In the new Listener, on sale from 14.10.12

by Toby Manhire / 18 October, 2012
A dispatch from the Frankfurt book fair, and how to self-publish your own e-book so that you might conquer the fair next year.
The slogan for the New Zealand presence at the Frankfurt Book Fair might have read "While You Were Sleeping", but the Listener’s literary editor apparently did not sleep a wink during last week’s literary knees-up.

The new Listener features not just Guy Somerset’s essential dispatch from the fair, but something more for literary hopefuls: a 10-step plan to publishing your own e-book.

That’s as part of a longer feature by Felicity Price and Rebecca Macfie exploring the digital publishing revolution.

Here’s a taste:

Last year, 20 million e-books sold worldwide, although many of them were free. Of those that cost money, a quarter sold for $1-2 and half for under $5. Even bestselling e-books retail for a half to a third of the price of their printed counterpart.

E-books have taken off more in the US than elsewhere, with sales increasing 138% last year, according to Publishers Weekly. At the same time, mass market paperback sales fell 54%. Also last year, e-books made up 31% of US book sales, in the UK it was 15%, and in New Zealand between nine and 13%.

This represents a massive upheaval as well as a huge opportunity for publishers, authors and readers.

Amid the great disruption that the e-book phenomenon is visiting on the literary world, “everything is very uncertain”, says publisher Bridget Williams.

“Nobody knows quite how this is all going to work out.”

On top of that, there has been the upheaval to the book trade caused by Whitcoulls’ being placed in administration last year, the impact of the Christchurch earthquakes on the city’s bookstores, the sluggish economy and the impact from readers buying e-books from international vendors.

But, says Williams, “I have absolute faith that New Zealand readers want to know about New Zealand, and they will want to know about it in this new order. So next year we will be strongly positioned to be working in the digital world.”

Writing on e-books in the recent third edition of An Introduction to New Zealand Publishing, Bridget Williams Books associate publisher Tom Rennie – who is managing the company’s digitisation work – says by reducing the barriers to publish, digital technologies are “blurring the boundaries” of the industry. “Retailers are emerging as publishers, libraries are exploring retailing, authors are self-publishing, publishers are selling globally – the traditional supply chain is collapsing around us.”

Elsewhere, Carroll du Chateau visits New Zealand’s first Social Entrepreneurs School, which is helping grass-roots people build businesses out of their ideas and passions.

And Diana Wichtel talks to Downton Abbey’s Hugh Bonneville. He hasn’t, he says, let period drama fame go to his head.

The new album by Mumford & Sons is reviewed, as is the new production of Death of a Salesman, and in dance, The Red String Duet and Minutes of Silence.

Plus: Kimbra hits the music awards, two minutes with Andrew Campbell, Paul Little on Richie McCaw, new evidence on the health risks of alcohol, and the weekly fix of columnism, crosswords, television and the rest.
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