The letter, signed by 277 writers, translators and artists, urges Culture and Sports Minister Limor Livnat to promote a legislation prohibiting books from being put on sale in the first year after their publication. The signatories include Amos Oz, David Grossman, A.B. Yehoshua, among others.
"This whole story is an outrage," leading writer Yoram Kaniuk said. "I am sick of seeing Knesset members fighting against literature and the author's ability to see some profit from his work."
The project marks the first time that so many members of the trade joins forces against the book-selling giants, whose year-round promotions appeal to readers but significantly hurt authors. In some cases, each book yields no more than a few agorot for those who penned them.
'Israelis read a lot of junk'
Meanwhile, a report about Israelis' reading habits shows that over a million citizens have checked out books from libraries in 2011 – a 50% increase compared to 2005.
According to the report, which was compiled by the Culture and Sports Ministry, residents of the Gush Etzion Regional Council frequent libraries more often than residents of any other area. Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Beersheba residents visit their libraries least often.
In total, 18.3% of Israelis checked out books last year; on average, each reader borrowed 12 books.
"I'm not surprised to see that the numbers (of library patrons) in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem are low," said Dr. Shahaf Hagafny, president of the Librarians and Information Scientists Organization. "The low prices of new books allow them to forgo the library."
The data was released ahead of the third annual Reading Month, which begins in May and ends in June. The Culture and Sports Ministry initiative is meant to encourage teens to read.
"The growth in the number of readers in Israel indicates that even in the age of the Internet and reality television, the public continues to cultivate a passion for books and culture," Livnat said.
But there are those who call into question the merit of the "culture" the minister was refering to.
"Alongside the few quality writers like Oz and Grossman, Israel reads a lot of junk," said Ziva Shamir, a Hebrew literature professor at Kibbutzim College. "The reason is that the bookstore chains don't allow authors to earn more than a shekel or two per book, and that encourages the generation of kitschy, tawdry and inferior novels."
Tamar Trabelsi-Hadad contributed to the report