This text is by Renan Cavalcante and Lucas Veloso. It is published here under a content-sharing partnership between Global Voices and Agência Mural.
In 2007, writer Alessandro Buzo, 48, rented a commercial property near his home, and opened the Suburbano Convicto bookstore. At that time, the Itaim Paulista neighborhood, east of São Paulo, did not have public libraries or spaces for reading. Schools were the only spaces where the population had access to books.
Years later, he says that access to reading spaces is easier, but there are no new works in public libraries or schools, and prices are an obstacle for most in Brazil. In 2019, the average price of books in the country was 19 reais (about US $ 3.50), the equivalent of 1.8% of the minimum wage.
“There are even libraries available in the CEUs (education centers of the public network of the state of São Paulo). Those who need or want to read can search, but which suburb has a bookstore, with new releases ”, he questions.
Access to reading has been debated in Brazil due to the discussion on the tax reform presented by the government of Jair Bolsonaro in the National Congress. One of the ideas is to tax the purchase of literary works at 12%, which now has a tax exemption, as stated in the Federal Constitution. Publishers such as Todavia and Companhia das Letras demonstrated against the idea on social media.
☞☞ It is not up to the public consultation of the Senate that guarantees the tax exemption for free years, journals, newspapers and paper intended for printing. You say against a taxação do livro em 12%, vote SIM. #defendant https://t.co/blg4oV3FP6 pic.twitter.com/TYBBko4VWX
– still (@todavialivros) September 2, 2020
Defend the book.
NO to the new tax.
☞☞ The public consultation of the Senate is open, guaranteeing tax immunity to books, newspapers, newspapers and paper destined for printing. If you are against the 12% book tax, vote YES.
It was presented as a Senate to PEC 31/2020, which intends to assure the tax authority of free years, journals, newspapers and paper intended for printing.
– Companhia das Letras (@cialetras) September 4, 2020
Defend the book.
Vote YES on the public consultation of PEC 31/2020.
The proposed amendment to Constitution 31 of 2020 aims to modify article 130 of the Federal Constitution to guarantee tax immunity to books, newspapers, newspapers and paper intended for printing.
It was presented in the Senate PEC 31/2020, which aims to ensure tax immunity for books, newspapers, newspapers and paper intended for printing.
If you are against the 12% book tax, vote YES and support the proposal.
The fear is that, if approved, the tax will make it more difficult for the low-income population to access books and make projects to promote literature in the peripheries unfeasible. In most Latin American countries, books are tax-exempt.
An analysis by Agência Mural showed that with the 12% tax, the best-selling works in Brazil would cost an average of 5.48 reais (about one dollar) more. A higher value than the bus ticket in the city of São Paulo.
The average would go from 45.60 reais (about eight dollars) to 51.08 reais (about 9.20 dollars). The 10 best-selling works in the country during July were considered according to the PublishNews portal, specialized in the field of books.
The possibility generated reactions from entities linked to the publishing market. “The institutions are fully aware of the need for tax reform and simplification in Brazil. But it will not be with the increase in the price of books that the issue will be resolved, ”says the manifesto signed by entities such as the Brazilian Chamber of Books and the National Association of Libraries.
Those who work on projects to encourage reading and train readers in the peripheries have not received the proposal well either.
“(Because the book is an expensive product), the priority is to open a bookstore in high-income stores and neighborhoods,” says the writer Buzo. “Today there are several writers from the periphery. They should be hired to act with the students of the public schools, because that would be a revolution, but who cares about reading a town?
In São Paulo, according to data from the Observatório Cidadão, the catalog of books for adults, available in municipal libraries per inhabitant of 15 years or more, the centrals of the state capital occupy the first positions in the largest number of works, in regions such as Liberdade , República e Consolação.
On the other side, with fewer works, are the districts such as Marsilac, south zone, São Lucas, east zone, and Anhanguera, northwest zone.
This lack has often been supplied by cultural groups that create community libraries, such as Cidade Tiradentes, Penha, Ermelino Matarazzo, Paraisópolis and Suzano. There is even one inside a cemetery in Paralheiros.
In Brazil, the poor don't read?
In a hearing in the National Congress in early September in which the proposal was discussed, the Minister of Economy, Paulo Guedes, said that when the Government created emergency aid during the COVID-19 pandemic, the poorest were the most worried about surviving at first, “than in frequenting the bookstores we frequent.”
“It's one thing to focus on helping. Another thing is that, to help the poorest, those who can afford it are actually exempted, ”he argued.
Buzo does not agree with the minister's vision. “I don't think the rich read more than the poor. Take a ride on the periphery. There are many in the peripheries that are read, yes. The rich have more access to books because the bookstores are close to their homes and they have money to buy, but reading is another story, ”he says.
According to research results of reading portraits, commissioned by the Prolibro Institute in association with Ibope, the price influences 22% of Brazilian readers when buying books is the main decision factor when choosing a title. But research indicates that 27 million Brazilians in classes C, D and E – who earn less than 8,640 reais ($ 1,611) consume books.
Letícia Souza, a proofreader trained in Literature, is fond of reading Encouraged by her mother and grandfather since she was a child. She also disagrees with Guedes. “That thought is absolutely incoherent. I even think that considering that whoever buys a book has a higher purchasing power contributes to distancing the poorest population from reading and culture in general ”.
Suzi Soares, organizer of Sarau do Binho and Felizs (Zona Sul Literary Fair), views with mistrust the government's idea of encouraging the donation of books, as a means of access to those who live on the outskirts. “People have to read what they want, nobody should determine what you should read,” he says.
Suzi remembers her own story. Until she started working, the posts she read were borrowed from a friend. “When I had a little money left over, it was a happiness to enter a bookstore and book that I wanted. When I had the opportunity to buy, I was very happy. “
Despite everything, he says he also knows that the peripheries will keep reading. “We are going to end up looking for alternatives as we always do. Recycling, going from one to another, circulating the books that are standing on the shelf, to be able to read ”.