‘It’s Important for Readers to Be Able to Hold a Book in Their Hands, Interact with the Publisher, Meet the Author, and Get an Autograph’
The HSE Publishing House participated in the 33rd Moscow International Book Fair, which was held recently. The HSE News Service spoke with HSE Publishing House Director Elena Ivanova about why it is important for publishers to participate in onsite events, how many titles the House has released for the new season, and how the House got on with remote work and self-isolation.
The Moscow International Book Fair and Its Significance for Book Publishing in Russia
The Moscow International Book Fair (MIBF) is the oldest book fair in Russia. Traditionally held at VDNkh, it has been held annually since 1977. I remember one fair during Perestroika in the autumn of 1987. There was a two-hour queue at the entrance, and visitors were leaving the pavilions loaded with catalogues from foreign publishers who were actively participating in the fair for the first time. The first time the HSE Publishing House had a stand at the MIBF was in September 2002. The Russian book market was at its peak in the 2000s—it was a golden age for publishers. The fair was very popular with both publishers (who filled two pavilions) and readers (who, on average, waited an hour to get in to the event).
At that time there were no other book festivals in Moscow or the provinces. There were no e-books, book clubs, online broadcasts of book presentations with their authors, or internet commerce. Readers came to the fair to purchase books and interact with authors and publishers. Over time, things changed a bit, and the fair lost its former popularity, shrinking to one pavilion. Academic publishers were the first to leave, preferring the popular more intellectual fair, Non/fiction, and various independent book festivals. They were clearly lost among the stands of popular fiction publishers, school textbooks, print art, yoga and other meditation centers, and just outright pseudo-artistic junk. Since 2015, the HSE Publishing House stopped participating in the MIBF, since we began holding our School Yard Book Festival event, which was also held in early September.
The HSE Publishing House’s Return to the MIBF
The MIBF organizers made their first attempt to get academic and scholarly presses involved with the MIBF again last autumn, when a special zone was allocated for them in one of the halls. We followed these positive developments and when the publishing house was offered a stand location at the 33rd Moscow International Book Fair in 2020, we agreed. How could we not? Since March, not a single live book event—fairs, book presentations, exhibitions—has been held. The London Book Fair, the Paris Book Fair, and the Prague Book Fair were all cancelled. Russia cancelled the St. Petersburg Book Salon, as well as the Summer Book Festival in Kazan, for the first time in many years. The only exception was the Moscow Red Square Book Fair, in which the HSE PH participated, in June.
An Expertly Organized Event
This year, the organizers of the MIBF allocated a separate floor for academic presses, and the event map indicated this floor as the starting point for the exposition. The HSE PH stand was in good company—we neighbored the European University Press, Dmitry Pozharsky University Press, NLO, Ad Marginem, and others. Moreover, the event organizers provided these stands to the presses free of charge—as well as cozy presentation rooms. Our floor was packed with guests!
The HSE Publishing House hosted two events at the 33rd annual Moscow International Book Fair, which was held at the Manezh. The first event featured new releases and promising new titles in the press’s ‘Social Sciences, Economics, and Humanities’ series; the second featured the press’s ‘New Sources on Russian History. Rossica Inedita’ series.
The fact that the fair was held at the Manezh, offered e-tickets, charged a nominal entrance fee of only 50-150 rubles, and offered an interesting onsite presentation programme in nine beautiful, fully equipped halls helped ensure that the fair was well-attended. The number of visitors was additionally significantly expanded by the fact that the fair’s website provided high-quality online streaming of all of the onsite events, courtesy of the Federal Agency for Press and Mass Communications.
HSE PH Readership
The HSE Publishing House enjoys a steady readership, which was once again confirmed by the MIBF. Over the years we have developed a readership that stays up-to-date on our new releases, attends our presentations (or watches them online), and reads reviews of our publications, which we always post on our website and Facebook page. This year we have released 10 titles for the new season, half of which appeared on display at the fair before they hit store shelves.
An excellent book both in terms of its contents and its artistic and print design is Projects of Baron von Luberas, edited by A. R. Mustafin. The long-awaited monograph by Yoran Turnborn, Cities of Power, the first review of which appeared back in June, was published just before the fair. Another new title we featured was Nadezhda Shapiro’s Children and Texts: Essays on Teaching the Russian Language, which was delivered directly from the printing house to the stand in a limited edition and completely sold out before the end of the fair.
The Importance of Participating in Events
This is our first big offline event. Rather, it is our first offline event of the new book season, the opening of which coincides with the beginning of the academic year. By the way, the publishing house’s catalogue is also published not by calendar years, but by book seasons. This season’s catalogue, ‘Books and Journals 2020-2021’, can be viewed here and obtained in hard copy at the HSE bookstore, BookVyshka. It is very important for publishers to participate in forums, exhibitions, and fairs. It is all part of how we build our profiles. No online event compares to face-to-face interaction.
It’s important for readers to be able to hold a book in their hands, interact with the publisher, meet the author, and get an autograph.
And for the publisher, interacting with readers is incredibly important! The single phrase – ‘You publish such high-quality books’ – inspires us to no end! And it is useful for readers to take a look in their wallets from time to time, so as not to lose touch with reality
And, of course, book events are an opportunity for everyone who is professionally involved with books—publishers, distributors, journalists, printers—to interact both in a formal and informal setting. The autumn fair programme is traditionally full of professional seminars and round tables. They are conducted by the Russian Book Union, the Russian Publishers Association, and the journal University Book.
Returning to the Office after Working Remotely
The publishing house went offline gradually. The editorial board did not stop working on new books, and production has not had any printing interruptions since April. From April to September, about 40 books were published. The sales department started shipping books through partner online stores with contactless delivery starting in mid-spring. In June, when non-grocery stores reopened in Moscow, the BookVyshka university bookstore on Myasnitskaya and our online store immediately reopened as well. The HSE PH warehouse has resumed deliveries of books to our trading partners as usual. At the same time, it cannot be said that we have fully returned to normal. Working remotely, of course, has an effect, and this will be taken into further account as the Publishing House continues its work.
Plans and Upcoming Events
With the autumn come the results of a large number of book prize competitions, and the HSE PH has books in the running for three of them. We especially await the announcement of the Enlightener Prize, for which Vadim Radaev’s monograph, Millennials: How Russian Society is Chaning has been long-listed. The German translation award Merk will also announce its winners. For this prize we submitted Leonid Ionin’s years-in-the-making translation of Economy and Society by Max Weber. Many of our titles have been submitted for the 2020 University Book prize, which recognizes academic presses in Russia, and we, as the ‘Leader of Academic Publishing’, are hoping for success. The prize winners will be announced in October—it remains to be seen what format the award ceremony will take.
The next big book event is Non/fiction, Moscow’s international book fair for high-quality fiction and non-fiction, which will take place on December 3-7 at Gostiny Dvor in Moscow. Our publishing house is preparing several pleasant surprises for our readers. Follow the announcements and our newsletter!
This year, the HSE Publishing House celebrates two anniversaries: 20 years since its foundation, and 10 years since the launch of multiple monograph series in the social sciences, economics, and humanities. The publishing house celebrated both dates by participating in the Red Square Book Festival.
Sergey Kavtaradze’s ‘The Anatomy of Architecture: Seven Books on Logic, Form and Meaning’ – published by the HSE Publishing House – has been awarded the Enlightener Prize in the Humanities category.
HSE Publishing House books are on sale in London now. In the huge Waterstones bookshop on Piccadilly, with four floors of English books there is a cozy space allocated specially to Russian language fiction and academic literature.