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PM welcomes export challenge for book industry

27 January 2004
Media Statement

PM welcomes export challenge for book industry

New Zealand-published books earned $117 million in export earnings last year, according to a new government report launched this evening by Prime Minister and Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage Helen Clark.

The report, Exports of New Zealand Published Books, presents the findings of a publishing research project commissioned by the Ministry for Culture and Heritage.

The aim of the research was to assess the significance of book publishing to the creative industries by determining, in particular, how many of the 3,600 titles published in New Zealand in 2002 were exported. The report was funded from the additional $1 million allocated for New Zealand authors and literature announced in the 2002 Budget.

Helen Clark said the report describes an industry which is significant both in terms of size and turnover, and one that has considerable economic potential.

“In 2002 more than 600 book publishers had a combined annual turnover estimated at $204 million, and more than 50 per cent, about $117 million, was generated by exports.

“These figures demonstrate that as well as making an important contribution to our country’s cultural life, writing and publishing also provide sustainable employment and contribute to economic growth.

“The $117 million in foreign exchange earnings from books published in New Zealand in 2002 compares with the $200 million per annum estimated export earnings from the screen production industry.

“I am confident that, in the wake of this report, the publishing industry will be encouraged to accept the challenge of delivering a sustainable future for publishers and authors.

“The Ministry of Culture of Heritage is now working with the Writers’ Consultative Group and industry representatives on a strategy to grow audiences and markets for New Zealand literature.

“As a top priority, consideration is being given to a strategy for targeting the Australian market.

“Already the majority of foreign export earnings come from the sale of educational books to Australia and the United States. A focus on Australia would build on that, and also recognise the cultural and business similarities across the Tasman.

“The report underlines the economic opportunities which can flow from a strong creative sector, and I look forward to those opportunities being developed in the years ahead,” Helen Clark said.

Last year the Ministry for Culture and Heritage released A Measure of Culture, a survey of New Zealanders’ cultural experiences and cultural spending. The survey confirmed that buying books is our top cultural activity – 44 per cent of adults had bought at least one book in the four-week reference period, and visiting the library was ranked the number two cultural activity. The survey also showed that New Zealanders spent $244 million on books and other publications in 2000/01.

The two reports, Exports of New Zealand Published Books and A Measure of Culture, are available online at

Further complementary research commissioned by New Zealand Trade and Enterprise, which has yet to be released, highlights the significance of publishing to the creative industries.

Exports of New Zealand Published Books

(Fact Sheet for the report)

In 2002 the government provided an additional $1 million annually to support New Zealand authors and literature. Part of this funding is for on-going audience development and marketing off-shore. To develop a strategy for this, better information on New Zealand book publishing activity was needed than was currently available.

In 2003 the Ministry for Culture and Heritage commissioned Dialogue Consultants Ltd to undertake research comprising a survey of the full population of publishers and sample questionnaires and interviews. The report, Exports of New Zealand Published Books, was completed in October 2003. Its authors are Murray Ellis (lead), Dr Tom Ludvigson and Dr Peter Phillips.

Key findings include:

- annual turnover for the New Zealand book publishing industry was assessed at over $204 million in 2002;
- forex revenue from book publishing is around $117 million, comprising $19 million from exports through New Zealand ports, $93 million from New Zealand published books printed overseas, and $4 million from the sale of rights and royalty income;
- 645 publishers were identified by the researcher - nearly two-thirds are sole operators;
- a few specialized publishing companies account for the great bulk of publishing turnover in New Zealand, while there are many small boutique publishers with an annual turnover of less than $100,000;
- 18 wholly overseas-owned publishers were in the survey - they published an average of 64 titles each in 2002 and each exported an average of 35 titles;
- 3,600 titles were published in New Zealand in 2002, of which 2000 were exported;
- educational books, mostly bound for Australia and USA and particularly early childhood literacy resources, made up 66% of export titles from New Zealand publishing companies;
- literature genres made up 20% of the titles published and 16% of the titles exported;
- $7 million is earned through exporting New Zealand literature mainly to Europe, Australia, Britain and Canada;
- sales of New Zealand literature titles within New Zealand are at around $15 million, which represents 18% of the domestic market for all New Zealand published books;
- the publishing of New Zealand literature is considered risky and will generally only be undertaken if support is available – either through a government grant, or from an academic institution or through cross-subsidy from a commercial best seller;
- many publishers specializing in literature are small operators whose attempts to export result in a net loss;
- the majority of small publishing operations have little expertise in international marketing and have ineffective mechanisms for collecting revenue from overseas;
- New Zealand’s largest exporters of books have achieved success through understanding their specific target markets and forging strong connections with relevant networks.
The report may be downloaded from Printed copies of the report may be obtained at cost by contacting the Ministry for Culture and Heritage (04 4994229)

Some related material

A Measure of Culture: Cultural experiences and cultural spending in New Zealand

In 2003 the Ministry for Culture and Heritage and Statistics New Zealand released this report, which provides a detailed statistical picture of cultural consumption in New Zealand. Findings include:
- book purchasing was the most popular of the cultural activities surveyed, with 1.2 million people, or 44 % of the adult population reporting buying at least one book in the four weeks before the survey (p 49);
- the second most popular activity was visiting public libraries, with about 1.1 million people doing so in the reference period of four weeks (p 3);
- three in five of the people who bought books, or wanted to buy books, in the survey period were very interested or somewhat interested in books written by New Zealanders (p 56);
- women outnumbered men among those who were interested in books by New Zealand authors (p 53); and
- New Zealanders spent $244 million on books and “other publications” in 2000/01 (p 55) (“other publications” exclude magazines and newspapers, and make up a small part of the total).

This report is available from Statistics New Zealand or by downloading from

New Zealand Book Publishing: Industry Development Issues

Commissioned by New Zealand Trade and Enterprise in 2003, this report has yet to be released. Provisional findings include:
- turnover for newspaper publishing and periodicals in NZ is over $1.4 billion;
- turnover for book publishing at around $200 million is less than for newspapers, however, book publishing accounts for 75% of all NZ publishing exports;
- 80% of New Zealand published books are printed overseas;
- the total domestic market for all books is over $200 million - New Zealand publishers’ share of this market is estimated at 43%;
- there is evidence from supply, consumption and labour force statistics that New Zealand publishers’ share of the domestic market for books is increasing.


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