5 May 2020

If you love books, buy local

From Upbeat, 7:30 pm on 5 May 2020

New Zealand book publishers are facing a very difficult time with an unprecedented fall in income over the past six weeks.

The Publishers Association of New Zealand (PANZ) says its members are reporting sales of almost zero for April, reflecting the reality of level 4 lockdown.

Julia Marshall, President Publishers Association of New Zealand

Julia Marshall, President Publishers Association of New Zealand Photo: Supplied

Not since the Global Financial Crisis has the risk to local publishing been so great.

President Julia Marshall says in April PANZ's eighty members faced an extreme situation.

Unlike Australia, publishers here have had no income from online sales because books were not classed as essential services.

Adding to the burden, air freight costs have risen steeply as publishers look to finalise print and design budgets for the books to be delivered for Christmas and 2021.  

The situation has been compounded by the cancellation of literary festivals and author events.

Auckland Writers Festival 2020

Auckland Writers Festival 2020 Photo: Auckland Writers Festival

The situation is particularly difficult for publishers of educational material who experienced a massive slump in both domestic and export sales in April as schools shut globally.

ESA Publications Biology study guide

ESA Publications Biology study guide Photo: ESA Publications NZ

Our educational publishers are renowned for creating world class solutions for both domestic and international educators but the COVID lockdown has seen their incomes fall to between 0 and 30% of normal.

Many are delivering digital resources to schools and universities as a stop gap measure in order to maintain brand presence. 

Despite that Julia Marshall says that PANZ members are on track to produce many fine books this year, although production time frames have been disrupted. 

One of the positive aspects Julia points to is the huge amount of sector collaboration between the publishers, booksellers, and authors.

Booksellers NZ which represents the bookshops, says they’ve been able to weather the storm so far because of doing good business in the days leading up to the lockdown.

Association Manager Dan Slevin says many bookshops are reducing their book and magazine purchases to reflect the lower sales, but rather than cutting staff, they’ve all agreed to instead reduce their working hours.

Booksellers New Zealand

Booksellers New Zealand Photo: Supplied

Booksellers NZ has launched an online campaign #BookshopsWillBeBack to remind everyone about the importance of independent bookshops to the sector.

They’ll be giving away $12,000 of book tokens over the next few weeks to increase anticipation for all the great reading to come. 

Slevin says one group facing further challenges are those whose shops are located in shopping malls; they can’t even get inside to do online sales or prepare for reopening.

Jenna Todd from Time Out Books in Auckland

Jenna Todd from Time Out Books in Auckland Photo: RNZ / Matthew Theunissen

Both associations say they hope that people have rediscovered the pleasure of reading during this time and that it translates into supporting local businesses.

Julia Marshall says buy from a New Zealand online retailer and support New Zealand writers.  “This is the year to buy New Zealand books, if you want to be sure our books are still around in the future.”

There’s no shortage of options.

Auē by Becky Manawatu

Jenna Todd of independent bookshop Time Out says a top seller for her at the moment is Becky Manawatu's novel ‘Aue’ while Damien Wilkins' new book ‘Aspiring’ released during the lockdown has made it to the bestseller list. 

Joan MacKenzie, Head of Books at Whitcoulls, says they have had huge numbers of online sales for school study guides and books to assist students with learning.

The Magic Tree House

She says adult fiction and children’s books have also experienced super strong sales online, with many of the popular series that kids love reading going mad - series like Dog Man, The Land of Stories, Treehouse, and Wings of Fire and the ever-popular David Walliams.

The Ockham New Zealand Book Awards winners to be announced next week will also inject much needed celebration into our local publishing industry.

Ockham Short List for Fiction 2020

Ockham Short List for Fiction 2020 Photo: Supplied


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