for Hebrew Book Week, was unable to provide any details about this year's sales figures. Claiming that "numbers" weren't her responsibility, Chayoun referred The Jerusalem Post to the Book Publishers' Association of Israel for further details. Association chairman, Amnon Ben-Shmuel, commented that reports in the Hebrew press which indicate a decline in sales are "misleading, because they refer only to Tel Aviv, and Book Week took place in 62 locations across the country. "We have in fact seen an increase in attendance across the country. In Jerusalem alone, there was a 50% increase in attendance from last year." Ben-Shmuel also failed to supply exact numbers on this year's sales, but seemed to think that figures would be available "in a few months' time." Publishers proved equally evasive about sales figures. A representative from Steimatzky would only say that sales in stores across the country were notably higher over the course of the week. A representative for Schocken was also vague in her assessment of the week, saying only that she saw a clear increase in sales in Jerusalem this year, particularly in books on philosophy, Judaism and translated books from Europe. "There's a real difference between the market in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv," she said. "In Jerusalem, we sold a lot of really esoteric titles - Levinas, for example." As in previous years, Schocken claims it did well with its boxed set of 23 Shai Agnon stories, since "readers want these classics on their shelves, and wait for Hebrew Book Week's discounts." Other publishers, including HaKibbutz HaMeuchad and Sa'ar, failed to respond to the Post's queries by press time. The general impression in the Hebrew press is that this year's Hebrew Book Week was less successful than previous years. One publishing source blamed "the clear decrease in attendance and sales in Tel Aviv and Haifa" on the distraction of competing events, like the World Cup and even the highly-anticipated Sting concert. But with organizers and publishers tight-lipped about sales figures, we may never know how well it fared.