Connecting New Zealand to the Rest of the World Through E-books

In Guest Contributors by Guest Contributor

Several New Zealand publishing organizations have collaborated to digitize and sell the country’s books globally under the brand “Great New Zealand E-books.”

By Paula Browning, CEO, Copyright Licensing Ltd

As we race towards 2012, 2008 seems like a long time ago, but that was the year when the Board of New Zealand’s print copyright agency — Copyright Licensing Ltd (CLL) — first thought about what they needed to do to ensure the company remained relevant to publishing in New Zealand in the digital era. Time has passed and a lot of activity and investment has been undertaken to bring New Zealand’s own collection of e-books together under the brand Great NZ Ebooks.

New Zealand is a country of 4.1 million people, situated at the bottom of the world. First to see the sun rise each day and with a can-do attitude that belies its size and remoteness. Dare to tell a New Zealander that they can’t do something and you’re likely to be on the receiving end of a tirade of examples of New Zealander’s who have, and are, doing it. New Zealand’s publishing sector has just this attitude — strong in literary non-fiction, passionate and successful in educational publishing and supported by a culture where reading is the number one leisure activity.

So, how to overcome the challenges of size, while leveraging the passion for all things New Zealand? Answer: a digital publishing collective that is a one-stop-shop for conversion, distribution, management, marketing and sales. This is why Digital Publishing New Zealand (DPNZ) was born. The company is owned by the New Zealand Society of Authors and Publishers Association of New Zealand — both organizations hold two seats each on the company’s Board. It operates on a not-for-profit basis. All services are priced to allow the organization to recover its overheads — nothing more. The company’s mission is two-fold. One is to provide New Zealand rights holders with access to a world-class digital asset management and distribution system and the other is to ensure that “by 2013, New Zealand digital books are being read throughout the world.”

One of the significant hurdles that publishers need to overcome when making the move to digital is funding the cost of conversion. CLL worked with government arts agency, Creative New Zealand, to put together a pool of $100,000 to invest in publishers’ conversion costs. A selection panel of four publishers and writers reviewed applications which were open to any publisher or author of a New Zealand work. The criteria for the applications was intentionally kept simple with the panel looking for titles that would add value to the first collection of New Zealand digital books. The result was 400 titles from over 30 different rightsholders receiving investment. More than 50% of these titles are being converted from a printed book, meaning that boxes of books are being freighted to India to the company’s technology supplier — InfoGrid Pacific Pte Ltd (IGP).

The involvement of a New Zealand-based director of IGP has been one of the key factors in the achievements of the business to date. While IGP has its head office in Singapore and operates out of India, Andrew Crisp is a Kiwi through and through and has been committed to the establishment of the company, almost since the beginning in 2008. DPNZ does not employ staff — it operates under a memorandum of agreement with CLL and shares CLL’s Chief Executive, Paula Browning, and Communications Manager, Jason Kay, who undertakes the digital publishing operations role.

Given the limited investment available to commence the business, it would be impossible for DPNZ to be all things to all publishers, but when considering what the company would offer the involvement of the multi-national publishers with operations in New Zealand had to be carefully considered as shown by a survey undertaken by the Publishers Association of New Zealand in 2008, which found that 28 publishers accounted for 92% of the national turnover. Most of the multi-nationals already had digital production and distribution systems implemented from their head offices offshore, as well as agreements with the large e-book retailers. This was exactly what DPNZ was offering New Zealand publishers, with one exception — marketing amongst a New Zealand collection. It turned out that marketing of their e-books was not something that the multi-nationals were doing much of, if anything. Hence a new service was added to the DPNZ offering — listing of a title on where DPNZ is not providing the distribution services.

The restriction of limited capital investment also resulted in a key decision not to e-commerce from the website being made fairly early on. Existing e-book retailers already offered full DRM and e-commerce facilities so the company has chosen not to sell from but to link out to retailers with whom it has agreements to represent the New Zealand collection. When a rightsholder uploads their title into the digital warehouse, they select which retailers they want the title to be sold by. On the title’s page on the website there will be a link to each of the retailers that are selling the e-book. DPNZ will collate sales information for each rightsholder from all retailers and provide a comprehensive quarterly sales report.

The time taken to convert and proof, particularly the conversions from paper books, has been a little longer than expected, however is expected to go live in time for Christmas 2011. When it does, DPNZ and New Zealand publishers and authors will be well on their ways to achieving their vision of having New Zealand e-books read throughout the world.

Paula Browning is the Chief Executive Officer of New Zealand Copyright Licensing Ltd.

DISCUSS: Should Small Nations Collectively Digitize Their Work?

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Guest Contributor

Guest contributors to Publishing Perspectives have diverse backgrounds in publishing, media and technology. They live across the globe and bring unique, first-hand experience to their writing.