NZ non-fiction lives on like artefacts

Barry Crump Collected Stories. Designed by Chris Chisnall,  illustration by Mat Tait. Produced by Nelson book publishers ...
Potton and Burton

Barry Crump Collected Stories. Designed by Chris Chisnall, illustration by Mat Tait. Produced by Nelson book publishers Potton and Burton.

Barry Crump's caricature leans against his full-capped name with his typical hat, baggy swanndri tightened with a belt and his casual gumboots.

The title - Barry Crump Collected Stories stands solid on the front cover. It's very straightforward, very Barry Crump-ish.

And in fact, it's darn well near the same cover as Hang on a Minute Mate - same red background, same caricature (he's a bit younger), a book first released in 1961.

Nelson publisher Robbie Burton.
Martin de Ruyter

Nelson publisher Robbie Burton.

But that's what Nelson book publishers Potton and Burton were after - a cover that made a clearreference to the old times.

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"He's such an iconic New Zealand author," executive director and publisher Robbie Burton said.

"We thought it might be really nice to reference that cover. It's a very deliberate attempt to get a retro feel to it."

Independent Nelson-based company Potton and Burton publish a range of New Zealand non-fiction books, having originally focused on photographic and outdoor books.

Over the last decade that broadened to a diverse list of New Zealand non-fiction publications including quality children's books.

Burton says a good cover will make you curious about what's inside - it's one of the hardest parts of his job.

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"Realistically we have no way of field-testing covers," he says.

Instead, they'll gauge the opinion of their trusted customers.

Burton's looking for the feel of the book.

"It needs to kind of grab you from the shelf," he says.

"I get a sense of what's likely to work, it's an art form. It's definitely not a science."

Potton and Burton sell non-fiction stories - the kind that grace your coffee table with beautiful pictures or poke out a bit too far on your wooden bookshelf.

It's an area of the publishing industry that's been immune to the rise of the eBook.

"Arguably, eBooks have poured the focus back onto the printed books," Burton says. "The standard of production of printed books has gone up, people are more interested in having an artefact and having something to hold."

Burton would argue that in the last ten years the standards of book publishing have risen.

"Having something to hold is an entirely different experience from having something on a kindle," he says.

For example, Burton has no trouble selling books between $60 and $100 "because they are an entirely different experience to the eBook experience".

"All the predictions that print is dead isn't true. If you want an artefact on your coffee table or by the bed, print still out gains the eBook in that sense."

 

 - Stuff

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