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Controversy remains over free school books

By Keti Arjevanidze
Monday, April 22
Minister of Education and Science Giorgi Margvelashvili spoke about the selection process of the four printing houses that will print the books for the 2013-2014 academic year on April 20.

Minister Margvelashvili said that negotiations were held with every print house and publisher, so that the process was transparent. He said 4 or 5 printing houses will take the responsibility to perform the large order, which he said is an “unprecedented order” for the Georgian market.

Minister explained that there was price survey, as well as a survey of the possibilities of the printing houses. “In order to lead the talks it is necessary to know the price of the product, we knew at what price the product was sold, but did not know the price of its components,” he said, stressing that his ministry had been working on the issue for 5 months.

Meanwhile, the founder of Inteleqti publishing house, Kakhmed Kudava, stated that among the publishers involved in the textbook business, 5 of them have their own print houses, including Inteleqti. However, he said none of these publishing houses was selected.

The four selected printing houses appear to have unified earlier than Minister Margvelashvili informed about the idea of distributing free textbooks on April 8 as LTD Favorite Print, LTD Form, LTD Sezani and LTD MVP registered under the name of “Unified Georgian Printing House” on March 29.

The representative of MVP printing house, Irakli Lezhava, said the ministry became interested in the technical conditions and possibilities of the printing houses. “That's when we decided to unite. We will receive one order, but will continue our separate activities, in case it is needed, we will assist each other,” said Lezhava.

Later, the Georgian Publishers & Booksellers Association and textbook authors released a joint statement. They welcomed the decision about the distribution of free books, although said that it should be based on the rights of intellectual privacy which is guaranteed by the state constitution.

The statement reads that by this kind of decision, the ministry limits the principles of the free market. The authors of the statement worry that this policy would border free competition which soon will lead to the decrease of literature created in the Georgian language and the quality of education.

Publishers say they are ready to support the government’s decision, but they are against the violent breach of copyright and asset rights of the publishers.

According to the Georgian Publishers & Booksellers Association, the infringement of copyright and asset rights of intellectual property “will eventually bring disastrous results and affect the democratic development of a newly independent country, which aims to build a free and civilized society and become a valuable member of the international community.”

Nino Talakhadze, the Director of the CIDI publishing house, shares the position of the Georgian Publishers & Booksellers Association and textbook authors. Talakhadze told The Messenger that they have sent the address to Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili and the Parliament. They also appealed to the World Publishers Association and are now waiting for their response. Talakhadze thinks the ministry’s decision discredits the authors and the publishers.