Publishing News: Issue 41
Arts Council England Launches Green Libraries Programme
By Megan Whitlock
Arts Council England, in partnership with the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP), has launched the Green Libraries Programme. Starting this February, the programme will follow sustainability movements across the UK by investigating the environmental impact of the country’s libraries and encouraging the sharing of good practises. The Green Libraries programme parallels similar movements organised within the publishing industry, such as last year’s ‘Publishing Declares’ pledge, dedicated to making the book community more sustainable for years to come.
CILIP has so far received £163,000 in funding from the Arts Council to get the programme off the ground and will be working in collaboration with the environmental charity Julie’s Bicycle, as well as the British Library and Libraries Connected. The programme has been developed in response to the COP26 climate conference, which the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) attended to stress the unique position libraries have within local communities to guide, inform and provide resources on climate action.
Part of the programme’s initiatives include the establishment of a £40,000 Green Libraries Fund which is designed to support environmental activity in libraries. This involves the commissioning of research into the environmental issues that affect libraries and library users, and the development of a Green Libraries Partnership hub, where libraries can access information and support on environmental issues. The CILIP will also produce an evaluation report to provide future recommendations and summarise the lessons learnt from the programme.
The Green Libraries initiative is just one aspect of ACE’s larger ‘Let’s Create’ ten-year strategy, established in 2020, which encourages the organisations they fund to take action in light of the ongoing climate crisis. The Arts Council also recently produced their ‘Our Environmental Responsibility: From Understanding to Action’ report, which prioritised environmental training, reducing business travel and greener workspaces, technology and procurement choices.
Nic Poole, CEO of CILIP, spoke of the programme: “I am delighted that CILIP is leading on this exciting and important initiative to support libraries achieve their environmental goals, engage the public and take a lead role in our national response to the climate crisis. Sustainability is a major theme for CILIP over the next five years, and we are pleased to be working with partners such as the Arts Council England, Libraries Connected, Julie’s Bicycle and the British Library to establish this ambitious Green Libraries programme,” (CILIP website).
2022 International Prize for Arabic Fiction Longlist Revealed
By Louise Taillandier
Sixteen titles are competing for the 2022 International Prize for Arabic Fiction, shortened to IPAF. The chair of judges for this 2022 edition is Tunisian novelist and academic, Shukri Makbhout, who won the prize in 2015 for The Italian.
The list covers nine different countries and features two former nominees for the prize: the Eritrean writer and journalist, Haji Jabir, who had already been nominated with his previous novel Black Foam three years ago, and the Egyptian novelist, diplomat and academic, Ezzedine Choukri Fishere, whose novels Embrace on Brooklyn Bridge and Intensive Care have previously been respectively on the short and the long list. Their novels, The Abyssinian Rimbaud and Farah's Story, are currently in competition for this year's prize.
Three other Egyptian books feature on the list: Mother of Mimi by Belal Fadl, Cairo Maquette by Tarek Imam and Mohamed Tawfik's The Whisper of the Scorpion.
Syria boasts three nominations: Nizar Aghri's In Search of Azar, Yaa'rab al-Eissa's The White Minaret and Where is my name? by Dima al-Shukr.
The other nominations are for the Algerian writers Boumediene Belkebir for The Alley of the Italians and Rouchdi Redouane for The Hungarian.
Kuwait is also represented by two books: Khaled Nasrallah's The White Line of Night and Mona al-Shammari's The Maids of the Shrine.
The Moroccan author Mohsine Loukili's The Prisoner of the Portuguese is also nominated, as well as the United Arab Emirates' Reem al-Kamali for his novel, Rose's Diary, Oman's Bushra Khalfan for Dilshad and last but not least, Libya's Mohammed al-Nu’as for Bread of the Table of Uncle Milad.
The organisers have stated:
"This year's novels cover an extensive range of topics, from the struggle for artists to survive while facing war and state persecution, to the relationship between East and West, freedom, motherhood and gender roles. While strongly affirming the cultural and religious diversity of Arab society, they condemn those who exploit sectarian conflicts to amass ill-gotten gains. The books give African and Arab women a voice, recounting the untold stories of two such women who lived in the shadow of famous Western writers."
