In the first days of July the book sector applauded the decision of the new Minister of Culture, José Guirao, when recovering General Directorate of the Book and Promotion of Reading, unit eliminated by the successive governments of Mariano Rajoy. The one chosen to take responsibility for the department was the poet, translator and professor of Spanish language and literature Olvido García Valdés (Santianes, Asturias, 1950), who at the end of August met with the booksellers' association to inform them that the program of the bookmark of quality bookstores, created in 2015, did not interest him and his intention was to eliminate it. This Friday the director has been summoned in his office with Antonio María Ávila, executive director of the Federation of the Publishers' Guild, to sign – according to this newspaper Ávila explains – the divorce between the Ministry of Culture and the guild of booksellers, after months of tension between the representative and their representatives.
"I am bringing the dissolution by mutual agreement of the Book Seal Agreement so that I sign it. I was with her yesterday [en referencia al miércoles] and I told her that I would take the document and she answered that I agreed with the dissolution. This is what has been asking for months, "says Ávila by phone to EL PAÍS. In the encounters with the booksellers Olvido García Valdés has moved that only benefit from this program a group of privileged bookstores and that will not continue to support it because it encourages unfair competition with most bookstores that do not. The budget of the initiative to "help reactivate the retail channel and provide professional projection" is 130,000 euros. In other countries such as France the sum amounts to two million euros. So far about 90 bookstores have been able to benefit from the program that audits and improves their attention to the public.
The Ministry of Culture asks for patience. He prefers not to respond today to the resignation of the Seal of Quality or to the motivations for change, despite the good experiences reported by the booksellers. It will not be pronounced until after the meeting this Friday, because, he assures, "there will be news". Hours before his meeting with García Valdés, Antonio María Ávila -who will attend as General Secretary of the Association of Book Chambers, accompanied by Javier López, technical director of CEGAL- ensures that he has no notification that alters the divorce plans agreed with the director of the book.
A low budget
We will have to wait to see if there is a last minute change in the Ministry of Culture in the face of the crisis generated by the director, which the minister José Guirao himself has endorsed in his public statements. However, the booksellers have mobilized urgently in this period of time and have already found a new ally that will help them not to let the project die: Acción Cultural Española (AC / E) will replace the Ministry of Culture in public support for The initiative. The public entity dedicated to promote and promote the culture and heritage of Spain, inside and outside its borders, is led by Ibán García del Blanco – at the same time the PSOE's highest cultural authority – who has already agreed with the Chamber of Commerce of the Book and CEGAL take over the 30,000 euros per year that correspond to it. In fact, they want to present the agreement to the press on the third of January.
This newspaper has been able to confirm that the agreement reaches the Board of Directors of AC / E this Friday. They have agreed with the booksellers to finance the case with 130,000 euros over the next five years. Internal sources assure that "the situation was not tolerable" and that they have preferred to take a step forward to defend "the most powerful industry in the cultural field". The tool is already assembled and AC / E will move through international fairs to a selection of bookstores that already enjoy the measures and recommendations to improve their businesses. "The program will come out stronger, because we have managed to get Catalonia to join the national project and park its own to move forward together," they report from the institution, in an unusual move at the time of questioning the unity of the country.
A bad relationship
The tension between the booksellers and the director could be confirmed on October 26, during the delivery of the first Awards The Booksellers Recommend, CEGAL project subsidized by the Ministry with 7,500 euros, in which all booksellers in Spain select their favorite readings and recognize them in public. The act was not the general director of the Book. They explain that Olvido García Valdés "considers that the center of culture is the libraries and the authors and that the rest, the publishers and bookstores, are industry in the most unpleasant meaning".
In addition, after 15 years in the department, Javier Pascual, deputy general director of Book Promotion, Reading and Spanish Literature, has resigned and requested the transfer to the General Directorate of Support for Victims of Terrorism. Along with the head of relations with booksellers four other technicians who have requested their transfer, according to department sources.
In the PSOE program
In the electoral program of the PSOE can be read the reinforcement of culture and cultural industries, in cooperation with the autonomous communities and local administrations, with a program "aimed at supporting and maintaining cultural establishments whether public or private, with special attention to small and medium-sized bookstores, libraries, live music centers, museums and theaters and that will pay special attention to small towns and rural environments ".
The same document states that it is essential to "generate the necessary synergies with the cultural and creative industries", to improve the conditions of the artists and cultural agents that make up the sector, as well as to help the network of theaters, cultural centers, galleries and bookstores, "that guarantees the effective right of citizens to access culture and that encourages and stimulates consumption". In fact, it is a measure that has been around the cultural promises of the PSOE for years. In 2011 they proposed "to reach a consensus with the whole book sector on a viable plan to support retail bookstores to guarantee the plurality of the publishing offer, incorporating digital offerings in it".