Monday, October 01, 2012

The charms of Norway

I'm thinking of going to live in Norway. I know, I know, it doesn't sound logical.  I'm feeling depressed about even Scotland's distinctly untropical climate, what with the rain today and warnings of ground frost already featuring in the weather forecast, with the nights drawing in and worse to come, so how come I'm talking about a move even further north to where hours of daylight come on a blink-and-you'll-miss-it basis, where skiing is a smart way to go shopping?  Me, who once I discovered how to snowplough to a stop on my first day on the slopes, took my skis off, walked to an Alpine cafe and never put them on again?  Me, whose idea of heaven is a pile of books, a sunny garden in the south of France and a glass of the vin du pays?  Norway?

Ah, but you see, Norway has advantages unknown to France, Scotland ,the United States and indeed any other country I've heard of.

If you are a Norwegian author, when your book is published, the government buys 1000 copies.  Not only that, if you're a member of the Authors Union they pay you the equivalent of $19,000 as a stipend.  The Association of Independent Booksellers has a monopoly on sales of Norwegian books but they're forbidden to compete on pricing, so no sneaky discounts, and they're obliged to keep every book in stock for two years.   Books are exempt from the high sales tax on everything else, but even so a new hardback can cost $40.

Of course, everybody knows that no one will buy books if they're expensive.  Amazon has to demand 97% discount from publishers, just to get people buying.  JK Rowling's new book has been panned on Amazon reviews, not because of the content (whatever the critics may say) but because her publishers have had the temerity to price it realistically. 

Readers have started to feel you shouldn't charge  at all for books because authors have fun writing them  - they ought to be, like, free, and if they're not it's OK to steal them.  And obviously no one would read at all if
they weren't cheaper than chips, and what would be the point of writing books no one was going to read? So of course everyone has to go along with that.

The only thing is, Norway has one of the highest reading rates per head of population in the whole world.  So I guess we got it all wrong, didn't we?  Bit of a bummer, really.  But never mind - even if authors can't dream of a living wage, we can comfort ourselves with the knowledge that Amazon executives don't have to worry about where their next bottle of Bollinger is coming from.

Anyone else for the fiords and a spot of aquavit to get us through the Nordic winter?



Barbara Fradkin said...

That's truly astonishing, Aline! What a wonderful concept.

Aline Templeton said...

Doesn't seem real, does it! But then authors (and publishers) do far better in the countries like France and Germany which didn't kill off the Net Book Agreement.

Susan Russo Anderson said...

Thanks for this post. Amazing how the Norwegian government honors its authors, but my toes freeze thinking about Norway or Scotland. Chicago winters are bad enough and I agree, I'd take the south of France anytime, even in winter.

Aline Templeton said...

Susan, I have to tell you that winters in Chicago are MUCH worse than in Scotland! Here in Edinburgh we might have snow a couple of times but it rarely lasts more than a couple of days!

Barbara Fradkin said...

Aline, I shared this blog on Facebook, and this is from a friend, Wendy Watkins, who couldn't post here for some reason.

Aline: Bergen is wonderful. Nights are not that much shorter than in Scotland and the climate is much like Vancouver because of the Japanese current. And I cannot say too much about the people. Absolutely wonderful.

Charlotte Hinger said...

As to Norway, count me in. What a wonderful, wonderful arrangement.

Aline Templeton said...

Barbara, please thank Wendy - it sounds amazing. Doesn't seem fair - an enlightened government AND reasonable weather!