The Australian Book Industry Awards’ Digital Show: Undaunted by COVID-19

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The transfer of the 2020 Australian Book Industry Awards arrives as a slickly edited, expertly produced video evocation of the usual onstage event, full of personality and comedy.

At the 2019 Australian Book Industry Awards. Image: ABIA

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

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If there are any advantages to pandemic-era digital prize programming in publishing, the Australian Book Industry Awards last week looked for every one of them, advising fans not only to create online watch parties but offering six bottles of Australian bubbly to “the most sparkling party.”

The digital edition of the 2020 awards was announced on March 2, and the organization used its time well between then and May 13, putting together a knees-up, professionally turned out show opened with a short congratulatory message from Mexico City by Hugo Setzer, president of the International Publishers Association.

The video evocation of the awards program is a spirited example of a big show translated to the screen with some smart fast-cut edits, comedy, and musical moments thanks to writer and radio personality Casey Bennetto. No sooner does a boisterous actress and author Judy Nunn name the general nonfiction book of the year award winner to be Kitty Flanagan than a gobsmacked Flanagan in on screen with a delightful expletive and a squeal. The pace rarely slows.

We’ll embed the video here for you, so you can have a look at the upbeat May 13 production. The show, originally streamed at 4 p.m. AEST, has pulled some 5,000 views already.

Australian Book Industry 2020 Award Winners

Book of the Year and
Children’s Picture Book of the Year

Publisher of the Year

Allen & Unwin, Book Publishers

Literary Fiction Book of the Year

Small Publisher of the Year

Magabala Books

Small Publishers’ Adult Book of the Year

  • Sand Talk: How Indigenous Thinking Can Save the World 
  • Author: Tyson Yunkaporta
  • Publisher: Text Publishing

Small Publishers’ Children’s Book of the Year

  • Love Your Body
  • Author: Written by Jessica Sanders, illustrated by Carol Rossetti
  • Publisher: Five Mile

Illustrated Book of the Year

Audiobook of the Year

  • No Friend But the Mountains
  • Author: Written by: Behrouz Boochani
  • Narrated by: Benjamin Law, Omid Tofighian, Isobelle Carmody, Janet Galbraith, Mathilda Imlah, Geoffrey Robertson, Richard Flanagan, Sarah Dale, Thomas Keneally, Yumi Stynes
  • Publisher: Pan Macmillan Australia, Macmillan Australia Audio

General Nonfiction Book of the Year

  • 488 Rules for Life: The Thankless Art of Being Correct
  • Author: Kitty Flanagan
  • Publisher: Allen & Unwin

International Book of the Year

General Fiction Book of the Year

Book of the Year for Older Children

Book of the Year for Younger Children

Biography of the Year

In addition to the above awards:

  • The Matt Richell Award for New Writer of the Year went to Clare Bowditch
  • Kinokuniya was named Bookshop of the Year
  • Readings was named Book Retailer of the year
  • The Rising Star Award went to Hazel Lam of HarperCollins Australia

Casey Bennetto and a lot of bougainvillea. “Friggin’ no. You didn’t friggin’ get a friggin’ award this year. I can’t friggin’ believe it, mate.” Image: AIBA video


More from Publishing Perspectives on publishing and book awards is here. More from us on Australia is here. And more from us on the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on international book publishing is here and at the CORONAVIRUS tab at the top of each page of our site.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's 2019 International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for trade and indie authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson also has worked as a senior producer, editor, and anchor with CNN.com, CNN International, and CNN USA, and as an arts critic (National Critics Institute) with The Village Voice and Dallas Times Herald.

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