Do editors need government subsidies?

Most of an article in today’s Age by Michael Heyward, the head of the critically and commercially successful Text Publishing, shows how well the Australian book industry operates in the market.

On Heyward’s figures, 60% of books sold in Australia are published in Australia, which if true is remarkable given the range and quality of imported books (of course some of the 60% would be overseas-authored books for which local publishers have bought the Australian rights). According to Heyward, our mix of bookshops is better than those in Britain, the US or Canada. Australians, he says, are near the top of the list for book consumption per capita (though on actually reading books we are typical of the Anglosphere, according to this recent Morgan Poll).

The only statistic he can find to suggest, in his view, that there is anything wrong is the number of books published per million people, in which we ‘lag’ behind other countries – but this is surely in the worthless factoid department since what is the possible rationale for yet more books when not even the most dedicated reader could get through the 8,602 titles that were published in Australia in 2003-04? (And most of the countries he mentions are not English speaking, and cannot use foreign publishers in the way Australians can).

But Heyward is determined to find something for the government to spend our money on, and it is editors. Continue reading “Do editors need government subsidies?”