Literature

The Estonian written word is strongly related to the preservation and development of the Estonian language. Literature in our own language is one of the cornerstones of the Estonian cultural space, which also creates preconditions for the sustainability and development of other fields.

State support for literature and publishing relies mainly on the Ministry of Culture and the Cultural Endowment of Estonia. The Ministry of Culture finances the Estonian Children's Literature Center, the Kultuurileht Foundation, the Author Compensation Foundation, the Estonian Literature Information Center and Estonia's participation in international book fairs.

The state supports the creators, i.e. the writers, most directly through the creative scholarships of the Cultural Endowment, through the writer's salary, as well as through the benefits provided by the Copyright Compensation Fund.

The publication of literature, organisation of various literary events, including the international HeadRead and PrimaVista literary festivals, are financed by the Cultural Endowment of Estonia.

In order to promote the purchase and availability of books, 9% VAT applies in Estonia and as of 1 May 2020, 9% VAT also applies to e-books and audio books.

The habit of reading fiction is decreasing among Estonians. The same trend has been observed in many other countries around the world. This is caused mainly by readers having less time, the insufficient availability of books and often high prices. The increase share of one’s time spent on other leisure activities certainly cannot be underestimated.

Statistics

  • Approximately 3,500 books and pamphlets are published each year, including 1,330 works of fiction for both children and adults.
  • The total number of books and brochures published in Estonia is slightly over 3 million.
  • Every year, more than 60 works by Estonian authors are translated into other languages. In 2018, this number exceeded 100. According to the Estonian Literature Information Centre, in 2019 the works of 67 Estonian writers were translated into 20 languages.

Legislation

Publishing is a field of economic law in private law and is subject to the general laws regulating Estonian business and economic activity. In addition, publishing is indirectly regulated by a number of cultural laws, and is directly impacted by the following legislation:

Writers are directly impacted by the Creative Persons and Creative Associations Act, which has been in force since 2005, which among other things, regulates the support provided for the creative work of freelance artists.

Cultural journalism

Due to the small size of the Estonian publishing market, it is difficult to publish cultural journalism without state support.

In Estonia, the average monthly circulation of a cultural publication is less than 1,000 copies (except for Täheke and Loomingu Raamatukogu) and without state support, the price of a single copy could become extremely high. To prevent this, the state supports the publication of cultural journalism in Estonia through the Kultuurileht Foundation.

Kultuurileht Foundation

The Kultuurileht Foundation publishes the most important cultural journals and newspapers in Estonia: Akadeemia, Diplomaatia, Hea Laps, Keel ja Kirjandus, Kunst.ee, Looming, Loomingu Raamatukogu, Muusika, Müürileht,  Sirp, Teater.Muusika.Kino, Täheke, Uma Leht, Vikerkaar, Õpetajate Leht ja Värske Rõhk.

All the issues of the foundation’s publications are digitised and available on Digar, the National Library’s digital archive.

Important partners

Estonian Children’s Literature Centre
Main professional and information institution for children’s literature, which collects, preserves and mediates children's and young people's literature as part of Estonia’s cultural heritage. Activity is supported by the Ministry of Culture.

Kultuurileht Foundation
Publishes the following cultural journals: Akadeemia, Diplomaatia, Hea Laps, Haridus, Keel ja Kirjandus, Kunst.ee, Looming, Loomingu Raamatukogu, Muusika, Sirp, Müürileht, Uma Leht, Teater.Muusika.Kino, Täheke, Vikerkaar and Õpetajate Leht. Activity is supported by the Ministry of Culture.

Estonian Literature Centre
Promotes Estonian writers and their works abroad, supports and trains translators, manages an English-language database of Estonian writers, their works, the translators and translations of Estonian literature. Activity is supported by the Ministry of Culture.


Author Compensation Fund Foundation
Pays compensation to authors and copyright holders for the works that are lent out and reprographically reproduced by public libraries.


Estonian Writers’ Union
A creative union uniting writers, which represents the interests of its members in the public arena and organises events promoting literature and reading (e.g. literary Wednesdays in the union’s black-ceilinged hall, authors’ tours of Estonian libraries and schools). The union receives state support under the provisions of the Artistic Associations Act.


Estonian Publishers’ Association
Organises Estonian exhibitions at international book fairs.

Contact

Asta Trummel

Adviser (Literature)

Last updated: 13.12.2020