By Roger Tagholm
Benelux countries put in a strong performance at the second London Book Fair International Excellence Awards on Monday night, taking a hat-trick of prizes. It was definitely a case of “Advantage Belgium” as Flemish publisher Uigeverig Van In collected the International Educational Learning Resources Award for its online learning platform Bingel, and fellow Belgian company Clavis Publishing claimed the International Trade Children’s and Young Adult Publisher Award.
The judges praised the latter’s “outreach to readers and innovative approach to marketing and selling their books.” Owner Kristien Werck received the award from children’s publishing expert, Sarah Odedina, former MD of Hot Key Books.
Completing the Benelux hatrick was Dutch company BooXstream, which received the Publishers Weekly International Book Industry Technology Supplier Award in recognition of its work in digital watermarking.
Compére Peter Guttridge – a British crime novelist and in-demand chair of literary festivals all over the UK – noted that the winner for the Best Use of IP Across Multiple Media Platforms, Sweden’s Mojang, creator of Minecraft, “certainly had its Mojang working.” With those sales, few could dispute it. The award was collected on Mojang’s behalf by Eleanor Fletcher, Senior Brand Manager at Egmont UK, one of the publishers of the hugely successful tie-in titles.
Still with Europe, Nicole Witt of Frankfurt’s Literarische Agentur Mertin received the International Literary Agent Award from Christopher MacLehose of MacLehose Press, who described her as “a wise reader, a fine linguist and the leader of an agency which is a by-word in ethical practice.”
London Book Fair Director Jacks Thomas, who is the driving force behind the awards and has done much to expand the horizons of the fair itself, said the aim of the awards was simple. “While many countries have their own national awards, we felt that in an increasingly global industry there was a need for an event that showcased some of the fabulous initiatives taking place around the world and honored the people behind them – whether that might be a reading scheme in sub-Saharan Africa, a new app developed in Korea, or a new platform for content in China.
“The first International Excellence Awards had a fantastic reception last year and that has resulted in a huge increase in entries this year, with many more countries represented. In the last few years, we have seen the rise and rise of international publishing, and as global ties have grown stronger, it is a pleasure to see these celebrated at The London Book Fair International Excellence Awards. Each one of our winners brings something special to the industry. And we are proud to give them the recognition they deserve.”
US companies received two accolades: New York’s Library for All collected the International Education Initiatives Award and Sage International received the International Academic and Professional Publisher Award. Founded after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, Library for All’s aim is a ‘digital library for the developing world’, with a mission to increase literacy and support education in all subject areas by providing access to books through its digital library, based in the cloud.
The second trade award of the night went to Fraktura of Croatia, which won the Bookseller International Adult Trade Publisher Award, with the chair of the judges, Syvlia May, for so long the rock of HarperCollins UK’s export department, praising its “unique combination of quality publishing, innovation, digital marketing and effective promotion of both Croatian and international writers.” Fraktura’s Publisher Seid Serdarevic collected the award.
The importance of translation was recognized by two winners. Daniel Hahn of the British Centre for Literary Translation received the Mexico Market Focus Outstanding Contribution Award, which honors the work of an individual or company in developing the cultural connections between the literature and publishing of that year’s market focus country and the rest of the world. Taiwan’s Asymptote Journal, founded in 2011, received the award for International Literary Translation Initiative. Its Editor-in-Chief Lee Yew Leong received the award from the English to Chinese translator Nicky Harman.
There were a number of new awards this year, among them the Accessibility Awards which are organized by the Accessible Books Consortium, a multi-stakeholder partnership whose members include WIPO – the World Intellectual Property Organization. The Accessible Books Consortium seeks to increase the number of books available world wide in accessible formats, such as Braille, audio and large print. There were two awards, one for a publisher, which went to Cambridge University Press, and one for an initiative, which was won by Young Power in Social Action of Bangladesh, whose blind project manager Vashkar Bhattacharjee received the award from Anne Leer, Deputy Director General of the World Intellectual Property Organization.
Leer described the latter organization’s work as “a shining example for all developing countries of how new technologies, foreign capacity building and domestic engagement can improve the lives of persons with print disabilities”.
The eponymous children’s publisher Peter Usborne received the London Book Fair Lifetime Achievement Award from Seni Glaister, chief executive of workplace bookseller The Book People.
The second Market Focus award of the evening – the Market Focus Achievement Award, which is chosen from all the countries and territories that have been Market Focus since 2008, and honors one whose achievements have been particularly special – was won by the Sharjah International Book Fair. The Chair of the judges, Cortina Butler, Director Literature at the British Council, noted how Sharjah was a leading partner in the LBF’s 2008 Arab World Market Focus and how it is “truly committed to one of the main tenets of the whole Market Focus program: creating links between the Arab World and the international publishing community.” Honorable mention should perhaps be made here too, of how much Midas Public Relations has done – and continues to do – to make Sharjah and its book fair so familiar to so many.
The winner of the Publishing for Digital Minds Innovation Award – chosen by audience vote at the close of the Publishing for Digital Minds conference on Monday night – was also presented. George Burgess, founder and CEO of student revision site Gojimo collected the accolade, after a very assured and confident presentation.
The LBF also hosted some awards given by the UK’s Association for Publishing Excellence for the best work by students studying publishing courses. “These are the publishers of tomorrow,” Thomas observed, “and it’s good to honor them today.”
The Publishers Association’s Copyright Protection Award went to the Nigerian Publishers Association and was received by its Vice President for the west region, Gbadega Abedapo. In their citation, the judges noted the body’s “outstanding efforts in tackling copyright infringement in an extremely challenging environment. Overcoming obstacles and working in often dangerous circumstances it has built strong relationships with the enforcement authorities and been able to deliver impactful results.”
The evening also saw the first Simon Master Chairman’s Award, in honor of the LBF’s first non-executive Chairman, Simon Master, presented by the current non-executive Chairman David Roche. This went to the China Publishing Group and was received by its Vice President Pan Kaixiong.
Master was also remembered in an in memoriam section which acknowledged the passing of agent Deborah Rogers, publisher and Man Booker International driving force Ion Trewin, his Booker colleague Martyn Goff and – just this week – the writer Günter Grass.
Receiving the Montegrappa Lifetime Achievement Award, Peter Usborne revealed that his children Martin and Nicola have agreed to take over the business in due course, and that the bulk of their father’s shares will benefit the Usborne Foundation which has just launched a phonics reading site.
The International Excellence Awards are organized in partnership with the UK Publishers Association whose Chief Executive Richard Mollet said: “It is great to see publishing innovation and excellence receive such international recognition. The sheer spread of countries whose publishing industries are recognized tonight demonstrates the continuing global relevance of our industry in the digital age.”
Finally, it’s worth noting that one notable omission will be rectified next year: an award for physical bookshops is being planned, which is good news indeed.