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Books in modern format

Everyone loves to receive a book as a gift but what role do book shops play in our age of electronic reading?
By Lyudmila Minakova

On the eve of the New Year, Minsk received a pleasant ‘present’: a new book shop on Nezavisimosti Avenue. It offers a wide choice of editions in Belarusian and foreign languages (imported directly from Europe). As the First Deputy Head of the Presidential Administration, Alexander Radkov, noted at the opening of Knigi & Knizhechki (Large and Small Books), the shop is truly ‘European’. With modern fittings and shelves laid out attractively, labelled in Belarusian and English, it’s very inviting. Air conditioning and the playing of traditional folk music add to visitors’ comfort.

Works by Belarusian authors occupy a central place, including novels by modern writers, each with eye-catching covers. There are even reproductions of the Slutsk Gospel and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania’s Statute. Prices are cheaper than those of the Russian publishing house and there’s a large department of foreign literature — supplied directly from abroad.

Readers are sure to be impressed by stylishly illustrated mini-anthologies of poetry by famous foreign writers and those from Belarus. The Kolas and Kupala editions cost just Br93,600. There’s also a good range of biographies — of such legends as Alexander Makedonsky, Theodore Roosevelt and Coco Chanel. It’s immediately apparent that there’s something for everyone: those who love to cook; those studying serious subjects (such as economics and law); those seeking a light-hearted read; and, of course, tourists seeking a souvenir edition lushly illustrated. A corner is soon to be set aside for writers to meet their readers and give autographs.

“This is a true present for book lovers and those working in publishing,” stresses the Information Minister, Oleg Proleskovsky, adding, “As e-books are gaining increasing popularity, not all countries can afford to open new book shops.” Belarusian publishing houses have begun producing e-books but, according to the official, Belarusians still prefer reading printed editions; 3.5-4 books are published per capita annually — a high figure among European states.
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