NZ Book sales defy digital doomsayers

NZ Book Month is back with the same plan it’s had for the last seven years: to promote books, reading and literacy amongst all Kiwis, young and old. To do this the organisers are repeating last year’s Books Change Lives campaign, and distributing more than four million $5 vouchers, aimed at putting a book in the hands of every single New Zealander. This simple idea got extraordinary results last year, when New Zealand was the only country in the developed world where book sales rose rather than fell.

Last year’s campaign won international plaudits both for NZ Book Month and its agency Rapport Advertising and Marketing taking out four awards at the prestigious 2011 Promo Awards in Chicago, and the Not-for-profit Award at the 2011 TVNZ-NZ Marketing Awards.

It was an immense undertaking, says Rapport’s director Mary Robbins, and getting buy-in from the country’s publishers and retailers was the hardest part. “Last year about 85 percent were onboard. But this year it is at 90 percent, meaning all the big retailers are now participating, including the Warehouse.”

“APN has also become involved this year, meaning the vouchers are in the New Zealand Herald this year, which is amazing. Even regional papers like the Wairarapa Times are publishing the vouchers. Reach Media are the letterbox distributors, and this year online retailer Lasoo have a digital $5 voucher available to download, which is great,” says Robbins.

Benchmarks were difficult to set, as last year’s campaign was a world-first. That one aimed for a one percent redemption rate. Amazingly, the rate was 2.25 percent, meaning 100,000 people got themselves a new book. This year, Robbins says, she’d like to double that.

“Already the number of community events, and the number of ‘activists’ organising them, is up 50 percent on last year. There are over 400 community events from Stewart Island to Dargaville, from parades, to beach BBQs, to author readings. Last year a lot of people donated their vouchers to Christchurch, with was lovely to see. We encourage anyone who doesn’t need or want the vouchers to pass them on to someone who will. It doesn’t have to be Christchurch, it could be a school,” she suggests.

The National Library and Caltex are delivering vouchers to each and every school – one each for every single student. There is also a link to get the voucher at www.nzbookmonth.co.nz, available from 5 March to download. Plus join NZ Book month on Facebook.

In January and February of last year, New Zealand book sales were down eight percent. In March, as a direct result of the initial campaign, they were up 12.5 percent year on year, and sales continued to increase across April and May, across all categories, particularly non-fiction and children’s.

The book industry still remains under siege on several fronts, nervously watching the next move of Amazon.com and Apple, and the onslaught of e-readers and kindles. Piracy, a thorny issue for the music and film industries, is now also threatening books. Digital protection systems set up by publishers can be easily hacked, and illegally downloading a bestseller takes less than 60 seconds. Last month one piracy operation, with an annual turnover estimated at $15 million, was shut down an alliance of publishers shut down. The filesharing sites had 400,000 ebooks available for free illegal downloads, and made money from advertising, donations and the sale of premium-level accounts.

Nielsen data recorded sales worth $154 million in New Zealand last year, up slightly on $152.45 million, but this figure doesn’t include Whitcoulls data, so should be even higher.

And despite the digital dogs, Kindles, and iPads, snapping at their heels, New Zealand’s authors and publishers will get a huge fillip later this year. New Zealand is this year’s guest of honor at Germany’s Frankfurt Book Fair, the world’s largest publishing event, which is attended by over 300,000 avid readers.

Book sales

  • 7.2 percent decline in Australian book sales in 2011
  • 7.2 per cent decline in British book sales in 2011
  • 4.5 per cent decline in US book sales in 2011
  • 0.1 per cent increase in NZ book sales in 2011

 (Source: Nielsen BookScan. Note: NZ figure excludes Whitcoulls)

Ad credits as follows:

Rapport Advertising and Marketing is the agency.

Mickey Pillay is the Creative Director

Mary Robbins is the copywriter

Michael Stephen is the photographer

Printer:  Blue Star and Print Link




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