After she commented on my posts about UK book festivals, I contacted Liz Ward, leading organizer of the Leeds Big Bookend Festival, which exists “to celebrate Leeds’ rich literary heritage and to inspire the next generation” and features star writers such as leading UK poet Tony Harrison, for her opinion on the incorporation of e-readers and the major e-book platforms (Amazon, Kobo etc.) into literary and cultural events and festivals.
Liz Ward “is a specialist lawyer running her own niche practice in Leeds—Virtuoso Legal. Her work covers the protection and commercialisation of intellectual property such as copyright, brands, software and technology.
“Originally a biochemist, and with a strong leaning towards reading factual books rather than novels, she does enjoy a good biography or anything humorous. Liz found her passion for books at the tender age of 5 when she was first introduced to a public library and the writings of Beatrix Potter.”
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TeleRead: What has your experience been like so far in trying to involve e-reader companies and platforms like Amazon in the festival?
Liz Ward: E-Reader companies such as Nook, Amazon and Apple (iPad) either ignored us (Nook), or we found it impossible to contact the right person (Apple and Amazon). I mean, who do you contact? We approached their corporate social responsibility teams. However, finding exactly who to speak to is nigh on impossible unless you have a name. As our festival name is “The Big Bookend,” with a twist on it being the end of physical books, we were sure we’d attract some interest, but we didn’t.
TR: What could book festival involvement offer these companies?
LW: We wanted e-readers at the events. In particular I wanted iPads, as children’s books come alive on these devices, and a key part of our event is to attract young writers, readers and those whose first language isn’t English (or at least not English at home, and those from socially deprived inner city backgrounds). E-readers are brilliant for that audience. The festival would showcase the e-reader for everyone and especially as a device to help the disadvantaged.
TR: How would you like to involve these companies? Where could they add most value?
LW: We’d still like to involve e-readers! Children’s book events could be transformed with them—or we could even offer them as prizes, etc.
TR: With the way publishing is evolving, is this kind of involvement something that the book world needs to develop?
LW: My view is that publishing needs to embrace e-readers now. There is a place for books, book shops and everyone—but as always e-readers are a game changer as to how publishers and book stores do business. If the two fight each other, and see each other as rivals then there is little hope. Technology will always triumph.