Books Create Australia responds to COVID-19 Pandemic

To find the latest health news on COVID-19 visit the Department of Health website.

Further information may be available from the State or Territory health departments: ACT | NSW | NT | QLD | SA | TAS | VIC | WA

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, Australia’s book industry is acting rapidly.

A lot has wisely been put on hold for the interests of community health and safety. But as bookshops, publishers, libraries and authors – we’re still here to bring books that educate, inform, entertain and inspire Australians.

We want to make sure Australians of all ages are still learning, feeding their imaginations, finding meaning in stories, and still connecting with others – we believe reading and books play a key role in that.

Why are books essential to our wellbeing?

Books Create Australia is currently talking to the government, making sure they know that we love our books – and that we think books are still important and should be supported during this time.

We understand that the immediate priority is on health and security, but the arts is crucial to our wellbeing during the crisis and recovery afterwards. We need to books to help people young and old to keep learning. We need stories to nourish, to entertain and to inspire.

We need books to sustain us and keep us connected during this time.

Books can help with those needs. We know:

Below, you will find ways that we are responding and helping Australia during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Libraries

Here’s the libraries’ COVID-19 resource and response page. It includes:

They are still providing their crucial services, and have many resources for people to access online and remotely.

As part of a special Books Create Australia agreement, we’ve broadened and removed barriers for accessing online library Storytimes.

If you’d like more ideas about what what you can do with your libraries online, this ABC Life article has plenty of tips and ideas from actual librarians.

Authors

The ASA are updating the community as regularly as possible on their news page in regards to their response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
They’re looking at ways to support writers during this time, and are continuing to participate in roundtable discussions with the Australia Council and Office for the Arts. They are calling out for authors to fill in this survey on the impacts of COVID-19 on author incomes in order to provide essential data to the government.
While the ASA does not administer the Writers Benevolent Fund, they are proud of their longtime association with the Trustees and encourage authors affected by COVID-19 to apply for funding, where they are eligible.
The ASA are also looking to inspire authors and illustrators with ideas on how to adapt during this difficult time by listing positive initiatives from the arts sector in Australia and across the globe.

Booksellers

Here’s the ABA’s resources and response to COVID-19.

They’ve got information and resources for:

Consumers have been urged to buy local – as our independent booksellers are quite vulnerable during this time.

If you want information about your local bookstore, opening hours, delivery options and other vital information – you can visit this database put together by the ABA and Books+Publishing.

Book supply chains are still running – to ensure our bookstores are stocked up and ready to ship out books to everyone.

Publishers

The APA has set up a special COVID-19 information and news page – which will be updated regularly.

The Australian Publishers Association is working to help keep the book business running – providing important information to everyone involved in making books, ensuring that cash flow and distribution and supply chains continue.

Educational publishers have stepped up to help schools and other educational providers transition into online learning – you can read more about what they’re doing in terms of improving access, offering free content and other forms of support.

Publishers are also putting funding and resources into promoting reading and the book industry. Which brings us to the next point – Australia Reads.

Australia Reads initiative

As an industry, we’re supporting these activities with the #AustraliaReadsAtHome campaign – which is part of the bigger Australia Reads project. It’s here to champion the power of reading and literacy.

The #AustraliaReadsAtHome hashtag can be followed and used to promote the many benefits of reading to those who are going into quarantine or self-isolation. It’s also a great way to keep younger ones entertained if schools are closed.

The Australia Reads festival begins Tuesday 1 September 2020 and culminates with the main event, Australian Reading Hour on Thursday 17 September. Find out more about Australia Reads.

Stay up to date and join the Books Create Australia community

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If you can’t find the information you’re looking for on this website or have some good news to share, fill out this form or please email hello@bookscreate.com.au.

For more specific information you can visit these websites:

And as always, stay in if you can, stay safe, look after each other, and stay connected.

We’ll be doing our best to keep bringing you books – we’ll be sharing news about what the book community is doing during these challenging times.

Thanks for supporting us and being a part of it.

Book industry partners come to agreement on copyright

Books Create Australia, the collaboration between the Australian Booksellers Association (ABA), the Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA), the Australian Publishers Association (APA) and the Australian Society of Authors (ASA) has announced a special arrangement for library storytimes during the COVID-19 outbreak.

For the duration of the pandemic, virtual storytimes will be sanctioned by an industry agreement. It is the policy of the Boards of the APA and ASA that their members suspend any requirements for copyright permission to be sought, in order to allow libraries to make recordings* or livestream storytimes so children aren’t denied this important and much-loved service.

To support libraries delivering storytimes online, ALIA, the APA and the ASA have made this joint statement:

‘The Australian Publishers Association, the Australian Library and Information Association and the Australian Society of Authors share a common goal for all children to be able to enjoy books and stories from the earliest years. Library-run storytimes make this opportunity available to many families, including those without books at home.

