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While many publishers find it increasingly difficult to run a successful business and enjoy a sustainable profit, there is a small imprint in Iceland which has no such worry – it does not intend to make a profit at all.
Bizarrely, the tiny publishing house Tunglið (named after the Icelandic word for the moon), prints its books in batches of 69 and sells them exclusively at publishing events held on the night of a full moon, burning any unsold copies.
Tunglið’s two employees/owners/founders, Dagur Hjartarson, who was shortlisted for the European Union Prize for Literature for his novel ‘The Last Confession of Love’ and award-winning poet and graphic designer Ragnar Helgi Ólafsson, believe that instead of spending years or even centuries creating and distributing books, for one glorious evening, the book and its author are fully alive and the following morning life is back to normal.
They say the burnings have nothing to do with history, censorship or politics, but admit they are making a point to the publishing industry in general, who, they claim are turning books into a luxury items, prized for their commercial value rather than their contents.
Once again, the miniscule publisher has another major message. They say that many writers, understandably, strive for permanence in their work, but there are some ‘deluded’ authors who confuse this with an attempt at immortality.
The two distinctly alternative artists and (note the inverted commas) ‘businessmen’ understand that publishing is at heart a risky business and Icelandic publishers are prone to take chances.
“We haven’t seen too many new authors in the past few years and I’m not sure that the publishers are entirely to blame for that. Young authors need to be more daring, write more books and take more chances,” says Hjartarson – although Tunglið may be a risk too far.