Singapore Names 2020 Book Award Finalists, Adds Digital Categories

In News by Porter Anderson

Recognizing the rise of digital publishing and reading in Singapore, the Book Publishers Association’s awards this year add honors for ebooks, audiobooks, and digital marketing.

In Singapore, public transport passengers are distanced on the MRT. Image – iStockphoto: Kandl

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

‘Singapore’s Essential Books Ecosystem’

One of Asia’s most energetic and comprehensive book award programs, the annual Singapore Book Publishers Association’s prizes traditionally have covered seven categories:

  • Book Cover Design
  • Education Title
  • Illustrated Non-Fiction Title
  • Literary Work
  • Middle Grade / Young Adult Title
  • Nonfiction Title
  • Picture Book

This year, new categories have been added, a reflection of the handsome progress that digital publishing is making in the island city-state’s robust literary community.

  • Audiobook Title
  • Digital Marketing Campaign
  • Ebook Title

Those who know Singapore understand that the culture has an unusually engaged book business for a population of 5.6 million people, close to the size of Denmark and the city of Atlanta. At times, some of the energy behind the literary life of Singapore has been prompted by tension between the reading populace and the government and this is a culture that has proved itself unusually adept at leveraging that dynamic in its literary life.

“The pandemic has reinforced the importance of reading, as the best way to spend time alone but in communion with others.”Peter Schoppert, Singapore Book Publishers Association

The island’s distinctive multicultural identity plays well into this, too, something reflected in the fact that genres covered in the content shortlisted include architecture history, autobiography and biography, creative nonfiction, manga, graphic novels, Singapore history, local community history, local heritage cuisine, textbooks and supplementary educational titles.

The winners of these awards are to be announced on August 13 in a digital program–per the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic, of course–the costs of which are being covered by Amazon, Markono Print Media, and Storytel. And that in itself holds clues to the singular position of this small nation in a wide world of books: Amazon and Storytel are two of the most aggressive publishing, retail, and distributional operations in the world, of course, and their support of this program tells you something about the value they see in its activities.

Storytel, in fact, is represented in three of the new audiobooks in contention and for its own marketing campaign.

Registration for the streamed awards program are open here. The program on August 13 is set for 4 p.m. Singapore time, which is GMT plus 8 hours, 12 hours ahead of Eastern time in New York.

The winning books in the Publishers Association’s awards each year are displayed at trade shows including Frankfurter Buchmesse and in festivals and book fairs in other international settings.

Singapore Book Awards 2020 Finalists

Book Cover Design

  • The Brook’s Clown: A Hit and Miss Adventure of Gramblanc and Hatoff, designed by Koh Hong Teng (Achates 360)
  • Impractical Uses of Cake, designed by Lim Qin Yi (Epigram Books)
  • The Angel Tiger and Other Stories, designed by Liak Yuan Ying (Epigram Books)
  • Fall Baby, designed by Saurabh Garge (Penguin Random House SEA)
  • The Best of Junji Ito: Short Story Collection, designed by Junji Ito (Shogakukan Asia)
  • Singapore 1819: A Living Legacy, designed by Norreha Sayuti (Talisman Publishing)


  • GP Power, New Edition: ‘A’ Level General Paper, by Robert Wilks (Armour Publishing)
  • My Pals are Here! Science Upsized Home Edition 3 & 4, by Dr Kwa Siew Hwa, Teo-Gwan Wai Lan, Koh Siew Luan and Chee Chin Young (Marshall Cavendish Education)
  • Discover Forensics 2: More Ways to Use Science for Investigations, by The Forensics Experts Group (TFEG) (Marshall Cavendish International (Asia))
  • 玩物志新加坡学前文教具日常生活材料篇 (WanWuZhi – XinJiaPo Xue Qian HuaWen Jiao Ju Ri Chang Sheng Hua Cai Duo Pian), by Dr Cheng Wan-ni (Singapore Centre for Chinese Language)
  • How to Build a Dragon or Die Trying: A Satirical Look at Cutting-Edge Science, by Paul Knoepfler and Julie Knoepfler (World Scientific Publishing Co)
  • Theory and Problems for Chemistry Olympiad: Challenging Concepts in Chemistry, by Zhihan Nan and Sheng Zhang (World Scientific Publishing Co)

Illustrated Nonfiction

  • The Antibiotic Tales, by Sonny Liew and Hsu Li Yang (Epigram Books)
  • The Way of Kueh, Savouring and Saving Singapore’s Heritage Desserts, by Christopher Tan (Epigram Books)
  • Seven Hundred Years: A History of Singapore, by Kwa Chong Guan, Derek Heng, Peter Borschberg and Tan Tai Yong (Marshall Cavendish International (Asia))
  • Bawa Staircases, by David Robson (Talisman Publishing)


