Hodge: publishing is 'unsung' success

<p>UK culture minister Margaret Hodge has dismissed calls for more Arts Council England funding for publishing, and said the industry could benefit from more entrepreneurial libraries. </p><p>Speaking exclusively to <em>The Bookseller</em> following today&#39;s Publishers Association keynote seminar, Hodge praised publishing for being &quot;our most robust creative industry&quot;. She added: &quot;We got a very good settlement for the arts. What the arts council does is fund where the market fails to support and I think we got it about right.&quot;</p><p>Literature is currently the smallest sector in Arts Council England&#39;s (ACE) budget. In 2010/11, the end of the recently agreed three-year funding cycle, regularly funded literature organisations will account for just &pound;6m of ACE&#39;s &pound;350m budget.</p><p>Hodge lamented the decline in book borrowing in Britain&#39;s public libraries, which she said fell 34% in the past ten years, despite libraries getting a 17% rise in funding during the same period. She said borrowing could rise if libraries followed the example of a Norwich library she recently visited. She added: &quot;It was buzzy, staffed with great people and very customer focused. You almost feel like you are going into your local bookshop.&quot;</p><p>During the PA seminar, The Value of Publishing to Society, Hodge agreed with chair Simon Juden that publishing was Britain&#39;s &quot;unsung success story&quot;, pointing out that the &pound;20bn publishing industry made up 7.5% of Britain&rsquo;s GDP. However she said that digitisation presented a test to the industry. </p><p>She added: &quot;The challenge comes from new technologies and the changing way we acquire and access information. We have to work together to find new business models to monetise and protect our creative industries.&quot;</p><p>Random House UK c.e.o. Gail Rebuck started the seminar by urging publishers to boost literacy levels. Rebuck argued that improving reading skills had societal benefits, citing RH statistics on adult emerging readers that 90% felt better about themselves, 79% more confident and 89% went on to read other books.</p><p>She said: &quot;Books change our world because they help us make sense of it - that is the profound transformational power of books. We must make it our collective responsibility that every child and adult learner is supported.&quot;</p><p>Conservative MP Tony Baldry spoke about non-fiction books and the &quot;double-edged sword&quot; of the internet. He said: &quot;Why should Oxford University Press and Cambridge University Press and other academic publishers continue to invest in on this front when they run the risk of being pirated?&quot; </p>