‘While the Copyright Act enables the performance of a picture book in some circumstances, the APA, the ALA, and ALIA are taking these steps to clarify any doubts. We value a safe environment, where libraries feel confident to adapt early literacy activities such as storytime for online delivery, via an open livestream or recording.

‘It is the policy of the Australian Publishers Association and the Australian Society of Authors that its members allow such use without any need for specific permission or payment’.

The agreement on virtual storytimes follows on from earlier agreements between ALIA, the APA and the ASA about the delivery of library run storytimes outside library buildings, the use of book covers to promote books and authors, and copying of the pull-out elements of books so as to replace the originals which have been lost by other borrowers.


*All libraries may deliver their Storytime sessions online, through a digital platform, such as Facebook Video, Youtube, Vimeo.

Storytime may either be live streamed or a library may make available a recording of Storytime online, provided that the recording is non-downloadable to the public. If practicable, the live steam or recordings will be made available only to library patrons who have signed in to access their library’s website.

This policy is temporary and will remain in force whilst COVID-19 remains as a WHO-declared pandemic.

Once this period has ended, libraries agree to destroy all recordings, and take down any online recordings. Libraries agree to provide bibliographic details of the featured book with any published recording of Storytime, including the title, author, illustrator and publisher.This image is putting the logos and names of the organisation at the top of the page to make it seem more authoritative and represent the interest groups

The challenge of reading regularly with Australian Reading Hour Ambassador, Rachael Johns

The challenge of reading regularly

It’s perhaps one of those paradoxical quirks of humankind like avoiding eating our greens and exercising: we are increasingly learning the benefits of reading, yet signs show there’s a reduction in the pastime. With competition over entertainment options, and less time in busy schedules, what’s really at the heart of not maintaining a reading practice in adulthood, even if we really want to?

International bestselling women’s fiction author Rachael Johns spoke with us about the difficulties of reading regularly.

With another book out in October ( Just One Wish published by Harlequin Australia ) it’s a busy year for the author and mum of three boys from Western Australia. Rachael is this year one of the Australian Reading Hour Ambassadors, something she says is a “real honour.” She’s keen to share the message that reading is a joyful, relaxing, accessible – and crucial – skill to develop and sustain.

“I’m excited to be part of ARH as I want to break down misconceptions about reading; a lot of which is carried from growing up. I want people to experience reading who haven’t given it a chance in adulthood. The prospect of bringing non-readers to reading is exciting.”

On what holds us back from reading more she says, “We’re blessed with so many entertainment options these days, but in our lifestyle there’s pressure to be available 24/7. Teachers are replying to emails at 10.30 at night. We get calls throughout the day and night. We’re always busy and if you’re not, it’s almost like there’s something wrong. We’re expected to achieve and do so much and that takes away time from reading.”

Reading can be a time for happy discovery as a young child. We read silly, colourful stories that somehow, as we grow, are not seen as serious forms of learning. “Many parents unfortunately don’t value reading as much as maybe Maths and think that picture books and fiction are just fun and frivolous. It’s important for kids that books and stories are interesting. Reading fiction can be as powerful as learning from a history book,” Rachael says.

As a former English teacher, Rachael believes some of the reasons we don’t carry reading into our adult lives, besides getting busy with work, kids and life commitments, is down to challenging high school English texts.

“The books they make you read in high school are challenging for teenagers! We had to read Far From the Manning Crowd. I didn’t know what was going on and it was far too long. So many good books are out there but not in the curriculum. I think what happens is we are forced to read these hard books in high school, so reading feels like a chore. We forget that we ever enjoyed reading as a kid and associate reading with school and bad things.”

She’s seen this legacy broken by popular titles. “Books that people have mocked like Harry Potter and Fifty Shades of Grey have brought people back to reading. One of my colleagues shared that she hadn’t read a book since high school and was recommended Fifty Shades of Grey. She read it and said “It was just so easy to read!” I told her there are a lot of books that are easy to read. Many have the misconception that reading is hard.”

Shame and other emotions around reading may impact on our reading habits too. In an article about social media competing with reading time, it opens with the idea that our relationship to reading is likely defined by guilt.

“It’s funny, I actually haven’t thought about guilt in terms of not reading before. I have more so felt regret or a wish to read. It’s possible we feel guilty taking time to read instead of feeling guilty about not reading as well.”

“Another feeling I have about reading is overwhelm. There are so many good books out there that I want to read, but there’s just not enough time in the world. I buy way more books than I will ever get a chance to read and I almost feel anxious about the books I won’t get to.”

