Feature

In Print DownUnder

Australia is HOT--and we're not just talking the temperature in Sydney, where the Summer Olympic Games have just been completed. Australian culture influences the whole world with its unique charm and, not surprisingly, its independent publishing industry
Imagine a country so far away that it takes almost a day to arrive by plane from just about any direction; a country whose interior is so desolate that three quarters of the entire land mass is termed 'sparsely populated'....

But also imagine a place whose relentless sunshine and consistently cloudless skies sing a beauty so intoxicating that you often forget to go inside. It might surprise some that, in spite of Australia's penchant for the outdoors, the publishing industry is healthy and thriving and providing the average Australian, whomever he or she is, with the ability to venture off toting books in hand.

The 18 million people hugging these distant shores prove to be a meager 7 % of the American population. When looking at the buying and reading habits of a very small market in a very large country it's a wonder that the industry would be turning over at all. In addition to the ubiquitous presence of the larger, multinational companies such as HarperCollins Australia and RandomHouse Australia, readers here support 219 publishing companies hiring fewer than twenty people.

In a 1997-98 survey of Australian publishers conducted by the Australian Bureau of statistics, 60% of all sales were Australian books, written and published domestically. This generated A$624 million out of A$1,036 million annual sales. And although 42 of the larger companies take 70% of the overall market, independent publishing has found faithful followers and continues to flourish.

Some of these unique clans include Pluto Press specializing in politics and social issues;

Fremantle Arts Centre Press representing writers and works form the Aboriginal and Western Australian communities;

(more next page...) Currency Press (specializing in the performing arts;

Fremantle Arts Centre Press, representing writers and works form the Aboriginal and Western Australian communities;

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Sybylla Press a publishing house dedicated to feminist titles;

and let's not forget the impressive contribution made to the world about the world, Lonely Planet which remains today an independent publishing phenomenon. The company is now established on several continents yet its hub remains faithfully in Melbourne with its original visionaries at its helm.

The books listed below can be ordered online from Gleebooks.com or Collins Booksellers, two of Australia's leading independent booksellers.

While at the Olympic Games in Sydney, visit Collins Booksellers' flagship bookstore in the new BROADWAY SHOPPING CENTRE, located within the historic former Grace Bros. retail store.

Books about Australia

Along with Olympic fever has come a burst of titles flying off the shelves intended to bring the world closer to Australia and Australians closer to their foibles. Some of these titles below will give you a taste and a feel of how life got started down here almost two hundred years ago and how it has fared ever since: Robert Hughes: A Fatal Shore A nostalgic look at the famous art critic's mother country. With depth and honesty and a touching regard for the land he left almost thirty years ago, Hughes travels to discover a multicultural gem of a place and delights in talking to a myriad of settlers who now call Australia their home.

Mandy Sayer and Louis Nowra : In the Gutter Looking at the Stars: A Literary Adventure Through Kings Cross.

Mandy Sayer, with her attachment to what is regarded as Sydney's seediest neighborhood, tours the streets and writings of a generation of literary talent who have considered Kings Cross their inspirational home.

Eric Stiller: Keep Australia on Your Left: Two Blokes, a Kayak, and a Bloody Big Country. An adventure story of a native New Yorker and canoeing fanatic who takes on a novice sportsman and a continent for more adventures than they ever expected.

John Birmingham: Leviathan, The Unauthorised Biography of Sydney.

The grisly side of the city's origin, its underground secret history and stories of crime and macabre acts. A suspenseful approach from a writer with a truly unique voice.

Author Stephani Stephens is a freelance writer, web producer, and former teacher who came to Sydney for a holiday three years ago and never left.


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