Part of the Around the World in 8 Hours virtual conference. So, in case there’s a reason you’d remember something so insignificant, last year I decided to live blog the Around the World in 8 Hours conference and thought, to keep up and see if I’m still up to it, I’d do it again this year. While I plan to go back and listen to the Podcast on China, our technical first stop is in New Zealand with Kevin Chapman, Melanie Laville Moore, and Nielsen BookScan.
Melanie heads up the NZ arm of independent publisher Allan & Unwin, who publishes a growing range of NZ non-fiction, and is also the President of the NZ Publishers Association. Kevin publishes trade books: children’s, fiction, non-fiction, often with a NZ focus.
“Customers change. Our job doesn’t.”
Nielsen start off with some statistics for the country, which is “showing growth, the first since 2010, up 2.1% in value. A not so rosy picture for NZ publishing, in decline since 2011 with a loss in value of nearly 9% in 2015.” As LBF notes, NZ has, “like so many other markets, had a tough few years” in publishing.
Nielsen: “Data on NZ publishing sales vs international… 24% of book sales belong to NZ published titles.”
With it being a varied discussion, there is great further input. Sarah of Booksellers NZ also adds their take on Nielsen’s stats for 2015, which you can read over here, to which Unity Books notes, there are “too many players missing from BookScan, literary indies report significant 2015 growth.”
Kevin notes, “It is tiring reading the constant diet of ‘publishing in a changing world’ from outside the industry. We publish. Formats change. Customers change. Our job doesn’t. NZ industry in good heart generally.”
“Many trade publishers have now turned a corner.”
But are publishers more optimistic than a year ago? “We’ve travelled through challenging times,” says Melanie. “No doubt about it. But many trade publishers have now turned a corner. With an improved domestic market – most publishers are feeling more secure about the future.”
“NZ owned publishers ruled this market until the 1980’s,” adds Kevin. “It isn’t back to that, but the pendulum has moved.” Booksellers NZ pop in with another great piece, showing most publishers are quite upbeat (check out this one here).
So, what do publishers attribute that aforementioned ‘corner’ they’ve turned to? “Changes in the publishing arena have settled and readers are back buying more books,” explains Melanie.
Does quality or quantity matter more? “Quality always matters,” says Kevin. “But diff[erent] people view quality differently. The worst thing we can do is alienate people, tell the[m] that their choices are poor. Readers are good. Love what they love.”
Is it more physical books, or ebooks? “No measures available for ebooks, though suspect they’re marginally up,” notes Melanie. “Pbooks definitely.” To which Kevin adds, “Ebooks are harder to break through with. But you find markets.”
Who are the major players these days, local trade wise? “Superlative, thriving and vigourous independent booksellers,” replies Melanie. “We’d love there to be more of them.”
“People are loving books,” adds Kevin. “More in print. Lots of digital. That is good, isn’t it? Same around the world. We are lucky.”
Cookbooks are strong there too, and for those wondering about the colouring book boom, Nielsen notes that they’re “only 4% of total market.”