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Government to establish new Book Council of Australia, industry campaigns and data collection among its tasks

Prime Minister Tony Abbott announced during the Prime Minister’s Literary Awards on 8 December that the government will establish a new Book Council of Australia.

A joint press release from the Prime Minister and the Minister for the Arts said the Book Council would ‘promote Australian writing nationally and internationally and encourage and promote reading’.

‘This new body will ensure Australia’s literary sector and its writers are strongly supported. It will strengthen the sector’s capacity to respond to rapid change brought by new technologies.’

Members of the new Book Council of Australia will be ‘drawn from a wide range of literary and industry organisations’. These include: the Australian Writer’s Guild, National Library of Australia, Australian Society of Authors, Australian Publishers Association, Australian Booksellers Association, Australian Library and Information Association, Copyright Agency, Small Press Network, Australian Agents Association, Miles Franklin Award and Children’s Book Council.

The council’s main tasks will be to run industry-wide campaigns to raise the profile of Australian writing; establish an integrated strategy for a sustainable industry; assist in ongoing research and data collection; increase industry access to professional development activities; and support new initiatives in the literary sector.

Among its immediate areas of focus will be to develop a deeper understanding of Australian readers and how to reach them; explore how the sector can better harness new technologies; expand the visibility and effectiveness of literary awards in Australia; and promote strategies to improve access to Australian content and adequately recompense its creators.

The government has not yet announced the level of funding attached to the council but industry sources say it is ‘significant’.

Australian Booksellers Association (ABA) CEO Joel Becker told Books+Publishing that he was ‘thrilled’ that a book industry body was being formed ‘after years of lip service’. ‘This is a positive outcome after all the hard work of the Book Industry Collaborate Council,’ he said. As previously reported by Books+Publishing, the establishment of a Book Industry Council of Australia was proposed in the Book Industry Collaborative Council’s final report in September 2013.

Australian Publishers Association (APA) president Louise Adler said that a Book Council ‘recognises the need for a whole-of-industry approach to the future’.

The establishment of the Book Council of Australia moves responsibility for the book industry from the Department of Industry to the Ministry for the Arts.

Becker said he was ‘very comfortable’ with this move, which he said brings the industry under an Arts Minister who is supporting the book industry in ‘a tangible way’.

 

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