Week 17/20 – week ending 24 April

Fund for booksellers approaches £120,000

Thanks to recent contributions from Hachette, Pan Macmillan and others, the fundraiser in aid of booksellers affected by the coronavirus crisis has reached nearly £120,000. The sum includes £50,000 of match funding from Penguin Random House.

The fundraiser, which closed this morning (21 April), was launched by Gayle Lazda, Zeljka Marosevic and Kishani Widyaratna. It has support from the Booksellers Association and is administered by the Book Trade Charity (BTBS).

Penguin podcast goes weekly

The Penguin Podcast asks authors and public figures to talk about four objects that have inspired their work. ‘From Arundhati Roy to Michael Palin, Zadie Smith and Bill Bryson, the Penguin Podcasts brings to life the stories behind the book to understand where ideas come from,’ says a statement from PRH.

Kicking off the weekly schedule is today’s episode with George Monbiot, interviewed by host Nihal Arthanayake. Monbiot’s latest book Feral looks at rewilding projects around the world and how nature can find its own way. The episode has been released to coincide with Earth Day 2020, and Monbiot and Arthanayake discuss the environmental changes that have affected both urban and rural regions as a result of the Covid-19 crisis.

Forthcoming confirmed guests include Curtis Sittenfeld, Mark Gatiss and David Harewood, with Sittenfeld discussing her latest book Rodham, and Gatiss and Harewood discussing their involvement narrating Penguin Classics audiobooks.

Podcast listening has seen a rise over recent weeks, with Acast reporting 9 million listens in the last week of March as a result of people spending more time at home, with growth in content for news and politics, curious thinkers, and storytelling.

The Penguin Podcast has been listened to nearly 3 million times since launch, with an average monthly rate of 60,000, and has hosted guests such as Neil Gaiman, Stephen Fry, and Salman Rushdie.

There have been over 2.7 million listens on the Penguin Podcast since its launch, and it has been #1 in the Arts podcast charts, and in 2019 hit the Top 50 overall podcast charts on Apple Podcast charts. Authors interviewed range from Sir Paul McCartney and Nigella Lawson to Arundhati Roy and Zadie Smith. The podcast asks guests to bring four meaningful objects to discuss throughout the episode, for example Phillip Pullman brought his own alethiometer, a fictional object from His Dark Materials.

Links to the Penguin Podcast:
Acast: https://play.acast.com/s/thepenguinpodcast
Apple Podcasts: https://podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/the-penguin-podcast/id89411073
Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/show/5D5iy4vMULwD55wa6LWQdR

Amazon backs bookseller hardship fund

The donation from Amazon came after the CrowdFunder campaign for hardpressed booksellers raised an initial £130,000. PRH provided £50,000, the BA £30,000 and corporate donations also came from Hachette and Macmillan.

BTBS ceo David Hicks said: “The world has changed in just a few short weeks, and while The Book Trade Charity has always been there to help individuals in need, we realised that the demands on our resources were likely to increase dramatically in light of the pandemic.

“The CrowdFunder campaign raised a magnificent total of £130,000 (including the match funding from PRH) from donors across the trade, with welcome donations from small to large, giving us a base on which to increase our grant-giving, and bringing us to the attention of both new supporters and potential new beneficiaries.

“The additional boost of £250,000 from Amazon has put us in a very strong position to help even more booksellers suffering hardship from this crisis. We all recognise the value of bookshops to local communities, the trade, as well as the economy, and it is a privilege to represent such a broad cross-section of the industry who have put faith in BTBS to deliver support where it is needed in these difficult times. Confidential and non-judgemental as ever, a simple email to info@btbs.org will get the process started.”

The appeal was originally set up in late March by the trio of Picador commissioning editor Kishani Widyaratna, Gayle Lazda from the London Review Bookshop, and Daunt Books publisher Zeljka Marosevic, with an initial target of a more modest £10,000.

At the time they said: “The Covid-19 crisis presents the publishing industry with a daunting and unprecedented challenge, but it has quickly become clear that booksellers are on the frontline. Booksellers are already some of our most precarious workers. Now we are seeing them being hit especially hard, through wage cuts and redundancies, while their bookshops face uncertain futures. It is a difficult time for everyone, but we hope anyone who can will donate to support booksellers, bookselling and the highstreet.”

So far BTBS has received around 25 applicants, but that number is expected to rise as the impact of the epidemic worsens.

Pirated proofs of PM’s autobiography alarm Australian publishers

Publisher Hardie Grant discovered that a pirated copy of former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull’s autobiography, A Bigger Picture, was being circulated to government employees. Hardie Grant ceo Sandy Grant said: “What drew this to our attention was the distribution of the pirated edition from an address from within the PMO [Prime Minister’s Office], sent to people who reported the illegal edition.”

The electronic version of the book had been shared multiple times, with one email claiming that a top aide in the Morrison government had sent it to “millions” of others. At least 50 people were initially sent the book, reportedly by prime ministerial adviser Nico Louw, who then forwarded it to at least another 1,000.

Within hours of being alerted to the distribution of the illegal version of the book to government staffers and at least one MP, Hardie Grant’s law firm, HWL Ebsworth, sent a cease and desist notice to a staff member in the Prime Minister’s Office.

Australian Publishers Association (APA) chief exec Michael Gordon-Smith said: “Everyone in government, and especially anyone with a leadership role, has an obligation not just to observe the law but to uphold it.”

“Piracy is a problem for bestselling books and our lawyers have taken immediate action to make it clear we intend to take action against the person seemingly distributing A Bigger Picture widely and illegally, as a well as any site sharing the file”, said Sandy Grant.

Michael Gordon-Smith added: ‘The business of publishing depends on the law of copyright. It establishes the property rights that allow authors and publishers to sell their products and get paid for their work.’

Gordon-Smith said: “Illegal copying erodes the viability of publishing businesses and the livelihood of authors even at the best of times. It does more damage at a time when publishers are suffering massive reductions in revenue, reducing working hours and laying off staff; authors are unable to attend book tours; and writers festivals have closed.”

Robbie Egan, President of The Australian Booksellers Association said: “The illegal distribution of books like Malcolm Turnbull’s A Bigger Picture damages all authors. Just as we would not tolerate someone from the PMO walking into one of our members bookstores, taking books without paying, and handing them out in the street, we condemn the piracy of ebooks.”

Despite the furore, the book has gone on to be a strong seller in Australia, heading for a third print run in a week. A Bigger Picture is due to be released in the UK on 4 May.