NZ authors look to the future
Wed, 10 Oct 2012 6:29p.m.
By Europe Correspondent Melissa Davies
New Zealand authors say they're undaunted by the threat of ebooks, but many agree that in order to sell more Kiwi publications local authors need to start blowing their trumpets overseas.
Today they started to do just that, at the official opening of the Frankfurt Book Fair.
The audience with the foreign minister of one of the wealthiest markets in the world may prove priceless for New Zealand's arts industry, and there are no better people to sell New Zealand literature in Germany than our very best writers.
Author Witi Ihimaera says New Zealand has an impressive presence in Frankfurt.
“New Zealand has entered the building, you know. New Zealand has taken over the city.”
And thousands of Germans have lined up to witness it – crammed into a hall they heard award-winning poet Bill Manhire call on New Zealanders to make the most of the exposure.
“I think New Zealand writers need to be challenged on the matter of their modesty, and I hope that the friends we make in Frankfurt will encourage us to boast a little about what we can do,” says Manhire.
Ebooks are a major talking point at this year's book fair. In the United States, sales have increased 20 percent in just one year. Here in Germany the organisers seem to pride themselves that it's increased just 2 percent, but New Zealand authors say the digital era is nothing to be frightened of.
Joy Cowley argues anything that encourages children to read is positive.
“When I was about six or seven we didn't have a radio in our place because my parents declared ‘the wireless’, as they called it, would ruin family life,” she says.
“People would not talk in the evenings, so they wouldn't have one. Those kind of dire predictions are around now about the digital age and I don't think we need to be negative about it.”
Both traditional and digital print are in demand in Frankfurt, and with the high-tech show at the New Zealand pavilion, publishers are keen to show we can do both.
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