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Kathy Keele Speaks At The Sydney Writers Festival 2010

Speeches and Opinions
May 26, 2010

Kathy Keele, CEO of the Australia Council for the Arts, addressed the Sydney Writers Festival 2010. She discussed recent developments in digital publishing technologies, books and ways that creating books is changing. She also explored the Australia Council for the Arts’ initiatives to enhance the arts in a digital world.

Good Morning.

First I acknowledge the Gadigal people of the Eora nation, traditional custodians of this land – and of this beautiful harbour – and pay my respects to their elders, past and present.

The future has, indeed, finally arrived … digital publishing is very much part of all our lives.

The Australia Council for the Arts is delighted to support the Sydney Writers Festival’s extensive coverage of this new media.  These focused events cover everything from the writer’s first engagement with interactive media, through to the negotiation of rights, to publication, to social networking …and the opportunity to carry hundreds of great books on a device that will tuck into your handbag.

Like many Australian consumers, I excitedly opened my own Kindle recently, ready to embrace this brave new world of e-books.  But my excitement dropped …once I realised that there weren’t – yet – a great deal of Australian books out there.  But things are changing fast.

The Australia Council earlier this year hosted two symposiums on digital publishing – one just across the harbour here at the Maritime Museum – and the turn out, across the publishing industry, was phenomenal.

Only yesterday, The Red Group, which includes Borders and Angus & Robertson, launched their kobo e-reader. Supported by most of Australian literary publishers that we support, they are loading new Australian titles every day.  And at good prices, up to $15 per book.  So this is good industry news.

The industry in Australia has undergone some serious scrutiny lately, as technology changes the way in which we write and create books, the way in which we publish books,  the way we are reading, the issue of digital rights, and the massive appeal of online buying.  We’ll be exploring all this here over the next few days.

It’s a strategic priority of the Australia Council to build arts content in this digital world, as well as online opportunities for artists of all kinds.  But this morning, let me just mention a few more developments around literature.

This Digital Festivals program is part of our ongoing commitment to support digital writing and publishing in Australia.   Our interest really took off about four years ago with a partnership between the Council and LAMP, the Laboratory of Advanced Media Production.

In a series of workshops, we brought together writers with IT and visual artists to create games and virtual worlds, where the reader enters into the ‘book’, travels through the story, and has the ability to manipulate outcomes. At the end of the workshop, participants were invited to pitch their stories to commercial games producers and TV stations, introducing writers to new opportunities for making a living through their art.

Story of the Future, we called this project… and as part of it, we produced a popular on-line feature, The Writers’ Guide to Making a Digital Living.  You can access this guide on the Australia Council’s website. I encourage you to take a look: it’s fun and it makes good sense.

Over the past two years our work has intensified with Australia’s publishers, particularly in the small to medium sector, to increase their knowledge of, and interaction with, the worldwide movement towards digital publication.

And I’m delighted to be standing here with Jim Alexander.  This year the Literature Board team is joining forces with Jim’s people at Copyright Agency Limited to extend this education program across the country.  We’re keeping publishers small and large in touch with the mechanics of digitisation and the complex issues related to digital rights and payments.

And we’ll be discussing these issues here, as Festival Artistic Director, Chip Rolley has designed a fantastic program of digital delights that will inform and entertain us all.

I congratulate Chip on his inspired programming. So let’s get started …!