Largest collection of NZ ebooks could be ready by Christmas

Copyright Licensing chief executive Paula Browning

An initiative by Digital Publishing New Zealand and Creative NZ could see the largest collection of New Zealand ebooks available before Christmas.

Digital Publishing New Zealand (NZ), whose shareholders are the New Zealand Society of Authors and the Publishers Association of New Zealand, is managed by Copyright Licensing and aims to convert New Zealand print books, of both new and old titles, into digital for purchase world wide.

Copyright Licensing and Creative NZ had funded 400 books to be converted, Copyright Licensing chief executive Paula Browning said, but any New Zealand ebook could be listed on the website.

“So others that publishers have converted into ebooks themselves will be there too.”

This collection would be the largest collection of New Zealand titles, she said.

DPNZ was working toward making this content available before Christmas, she said, but the launch of the website would be determined by the availability of the content. 

Copyright Licensing matched funding from Creative NZ of $50,000 to establish a $100,000 conversion fund for DPNZ, a release from the Ministry for Culture and Heritage said.

DPNZ provides storage and distribution services for www.greatnzebooks.co.nz, where publishers can choose to have their converted titles made available.  Customers can then click through to a retailer to purchase the title.

Retailers included Kobo, as well as a local retailer and a number of other international retailers, Ms Browning said, and the Service as a Software powered digital warehouse where the books would be stored was ready and waiting for content.

The Digital Publishing website said that a collective agreement had been reached with Kobo for rights holders who had agreements with DPNZ to have their titles sold through the company.

“A favourable profit share, above Kobo’s usual terms, has been agreed. Negotiations with another online retailer who is new to ebooks are underway.”

Ms Browning said the test version of the website was ready and would be promoted next month at the Frankfurt Book Fair.

Conversion involved shipping more than half the books to India to be converted into e-books, and then proof-read upon their return to New Zealand, she said.

“It’s a very laborious process but I’m sure it will be worth it…they’re amazing New Zealand books that we’re going to be able to bring back to life.”

Books approved for conversion so far include titles by Margaret Mahy, Bill Manhire, Owen Marshall and Alan Duff.

The initiative was not for profit, Ms Browning said, and the publishers would only be asked to cover costs, such as administration and web hosting.

“The idea is to maximise the return back to the publisher and the author, rather than having a middleman taking up all that money.”

Ms Browning said Copyright Licensing had started talking to libraries about making the titles available through the New Zealand library system but the model for e-books in libraries internationally had not yet settled down

“That sort of lending versus owning model is still quite grey.  In saying that you know we always manage to do these things better than anybody in New Zealand because we’re small and we all get on really well so I envisage that we will definitely be able to get something sorted in that space next year.”

She said the publisher would dictate the price of the e-books and there was an expectation that the digital version would be cheaper.  She said that as the publishers saw a return from e-books, the price would drop.

Publishers Association of New Zealand president Kevin Chapman said in an email that New Zealanders were quickly gaining access to digital books and it was important they could access New Zealand books as well as those from overseas.

“For writers and publishers, Digital Publishing NZ and the Great NZ E-books initiative does just that, offers New Zealanders a change to read digital versions of their favourite New Zealand books.”

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