Books in Wales - Challenges and Achievements

Welsh Books Council

Books in Wales - Challenges and Achievements - 10 December 2010

That was the message conveyed by Elwyn Jones, Director of the Welsh Books Council, in his address to members of the Council during the Annual Meeting held recently at Llandrindod Wells at the invitation of Powys County Council.

Referring to one of the year’s main achievements, Mr Jones said: ‘During recent months, we have experienced one of the most important developments ever seen in the field of Welsh-language publishing. After the book trade had worked together to present evidence to Alun Fred Jones, the Minister for Heritage, additional funds were provided by the Welsh Assembly Government so that publishing houses could appoint creative editors; their task would be to work with authors and steer their books through the publishing process, thus ensuring that the titles published were of the highest possible standard.  This is an investment for which we are all very grateful.’

On a more cautious note, Elwyn Jones said that the past year had been an extremely challenging one for all sectors of the book trade, with the economic slump affecting sales through bookshops.

‘The closure of two Borders stores in Wales, at Cardiff and Swansea, highlighted the problems faced by the industry,’ said Elwyn Jones. He emphasised the need to maintain investment in the creative industries during a period of financial constraints, and underlined the contribution made by the book trade to the economy and culture of Wales.

‘As well as investing in our literary heritage by means of popular series such as Library of Wales, it is also vital that we invest in our contemporary authors, thereby appreciating the important contribution they have made in defining the nation and presenting Wales to the world.’

Following the Assembly Government’s financial settlement, the Books Council was extremely pleased that it had been able to protect the existing publishing grants in both languages for the next three years; this was seen as an indication of a new confidence in the book industry. However, in line with a number of other organisations, the Council faces a 12% cut in its revenue budget over the next three years.

In preparing for a new period, the Council also foresees that a reduction in local authority budgets could have an adverse effect on the policy of library purchasing, and the ability of schools to invest in reading materials.

‘The challenge now facing the Books Council will be to try to maintain the core services during a period of cutbacks – services which are vital if we are to maintain the exciting developments seen over recent years.’

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