Beyond The Bookseller Industry Awards

The Bookseller has announced the nominations for the 2012 Industry Awards. The shortlists, and the subsequent awards, provide a welcome means of recognising successful endeavours in the industry. The lists act as beacons too, highlighting examples of good practice worthy of imitation.

So the shortlists, and the awards themselves, are Good Things. But somehow I no longer feel excited when they are announced. The problem with the Industry Awards lies in their use of the term ‘Industry’. For the conception of the industry that these awards is an extremely limited one. The result is that the whole affair comes to look desperately old-fashioned. 

It may seem odd to call the lists limited when in some ways they are very wide-ranging. They cover, for example, retail, publishing, the library sector, and rights and agency. Any list of nominees that ranges across such organisations as Amazon, the Royal Society of Chemistry, WHSmith, Orkney library, and Jarrold’s book department is certainly diverse.

Yet seen against the background of the industry as a whole,  the limitations of the awards are inescapable. Today’s industry has seen the development of a new ecology of publication – an ecology that includes not only the classical models of the type that the awards focus on most, but also the development of self-publishing, open access publishing, cloud publishing, and various genres of grey literature.

In this context – one of enormous energy and innovation – The Bookseller Industry Awards simply look tired. They are surely yesterday’s news before they even happen.

And they are parochial. Yes, they range, in terms of nominees, from London to St Boswells, Dublin, and Orkney. But in today’s industry whose horizons – publishers, retailers, readers, or authors – really stop at, as it were, the cliffs of Dover (or of Moher, come to that)?

Here then is my own list of nominations for a new award, the working title for which is Monographer’s-list-of-industry-players-who-didn’t-make-the-shortlists-but-who-genuinely-set-the pulse-racing. To date the list has four names, though I hope you will help me add to them. 

They are (in no particular order):

  • 24symbols (aka ‘Spotify for books’, according to both the FT and the Wall Street Journal), making digital books available on the cloud;
  • Paperight, turning ‘anyone with any printer into a print-on-demand bookstore’;
  • Worldreader, giving children ‘in the developing world access to digital books’;
  • Amsterdam University Press, leaders in open access book publishing.

I’d welcome your suggestions for further nominations…


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