Publishing News: Issue 24
Arts Council England Announces Funding for Libraries and Cultural Development
By Lucy Downer
This May, Arts Council England have announced the details of their £42 million fund, aimed at boosting the UK’s creative projects, libraries and museum estates.
The funding recognises the huge impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on the arts sector, as well as understanding the role the arts can play in the UK’s economic recovery as we start to come out of this crisis. Having originally been announced in 2019, the funding was put on hold due to the pandemic. Its revival this year is symbolic of the hoped-for change in fortune for the sector after the continued easing of restrictions across the country.
The multi million pound package consists of three different funding streams: the Cultural Development Fund, the Museum Estate And Development Fund, and the Libraries Improvement Fund. The funding is part of a programme set up by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS).
The Culture Secretary, Oliver Dowden, stated:
“After awarding hundreds of millions in emergency grants and loans to help cultural organisations survive the immediate effects of the pandemic, it’s now time to look to the future. The cultural investment fund will boost local museums, libraries and creative projects across the country, helping local communities build back better and ensuring culture is at the heart of their recovery.”
The Libraries Improvement Fund
The libraries improvement fund will be of particular interest to those working in, or interested in the book industry. The fund has a budget of £5 million for the year and will take the form of grants that will help libraries to upgrade their facilities. The money can be used flexibly: for the refurbishment of buildings, the running of cultural events and classes, or for encouraging more members of the local community into the library.
The Deputy Chief Executive for Places and Engagement at Arts Council England, Laura Dyer, commented:
“We believe that culture and the experiences it offers can have a deep and lasting effect on places and the people who live in them. Investment in culture helps improve lives, regenerate neighbourhoods, support local economies, attract visitors and bring people together.”
This funding marks the start of a new chapter for our cultural spaces as we emerge from the COVID-19 outbreak. Though many arts-based institutions have been lost during the past year, this funding signifies hope that the sector can yet be built back.
Should Bookstores Make Indie Titles More Prominent On Their Displays?
By Molly Anna Chell
At the start of May, Waterstones and Penguin Random House (PRH) appeared to be in conflict over a credit limit the publisher had introduced at the end of 2020. Concerned that some PRH titles may run out, stores have been moving titles from windows and display tables into their relevant sections to preserve stock levels. According to The Bookseller this is a rare situation indeed, as usually this only occurs when stock on a popular title is running low and never across an entire publisher’s range. The dispute may suggest that when a publisher becomes as big as PRH currently is, they may feel they are no longer as dependent on stores.
The Importance of Placement
The news led to several independent publishers on Twitter calling for bookshops to give more prominence to indie titles. Perhaps the current situation should lead to a debate about whether it’s fair for bookstores to give so much of the most prominent space to the big publishers. With a large proportion of sales still coming from bookstores, placement is still a highly important marketing tool. Lacking the brand awareness and arguably big marketing budgets of larger publishers, independent publishers are more reliant on their positioning within stores to sell books.
With stores needing to sell as many books as possible, it is understandable that booksellers will typically choose to display the biggest titles. However, the large houses excel at generating awareness around their titles outside of stores, so it is interesting to consider how much added benefit they receive from being featured in prominent positions. Whilst for indie publishers the benefits would be huge, as indie titles don’t always get much attention in the media. A big role of bookstores is aiding discoverability, and by giving more space at the front of the store to less well-known titles, stores can really help boost indie sales and avoid the industry being too dominated by the output of the “Big Five”.
Should the system be revolutionised to make it fairer for independent publishers, moving towards a new method of selection that is not dependent on a publisher’s finances? Perhaps stores could operate on some kind of rota system, or for one month a year stores could make the decision to give indie titles pride of place. Bookselling is a complex business and there will be no simple solutions to this problem. Bookstores may still feel reliant on the most popular titles. Considering that the industry is currently making strides forwards in ensuring that indie titles are given the recognition they deserve, it certainly does seem time for the big publishers to cede some of their monopoly on the most valuable selling space.