New Zealand readers will soon be able to turn the electronic pages of more local books, thanks to Digital Publishing New Zealand, a not-for-profit company set up by Copyright Licensing (CLL).
The book publishing company, which manages licensing fees for copyright holders, set up a fund to convert print books into an e-book digital format and its $50,000 contribution was matched by Creative New Zealand.
CLL chief executive Paula Browning says the purpose of that fund is to get a “core collective of New Zealand content” ready and available for reading by New Zealanders and others by the middle of the year.
Applications for funding closed last month and 582 titles were put to a selection panel of publishers, editors, writers and academics. The 263 titles to appear on http://www.greatnzebooks.co.nz were selected according to a list of criteria which included titles that will contribute to New Zealand literature and culture, are of literary merit, and will engage New Zealanders in digital reading.
The applications “were from publishers who are still either getting started digitising or still have titles to digitise”, says Browning. “There are some New Zealand publishers who have really taken the bull by the horns and have been digitising their own stuff for quite some time.”
Although publishers were not able to get funding for works already formatted for e-book readers, they can still submit their titles to the website. They will include those of authors such as Lloyd Jones and Katherine Mansfield.
Works in the conversion list include several poetry collections from Bill Manhire, C K Stead’s poetry and non-fiction collection Book Self, two of James Belich’s historical works, two children’s books by Joy Cowley and 10 novels by Barbara Anderson. Owen Marshall is also there, as is Kapka Kassabova and art curator and critic Justin Paton.
Fiction titles made up 31% of applications and non-fiction made up 60% of applications, the majority of both types being approved for funding. The rest were poetry works.
“We didn’t look at it from either an author or a publisher’s perspective; purely from the title and whether or not we felt it was worth being included,” says Browning.
There are some notable absences among those 263 titles to get funding. Janet Frame is not on the list because “the rights haven’t been agreed with the family trust”, says Browning. “Rights is a significant issue in digitising because the rights that you had in the agreement to publish a book – the printed book do not necessarily cover digital.”
Director of Auckland University Press Sam Elworthy is pleased with the initiative. “We did apply for a big list of AUP titles and were successful getting funding for some. We’re really excited about developing these and other titles into e-books – books from Apirana Ngata’s Nga Moteatea to Paul Millar’s No Fretful Sleeper – so that we can make them available to new readers here and overseas.”
Maggie Tarver, executive director of the New Zealand Society of Authors (which, with the Publishers Association, owns Digital Publishing NZ), is similarly satisfied with the scheme.
“We have been extremely active in promoting the conversion fund application process to our members as we felt it to be an excellent opportunity that would benefit authors,” Tarver says. “With the growing market in digital publishing overseas, it is great to see New Zealand authors being given an opportunity to have their work available in a digital format in a way that still ensures they have control and choices regarding the use of their content.”
As the e-book phenomenon grows more people are becoming receptive to the idea of reading from the screen rather than on paper. “Between five and 10% of everything that’s being bought is being bought in digital. But depending on what you read that number varies,” says Browning. “Also, the growth projections vary quite a bit. What they have found is a lot of people are buying both – they’ll buy a print book and the digital version.”
Although Browning concedes the expectations of e-book sales is “a dartboard number”, new readers will be exposed to New Zealand titles through greatnzebooks.co.nz.
“Having a strong body of New Zealand content available in e-book form should help stimulate other keys to a flourishing e-book market here – in particular, a variety of e-book retail sites and the spread of devices set up to read e-books, from smartphones to dedicated e-readers,” says Elworthy. “That’ll be great for New Zealand book publishers, authors and readers.”