“There are so many benefits to reading we don’t think about. It’s almost like reading is a luxury or something we don’t have time for – like having a massage or getting a facial. But reading can help you relax and feel great and it’s much more accessible than going to a beautician. Libraries provide free access and are fabulous spaces for quiet time.”

When writing her own books Rachael says she’s aware of making her stories accessible. “I want everyone to be able to read books. As much as I love literary fiction, it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. I don’t want people to say, “I’m not smart enough to read books.” Often my editor reminds me to use the most simple word, not to talk down to people, but to make the story clear and smooth. I would prefer that my characters connect with people and offer universal experiences. I want my writing to be as accessible as possible.”

Interestingly, the ABC Life article claims that social media, often touted as one of the main competitors to reading books, is an enabler of reading and nurturing a reading practice.

“I do agree with this article when I think about it,” Rachael says. “Things that really are a hindrance to reading include Netflix and online games. But there are a lot of online book clubs and platforms. People find friends within online book communities.

“These days we are often quite isolated and may not know our neighbours. A lot of people are lonely. The online book community gives them a chance to talk with people and feel connected. I know that Reese Witherspoon’s book club, which has 1.1 million followers, is doing great things for reading. She’s making reading fashionable and cool. There are a lot of people who only read one or two books a year and they are reading the books that these celebrities are pushing. They’re doing good work and social media is facilitating it.

Challenges on Good Reads and Instagram encourage people to read – as well as the Australian Reading Challenge. “Despite the Facebook scroll syndrome” Rachael says, “social media does help people get excited about reading. It’s about setting boundaries to find balance and being your own parents.”

If we’re not reading books as much as we used to be, and reading more so from social media posts that are shorter, what might this mean for our future? Are we headed for a post-literate dystopia?

“As long as we’re consuming stories, it’s okay, I guess. We might be listening to audiobooks or reading ebooks. If we did give up books and reading, literacy levels would drop.

“Coming from a teaching background and having three sons, I can see the difference from the kids who have been read to and the ones who are readers themselves from childhood and importantly, through adolescence. Those who don’t read are generally not as good spellers and they don’t have a wide vocabulary.

“It’s not just English this affects but every single subject. If you can’t read the questions in maths, you don’t understand how things are phrased in maths.

“Having low literacy also makes communicating with people harder. So in a world without reading, it would have a flow on effect. Books do spread knowledge. Reading a post, or even an encyclopedia about a place is one thing, but there’s nothing like reading a fiction book where you become the main character and experience the place as they do. We will still have TV, games and movies but we might not take the content on as much. So that would be very sad. How would we document history? It would be so easy to put or gain everything online but books regulate things more.”

Books and reading have shaped Rachael’s life, so how much does she get to read now, with such a busy schedule? “I read every day. I always have one book on the go, sometimes more than one if I have an audiobook going as well. I read every single night before I go to bed from ten minutes to an hour. Maybe once or twice a year that doesn’t happen.

“I always have my book with me for something to do if I’m waiting. I often go early to pick up the kids from school to get a good parking spot and read for 20 minutes before the kids through the gates. On the weekend, I allow myself a bit more time to read. Audiobooks have definitely helped me to read more because I can do that while exercising or driving. Audiobooks for kids are undervalued. They might complain about fighting and bickering on long drives but audiobooks are the saviour!

“And reading always makes me feel good. I became a writer because I love reading and story. It always makes me feel happy and relaxes me. It’s my treat. I know that sounds awful as it sounds like I feel guilty doing it, but reading is just so important.”

We asked Rachael for some tips for returning to reading:

  • Joining a book club is a good idea. There are many niche book clubs. Be sure you find the reads that are easiest for you to get into.
  • Read to your kids – this can create a routine for them and you might be inspired to read on.
  • Read short stories or novellas – there are plenty that are free and available online. They will be quicker to consume and give a sense of achievement.
  • Ask your friend who knows you well to recommend something for you.
  • Walk into a bookstore or library and say you’d like help finding a book. Staff members love these requests.
  • Try audiobooks. It’s a great way to consume a story that may help you appreciate books again. They’re also relaxing to get into.

For those who already read, here are some tips to increase your reading practice:

  • Audiobooks – give them a try if you haven’t.
  • Prioritise reading and have a routine. Read just as you’ve woken or before you go to bed.
  • Have a bath instead of a shower and read in it!
  • Always have a book with you because there are so many times in the day you can get stuck where you could be reading.
  • Try a speed reading course. Someone at work did one for business purposes and it helped them get through more books.
  • Keep a list of what you read and post it on Facebook. It allows me to look back, spurs me on and challenges me to read more the next year.
  • Join online book communities to keep you accountable.

The Australian Reading Hour is on 19 September 2019.

The Australian Reading Challenge is open now.

 

Out October 2019.