Story: Publishing

Page 8. Towards the ebook, since 2000

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Electronic revolution

The first decade of the 21st century was dominated by the massive effects of new digital technology. In 2009 the publishers’ organisation removed ‘book’ from its name and became the Publishers Association of New Zealand (PANZ) in belated recognition that publishers were producing CDs and interactive educational texts linked to websites.

Out-of-copyright titles were digitised and made available online by the New Zealand Electronic Text Centre at Victoria University of Wellington and Early New Zealand Books at Auckland University. Books were digitised by international firms and offshore digital libraries. Publishers began digitising their backlists, assisted by Creative New Zealand and Copyright Licensing Limited. Major reference works, such as Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand and the New Zealand Official Yearbook, were published online. New books were produced in both print and ebook format, despite legal and technical problems.

Colonial ebooks

By 2013 Early New Zealand Books had digitised over 250 memoirs, travellers’ accounts and histories of 19th-century New Zealand. The Electronic Text Centre had digitised over 1,500 works. They included 66 19th-century New Zealand novels, John White’s Ancient history of the Maori, over 20 volumes on the discovery and exploration of New Zealand, a New Zealand wars collection and the Cyclopedia of New Zealand. This made it much easier to research writings about colonial New Zealand via the web than those about modern New Zealand.

Publishers’ websites became an essential sales and marketing tool offering instant information on titles and easy ways of purchasing. Social media such as Facebook and Twitter enabled publishers to stay in touch with readers and former publisher Graham Beattie managed a popular blog on book-related topics.

Nielsen BookScan, a division of US-based Nielsen BookData, allowed publishers to keep up with book sales as they happened. Nielsen also provided up-to-date bibliographical information to booksellers and libraries.

In 2013 appropriate retail and royalty arrangements for ebooks remained a matter of worldwide debate, as did the copyright issues raised by the internet.

New publishers appear, old ones change

Emerging publishers now tended to work in defined niche markets. Annabel Langbein published stylish cookbooks which sold well internationally. Julia Marshall, of Gecko Press, bought rights to popular European children’s books and published them in English. Awa Press published non-fiction exclusively. Te Papa Press specialised in handsome well-illustrated books on topics connected to the museum’s collections and exhibitions.

Small, new and old

New technology such as design software and good-quality digital printing made it possible for more people to start small presses and produce high-quality books, often in their spare time. They provide an alternative to mainstream publishers and some are quite prolific – for example HeadworX, which specialises in poetry, published 51 books between 1998 and 2008. Meanwhile, other small publishers such as Gumtree Press found their niche in using old technology – hand-setting and letter-press printing their books.

Aggregation continued apace among the multinational publishers. Hodder Moa Beckett became Hachette Livre New Zealand in 2004 and continued the strong tradition of sports books. However, in 2013 it announced that it would cease publishing New Zealand titles. Reeds joined the Pearson stable in 2007 and its name finally disappeared, its books appearing under the Raupo imprint. Local educational publisher New House became an imprint of international publisher Cengage Learning. In 2013 there was an international merger of Random House and Penguin, creating Penguin Random House; Pearson Education announced a complete withdrawal from the New Zealand Market; and HarperCollins reduced local publishing and followed Hachette, Pearson and MacMillan in moving distribution to Australia. That same year the government closed Crown-owned educational publisher Learning Media because of declining revenue.

State of the art

The total turnover from publishing in New Zealand in 2007 was $266 million, of which $36 million came from exports. In that year New Zealand publishers produced 2,394 titles, accounting for around half the total revenue received, and employed approximately 1,000 people.

In 2012 educational publishing remained the single biggest sector, with about 40% of local titles and 41 publishers. Several published sophisticated learning materials in Māori and Pacific languages. Educational publishers have consistently been strong exporters and exploited internet marketing.

Frankfurt Book Fair

PANZ has for many years had a stand, supported by the government, at the Frankfurt Book Fair, held every October. It was the best venue for making international contacts and selling New Zealand books overseas.

In 2012 New Zealand was the guest of honour. Manatū Taonga – the Ministry for Culture and Heritage, seeing books as powerful carriers of identity, used the fair as a showcase for the country in Europe. Fifty people from 35 publishing firms, including 14 educational publishers, were present at the fair. The translation of leading titles into German was a high priority. Export sales had suffered from the global financial crisis of the early 2000s and it was hoped that this event would help turn the tide.

How to cite this page:

Elizabeth Caffin, 'Publishing - Towards the ebook, since 2000', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/publishing/page-8 (accessed 29 April 2017)

Story by Elizabeth Caffin, published 22 Oct 2014