122 books were entered for the competition; the conditions for entry were an original publication in Arabic and a release between July 2020 and June 2021. The winner will receive $50,000 (around £37,000).
The shortlist will be revealed in March 2022 and the winner will be announced in May 2022.
Controversial Anne Frank Book Pulled by Dutch Publisher
By Malachi Martin
The Betrayal of Anne Frank: A Cold Case Investigation, a true crime novel written by Canadian author Rosemary Sullivan, was temporarily pulled from printing by Ambo Anthos following its release on 18 January 2022. The reason for the title’s controversy lies in the identification of a Jewish notary named Arnold Van den Bergh as a prime suspect for the betrayal of Anne Frank to the Nazis. Both historians and researchers expressed uncertainty over the accuracy of Sullivan’s six years of research, which has now led to a stir.
These events have since contributed to Ambo Anthos’s decision to halt the printing of the book’s second run. In an email addressed to its authors, the Dutch publisher stated they should have taken a more “critical stance” regarding the contents of the book’s research. “We await the answers from the researchers to the questions that have emerged and are delaying the decision to print another run,” part of the email detailed, before issuing an apology: “We offer our sincere apologies to anyone who might feel offended by the book.”
The six years of research conducted by Sullivan and a team of cold case researchers led the writer to conclude that Jewish leader Arnold Van den Bergh was the prime suspect. According to their claims, van den Bergh tipped the Nazis off about the hiding place of Anne Frank and her family in Amsterdam during the Second World War. The reason for Van den Bergh’s betrayal, according to the researchers, was the promise of insurance for his and his family’s safety if he revealed the locations of Jewish families to the Nazis. Van den Bergh was said to be the main suspect from the start: the researchers were suspicious of him, as he was identified as responsible for the family’s discovery in an anonymous letter received by Anne Frank’s father, Otto.
However, historians and researchers disputed this, saying that the book’s claims did not provide enough evidence and were merely based on assumptions. The Anne Frank Fund also expressed scepticism regarding the book’s theory. Paul Theelan, a friend of the Van den Bergh family, also challenged the claims, saying: “How could he have gone to Amsterdam to inform German authorities about the Franks when he was hiding in Laren? He would have been captured himself.”
English language publisher HarperCollins is yet to comment.
Blackwell’s Up For Sale
By Megan Whitlock
For the first time in its 143-year history, the family behind Blackwell’s bookshops have put the business up for sale. The move comes after initial talks to transfer the bookseller to employee ownership fell through, due to COVID-19 uncertainty prevailing on the high streets.
The UK’s largest independent bookseller was first founded by Benjamin Henry Blackwell on Broad Street, Oxford, in 1879. It boasts a chain of up to thirty bookshops and a website which serves customers, libraries, universities and government departments across the country. In 1966, the Broad Street location opened the now-famous underground Norrington Room: three miles of shelving, housing over 150,000 books, which held the Guinness World Record as the biggest bookselling room on the planet. As well as the iconic Oxford location, flagship stores can also be found in Edinburgh, Cambridge and London, alongside many more spots at various university locations.
The store reported that underlying sales for the last year rose by 1.9%, although any buyer will be aware of the need to compete with current industry giants such as Amazon and WHSmith. Various news outlets such as The Bookseller have suggested that Waterstones may be a potential buyer, citing its similar purchases of Foyles, Dillons, Hatchards and Ottakar’s. However, it should be noted that in spite of COVID-19, independent bookshops have seen an odds-defying growth over the last year, hitting what the Guardian has reported as a “nine-year UK high.” This can partially be explained by the growing conscious consumerism movements driven by COVID-19 and campaigns supporting shopping locally.
Julian Blackwell, the current owner of the group, was quoted on Sky News saying the following:
“I would have loved to have handed over the company to its staff, but I also accept that in order to grow and remain competitive in the future, it is time for new ownership, ideas and investment […] I have always stood for innovation and transformation in the constantly changing world of bookselling. I am delighted to have supported, and now see Blackwell’s become a significant player in online bookselling.”