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Literature

The Estonian written word is strongly linked to the preservation and evolution of the Estonian language. Literature in our native tongue is one of the pillars of our culture, which supports the continuation and development of other areas.

The state creates and applies support mechanisms to publish Estonian literature, make books more accessible, translate Estonian books into other languages, and introduce our writers and their works to the wider world.  
 
To enhance the purchase of books, only 9% VAT is applied to them (20% for e-books).
 

Promoting reading

 

Estonians read less and less. The same trend is visible in many countries all over the world. This is mostly due to readers’ lack of time, and the lack of availability and high price of books. Neither can we underestimate the increased share of other leisure activities.
 
To promote reading habits, the Ministry also supports meetings between writers and readers in libraries, schools, and elsewhere.
 
Reading habits are enhanced by major literary festivals – HeadRead in Tallinn and Prima Vista in Tartu. 
 

To make reading more popular, 2010 was declared as Reading Year in Estonia.

Eesti kirjanduse messiboks Frankfurdi messil 2014

 

It is important to support the publication of our own children’s and youth literature, and encourage the target groups to read.
 
Good (children’s) literature is essential in raising a new generation of readers and they should be encouraged everywhere – at home, in the kindergarten and at school. A significant role in this is given to the competence centre in the field of literature – Estonian Children’s Literature Centre, which collects, preserves and intermediates Estonian children’s and youth literature (www.elk.ee).
 
New exciting books by Estonian authors are brought to young readers through several competitions, which the Ministry of Culture supports, for instance Põlvepikuraamat for toddlers’ books.
 

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Statistics

  • Each year, approximately 4,000  books and booklets are published, among these 1,000  literary works.
  • About 50 books by Estonian authors are translated into other languages every year.
  • The number of books printed in a year is somewhere around 4-5 million.

 

 

Financing

Publishing in Estonia is mostly in private hands. According to data from 2011, there were more than 800 companies in Estonia, whose articles of association mentioned publishing as one of their fields of activity. Data from the Estonian National Library says that in 2013 the number of new books published was 3,887, with a total amount of copies at around 4.79 million. This included 3,030 books in Estonian language. Due to the smallness of the market and limited profitability, some significant books might never be published without state aid.

To support literature, funds are allocated both by the Ministry of Culture and the Cultural Endowment of Estonia. The Gambling Tax Council supports literary events and activities, but not printing. The state also aids the creator – the author – via library loan compensation, which is intermediated by the foundation SA Autorihüvitusfond (Author Compensation Fund).

To enrich the selection of books, the Ministry of Culture supports the publication of works that are significant to our national culture through the programme “Estonian Literature”. The same programme is used to aid the publication of Estonian languages dictionaries, prize-winning manuscripts, literary and cultural studies, general interest treatments of language, monographs, bibliographies, albums with cultural historical significance, and essays. The programme assists in promoting Estonian literature and in the internationalisation of the literary field.

Activity support from the state budget is given to the Estonian Children’s Literature Centre, the Estonian Literature Information Centre, SA Kultuurileht and SA Autorihüvitusfond.

Estonian publishing houses can apply for grants from the European Union cultural programme:

  • to translate foreign literature into Estonian;
  • to use guesthouses for writers and translators;
  • to develop international cooperation between writers’ unions.

Within the framework of international cultural cooperation it has been possible to support the stay of Estonian writers in foreign countries and of foreign authors and translators in Estonia. Agreements offer possibilities to mutually translate fiction.

The Ministry of Culture gives out the Marie Under grant to enhance one student’s studies and research on Estonian literature and to support his or her self-development. 

 

Legislation

 

Publishing is a field of business under private law and is governed by laws that generally apply to Estonian businesses and economic activities. 

In addition to that, publishing is indirectly regulated by several laws on culture, and directly by the following acts: 
  • Compulsory Copy Act;
  • Copyright Act;
  • Value Added Tax Act;
  • Act to Regulate Dissemination of Works which Contain Pornography or Promote Violence or Cruelty;
  • Regulation by the Government of the Republic on the conditions and procedure to pay a fee to an author for the loaning of his work from public libraries. 
 

Cultural journalism

 
Due to the limited publishing market in Estonia it is difficult to issue cultural journals here without state aid.
 
An average edition will be less than 2,000 copies a month and if the state did not pay a share the price of a single copy would be extremely high. To prevent this from happening, the state supports cultural magazines and newspapers via the foundation SA Kultuurileht. 
 

SA Kultuurileht

SA Kultuurileht publishes the most noteworthy cultural journals and papers: two weeklies and ten magazines plus the monthly Diplomaatia  in cooperation with the International Centre for Defence Studies.
 
The budget of SA Kultuurileht for 2015 includes 1,686,287 euros from the Ministry of Culture, the rest comes from the Ministry of Education, subscriptions, sales and advertising.
 
SA Kultuurileht is managed by a council, and management board that comprises one member.
 
The year’s issues for the magazines Looming, Akadeemia, Vikerkaar, Teater.Muusika.Kino, Kunst.ee and Täheke have been digitised and are available free of charge a year after they were printed in the Digar digital archive of the Estonian National Library. Other publications are digitised as well.
 
Web versions exist for the children’s magazines Täheke and Hea Laps. Subscriptions for e-magazines Looming, Vikerkaar, Teater.Muusika.Kino, Akadeemia and Muusika are available.
 

E-books

 
To improve accessibility to books the state has supported the digitation and e-publication of high literature (with an emphasis on compulsory reading lists for schools) since 2012.
 
Thanks to this programme, more than 160 noteworthy works of literature have been made available to readers in Digar. E-books can be downloaded and read by everyone with an e-reader, computer or smart device. 
 

Main partners

 

Eesti Kirjanike Liit (Estonian Writers’ Union) – a creative union of writers, which represents the interests of its members in public and organises literary festivals (HeadRead, Prima Vista) as well as other events that promote literature and reading (e.g., literary Wednesdays in the Union’s building, authors’ tours of Estonian libraries and schools). The Union receives support from the state pursuant to the Artistic Associations Act.

Eesti Kirjanduse Teabekeskus (Estonian Literature Information Centre) – intermediates Estonian authors and their works to foreign countries, supports and educates translators, manages an English-language database on Estonian writers, their literary works, translators and translations of Estonian literature. Its activity is supported by the Ministry of Culture.

Eesti Kirjastuste Liit (Estonian Publishers’ Association) – organises Estonian exhibits at international book fairs, holds the Baltic Book Fair in Tallinn every three years, and Tallinn Book Fair every year.

Eesti Lastekirjanduse Keskus (Estonian Children’s Literature Centre) – central professional and information institution on children’s literature, which collects, preserves and intermediates children’s and youth literature as a part of Estonian cultural heritage. Its activity is supported by the Ministry of Culture.

SA Kultuurileht – issues the following cultural journals: Akadeemia, Diplomaatia, Haridus, Keel ja Kirjandus, Kunst.ee, Looming, Loomingu Raamatukogu, Muusika, Sirp, Teater.Muusika.Kino, Täheke, Vikerkaar and Õpetajate Leht. Its activity is supported by the Ministry of Culture.

SA Autorihüvitusfond  – pays authors and holders of copyright for the loaning of works of literature from public libraries and for their reprographic reproduction. 

 

Asta Trummel
Adviser (Literature)

Phone +372 628 2223
Asta.Trummel@kul.ee