Friday, October 24, 2008

Bully-boys and cowards

For the last couple of years, after returning home from Frankfurt, I've popped into the Melbourne studios of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (our beloved national broadcaster) and have had a chat about the book fair with Ramoa Koval, who hosts one of the world's only daily book shows on ABC Radio National, enterprisingly called The Book Show.

You can listen to a podcast of this year's chat, which went to air yesterday, here.

Interviewed with me was one of Australia's truly great maverick publishers, Henry Rosenbloom of Scribe Publications (pictured). Henry is very active in rights acquisitions, and has a passionate view on rights splitting. What he has to say about those British publishers and literary agents who insist on keeping British and Commonwealth rights together will make your ears burn. Large British publishers are 'bully boys .. absolute monsters about it', while compliant British agents are 'cowardly' in giving into them.

In a wide-ranging discussion, we also covered the impact of the economic downturn on the book business and publishing programs, the rise of digitisation, the summit held between Canadian, Australia and New Zealand publishers, the impact of currency exchange rates, nonfiction's primacy over fiction, and even the return of Marxism and socialism (could this be the 1930s all over again?).

I like Henry's bullish attitude towards publishing in these troubled times.

'You can't just retreat ... and hide and cower until it's all over,' he told Koval. 'You still have to assume there's a market for good books.'

As well as broadcasting across Australia, ABC Radio National is also streamed over the internet, giving The Book Show an international audience. Its producers tell me that a sizeable portion of its audience is now online, and outside Australia. While some of these listeners are undoubtedly homesick Aussie expats, many more are simply book lovers who crave a daily dose of news, readings, interviews and reviews from the world of books.

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