  • Harris Bin Potter and the Stoned Philosopher, by Suffian Hakim (Epigram Books)
  • Impractical Uses of Cake, by Yeoh Jo-Ann (Epigram Books)
  • The Evolved Ones (Book 1): Awakening, by Natasha Oliver (Marshall Cavendish International (Asia)
  • Fall Baby, by Laksmi Pamuntjak (Penguin Random House SEA)

Middle Grade / Young Adult

  • Luminous Sword – Book 3, Keys of Archellos, by Eunice Li-Tan (Armour Publishing)
  • Make Animals Great Again and Other Creature Campaigns, by Maureen Yeo (Epigram Books)
  • Awesome Art Singapore: 10 Works from the Lion City Everyone Should Know, by Ryan How (National Gallery Singapore)
  • Queen of the Sky, by Josephine Chia (Penguin Random House SEA)
  • WildKat, by Vittoria D’Alessio (Scholastic)


  • Homeless: The Untold Story of a Mother’s Struggle in Crazy Rich Singapore, by Liyana Dhamirah (Epigram Books)
  • The First Wave: JBJ, Chiam & the Opposition in Singapore, by Loke Hoe Yeong (Epigram Books)
  • 影振天声:牛水百年文化 (Youying Zhentiansheng: A Century of Singapore’s Chinatown in Cultural and Historical Memory), by Dr Wong Chee Meng (Global Publishing)
  • Reluctant Editor – The Singapore Media as Seen Through the Eyes of a Veteran Newspaper Journalist, by PN Balji (Marshall Cavendish International (Asia))
  • Hard at Work: Life in Singapore, by Gerard Sasges and Ng Shi Wen (NUS Press)
  • Imperial Creatures: Humans and Other Animals in Colonial Singapore, 1819–1942, by Timothy P. Barnard (NUS Press)
  • A Place for Us, by Cassandra Chiu (Ethos Books, an imprint of Pagesetters Services)

Picture Book

  • Friends: A Counting Book, by Goh Eck Kheng and Mike Foo (Landmark Books)
  • Counting Sheep, by Pippa Chorley (author) and Danny Deeptown (illustrator) (Marshall Cavendish International (Asia))
  • Apa Nama Kuih Ini, by Maria Humairah Bte Roslan and Siti Salmah Bte Hamid (Pustaka Nasional)
  • Dreams Are Calling, by Trang Hoang & Pham Quang Phuc (Scholastic Asia)
  • Jun and the Octopus, by Goh Eck Kheng (Singapore Children’s Society)
  • Panjang: The Tall Boy who became the Prime Minister, by Peh Shing Huei (World Scientific Publishing)


  • Kring! Kring!, narrated by Erul Samah (Pustaka Nasional)
  • Penghuni Rumah Tua, narrated by Erul Samah (Pustaka Nasional)
  • Annabelle Thong, narrated by Elizabeth Morse (Storytel Singapore)
  • Loss Adjustment, narrated by Justine Moss (Storytel Singapore)
  • Up Close with Lee Kuan Yew, narrated by Remesh Panicker (Storytel Singapore)

Digital Marketing Campaign

  • Storytel Singapore’s digital marketing campaign
  • Wanderlust: The Amazing Ida Pfeiffer, the First Female Tourist, by John van Wyhe (NUS Press)


  • BAM!, by Adinursuryani Bte Md Rashid and Noor Sahidu Bte Johari (Pustaka Nasional)
  • Let’s Play with Grandma, by Nur Assyikin Bte Mohd Lais and Nurulfizah Bte Mohamed Ali (Pustaka Nasional)
  • think! Additional Mathematics e-Textbooks A and B (10th edition), by Dr Joseph B.W. Yeo, Dr Choy Ban Heng, Teh Keng Seng, Wong Lai Fong and Sharon Lee (Shing Lee Publishers)

Schoppert: Pandemic-Era Challenges

In his comments for the announcement of this year’s finalists, the association’s longtime president, Peter Schoppert, is quoted, saying, “The Singapore Book Publishers Association represents local and multinational–and locally-born multinational–publishers, from some of the world’s largest publishing companies to small and medium-sized enterprises with one or two staffers.

Peter Schoppert

“Across the board, we see Singapore-produced books continuing to improve in many different fields and genres of publishing.

“We’re particularly pleased to run these book prizes during the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.

“The pandemic has reinforced the importance of reading, as the best way to spend time alone but in communion with others. But at the same time, it has been a blow to Singapore’s essential books ecosystem.

“These prizes are a way of recognizing the excellent work of our authors, illustrators, designers, and photographers, and also the good work of our publishers who bring all the pieces together, nurturing, packaging, and promoting these books.”

This is the sixth year of the awards program, which annually command widespread attention among Singaporeans. The association was created in 1968 and it calculates that its member-companies “contribute some 1.7 billion Singapore dollars to the island state’s economy (US$1.2 billion).”

More from Publishing Perspectives on Singapore and its publishing scene is here. 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 International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.