Nibbies on the Ether: The British Book Awards Online at 30

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The next awards program to move online is the ‘Nibbies,’ set for June 29 with access available to readers as well as to book business players.

Image: Promotional shot for the 2019 British Book Awards

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

A Three-Hour Program
As publishing and book awards go, London’s British Book Awards are probably second only to New York City’s National Book Awards for physical-event opulence. The “Nibbies,” as the UK’s honors are sometimes called, are held at the Grosvenor House in Park Lane, normally with a lot of magenta lighting and sparkle. The National Book Awards, also a round-tables affair, are held in Cipriani Wall Street’s baroque ballroom with lots of yellow lighting and sparkle.

The British awards, owned and produced by The Bookseller, are normally held on a Monday evening in early to mid-May, and of course this year, May 18 turned out not to be a date for large gatherings in the British capital.

As Publishing Perspectives readers know, the program had announced in February a “30 from 30” longlist in recognition of the awards’ three decades, like the “Golden Man Booker” award to mark the Booker’s 50th year.

And then in March, the program delayed its big evening to June 29, and named some of its regional small-press winners and regional finalists in its hotly contested independent bookshop category.

The awards have stuck to their June 29 date while moving their venue from Mayfair to cyberspace, on this schedule:

  • 4 p.m. BST (1500 GMT, 5 p.m. CEST, 11 a.m. ET): Awards for bookshops, publishers, and agents
  • 5 p.m. BST (1600 GMT, 6 p.m. CEST, 12 p.m. ET): “Nibbies fun across our social channels”
  • 6 p.m. BST (1700 GMT, 7 p.m. CEST, 1 p.m. ET): Awards for books, authors, and illustrators

As the organizers are pointing out in their latest messaging on the subject, what is normally an industry-facing event this year can be seen—in its online interpretation, at least—by consumers, as well. And the program is working to rev up the UK industry’s always robust social-media apparatus in support of the awards.

The stream is to be available a week from today on the The Bookseller site, as well as on its Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube channels.

Categories of Competition

At the 2019 British Book Awards in London. Image: The Bookseller

Probably the most widely awaited awards are for the Book of the Year prizes, which are handed out in nine categories, including this year’s “30 from 30” special prize.

The eight standard categories:

  • Audiobook
  • Children’s Fiction
  • Children’s Nonfiction and Illustrated Books
  • Fiction
  • Crime and Thriller Fiction
  • Fiction Debut
  • Nonfiction Lifestyle
  • Narrative Nonfiction

The trade award shortlists categories are even more numerous:

Academic, Educational, and Professional Publisher

  • Book Retailer
  • Children’s Bestseller
  • Children’s Publisher
  • Editor
  • Imprint
  • Independent Bookshop (chosen from the regional winners already named)
  • Independent Publisher
  • Literary Agent
  • Marketing Strategy
  • Publicity Campaign
  • Publisher
  • Rights Professional
  • Small Press
  • Export (in two awards, one for sales above £10 million and one for sales below £10 million)

In announcing the move to the online edition of the awards, The Bookseller CEO Nigel Roby is quoted, saying, “We have been able to assess how organizations like BAFTA have created compelling virtual awards and I am sure that we’ll have a format that’s going to engage everyone from our fantastic shortlisted indie bookshops to our celebrated authors and to the book-buying public.”

You can register your interest in seeing the awards here, and there’s a contest attached in which 10 registrants will each win £25 (US$30.91) in National Book Tokens).

Close to 40 sponsors and partners of the programming are listed here.


More on the British Book Awards is here. More from us on publishing and book awards in general is here. And more 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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