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Is The Print Copy The Future?
“There is ultimately nothing to match the physical, palpable matter of communication in one’s hands”, Wole Soyinka wrote in the epilogue to Green Cards, Green Gods, his latest book, “even of a few pages”. If one discounts that statement as very much expected, coming from an 83 year old professor, here is Toni Kan’s thought about being handed a manuscript to blurb: “First thing I usually do is ask for a proof copy or a printed copy of the MS. I am a 47 year old man and reading online or off a tablet is not my default mode even though I own a kindle”. They are two generations apart, but the octogenarian professor and the middle aged novelist belong to the largest community among book readers. “If you had asked me five years ago about the future of e-books, I would have been really nervous,” one bookseller told the Chicago Tribune. “E-books have not taken over the landscape the way … some people feared.” And book sales have not necessarily fallen, at least in the United States, in spite of the distractions of social media. The Chicago Tribune reported: “Book sales — not including e-books and audiobooks — at independent bookstores increased about 2.6 percent in 2017 over the previous year, said Oren Teicher, CEO of the American Booksellers Association. The number of books sold at indie bookstores during the week before Christmas was the highest it’s been since the organization began collecting the data about a decade ago”. One growing segment of the book market is the audio book section. “Publishers saw a 30 percent increase in revenue from downloadable audiobooks in the first seven months of 2017 over the same period in 2016”, the Chicago Tribune reported, “according to the most recent data available from the Association of American Publishers”.

LABAF 2018: Season Of Renewal
Chaos and disorder in the world were the focus of the last edition of the Lagos Book and Art Festival (LABAF). For the 2018 edition, the organisers have settled for conversations around rebirth, renewal. “The 20th anniversary will take place in November 2018, four months to the sixth democratic elections of the fourth republic”, says Jahman Anikulapo, LABAF’s chief of organisation. “We want to use the occasion to examine everything that is possible about Nigeria’s rebirth”. The proposal for renewal jars sharply against the dystopian mood of last year’s Festival. The theme: Eruptions: Global Fractures and Our Collective Humanity was used to investigate the convulsions in the global political and economic space; the sort of angst that led to the decision by 17.4Million British voters to leave the European Union, the growing sympathy of Eastern Nigerians for Biafran Secession, the siege on Europe by Islamic militias and the various convulsions in the global polity that unsettle everybody. “We are not pretending that the crisis has gone away”, Anikulapo, a former Editor of The Guardian on Sunday insists, “but we want to ask ourselves: What if this place can work? What does it need?”

The British Novel, Sorry, Its Literary Fiction, Is In A State Of Coma
The Arts Council of England (ACE), essentially the parent body of the British Council overseas, has taken a good look at the prospects of literary fiction in Britain. They are not looking good. A study commissioned and funded by the ACE finds that (1) Print sales of literary fiction have fallen over the last decade, particularly after the recession of 2008. Today, despite some recent positive indicators, they remain significantly below where they stood in the mid-noughties (2) There is only a small ‘long tail’ of novels that sell in sufficient quantities to support an author; all bar the top 1,000 writers (at a push) in the country sell too few books to make a career from sales alone (3) The price of a literary fiction book has fallen in real terms over the last 15 years. Not only are book sales down by both volume, but, crucially, publishers are receiving less money for every copy sold (4) While ebook sales have made up much of the fall in print sales elsewhere in the book market, this does not appear to be the case for literary fiction. Genre and commercial fiction predominate in ebook format (5) Large prizes have become even more important to literary fiction (5) Advances are very likely to have fallen for most writers. (6) Literary fiction is dominated by ‘insider networks’; breaking into these still proves tough for many. (7)Not-for-profit support for literary writing is unable to fill the gaps created by the above.

…..Where The Writer Does Find Support
This is how writers in Britain get support, and the Nigerian arts advocate can study these models. There are a range of grants on offer for writers that, in the overall context described in the report, play an increasing role in supporting literary writers. “The problem is that these resources are limited and the demands placed on them unprecedented. The most obvious port of call for writers is Arts Council England. It’s a significant source of not-for-profit support. There were grants from organisations like the Royal Literary Fund (RLF). Founded in 1790, the RLF is a charitable organisation that pays out grants to writers facing financial hardship. They also offer pensions, fellowships and help to place writers in universities to develop their writing. “The work of the RLF is invaluable”, the report says. “It rightly helps those writers most in need, those who have, for example, had an accident or debilitating illness. While invaluable then, for many writers RLF support will not be available”. The Royal Society of Literature also makes awards to writers; these include the Brookleaze Grants which give writers time away from jobs to focus on writing, the report notes. The Society of Authors offers broad based support to writers and invaluable advice. It has an Author’s Foundation and works with the K Blundell Trust on dispensing awards to writers. From 2015 awards totalling £230,000 had been awarded each year. In addition they have a P.D. James Memorial Pension Fund which gives out small pensions to writers over 60.

Compiled by staff of Festac News Agency


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