A group of Facebook activists and readers have protested what they say are excessively high book prices in Egypt, especially those published by Dar Al-Shorouk Publishing House, one of the country's largest.
Activists called on Shorouk to lower its prices or offer lower quality editions to make books available to a wider readership.
Shorouk was chosen because it is the largest in Egypt and publishes many of the most prominent writers in Egypt and Arab world, including the Nobel laureate Naguib Mahfouz, Alaa Al-Aswany, economist and writer Galal Amin, Belal Fadl, Mohammed Al-Maghzangy and head of Tunisia's Al-Nahda Party Rashid Al-Ghannushi.
Ahmed Zayady, publishing manager at Shorouk, told Ahram Online that he totally understood the activists' demands, but the company's prices were already the lowest in the Egyptian market.
Economic circumstances have forced many other publishing houses to raise their prices, he added.
Some activists have called for a protest in front of Shorouk bookstore on Talaat Harb Street (400 metres from Tahrir Square) during World Book Day on 23 April to demand lower prices.
In addition, activists criticised “the capitalistic trend” at the publishing house, referring to Shorouk's republishing of old and out of print books, such as the complete works of Naguib Mahfouz, at high prices.
“Book pricing is controlled by many factors, such as the quality and number of pages, author and retail revenues, the writer’s reputation and readership, and the book's turnover cycle. The first edition of some books goes out of print within three months, some take five years, Zayady explained.
Zayady also said many titles get pirated, scanned and downloaded from the internet because anti-piracy and copyright laws are weak. "The law is absent from the book market," he said, since most legislation concerning books and publishing is old and incapable of combating electronic piracy and illegal copying.