Sam Brown from Welsh publisher Gomer Press shares his views about the challenges of bilingualism and the opportunities of social reading.
Publishing in Wales
Gomer is Wales’s largest independent publisher. How is your activity influenced by working in a bilingual country?
It’s easy to think that working and operating within a bilingual country means that we only work within one of the two linguistic spheres at a time, that is to say, we only publish English language books for the English-speaking audience and Welsh-language books for the Welsh speaking audience, and that the two never cross paths. However this is not the case by any means. It is very common for the two languages to appear naturally in books written in the other, for example, a monolingual English speaker appearing in a Welsh language novel. This means that we don’t necessarily have to limit our overall activities, such as commissioning or marketing the books to one language and can reach and benefit from a much broader spectrum of backgrounds and ideas.
Could you give us a picture of the Welsh book market and of young adults’ reading habits in Wales?
The Welsh book market doesn’t always reflect the needs or trends of the broader UK or global industries. We have to be very aware of both the needs of our domestic readers as well as the broader demands coming from competitive international markets. Young adults in Wales tend to mainly read what is given to them in school, that is what’s on the curriculum. These books won’t necessarily be of much interest to them, especially when having to analyse and write essays based on them. We’re trying to overcome this hurdle and encourage more young adults to start reading, and hopefully inspire some future authors as well.
Gomer Press and social reading
Gomer is one of the partners of the Creative Collaboration project based on Dan Anthony’s books we’ve launched with Head4Arts, Literature Wales, Torfaen and Caerphilly Fusion Network and Menter Iaith Caerffili last September. Why were you interested in joining this partnership? What are the most innovative elements of such a project from a publisher perspective?
We were very interested in joining this pioneering project as it promotes reading and literacy in both English and Welsh to young people in South Wales and has the scope and potential of becoming a national project. The most innovative element of this project from our perspective as a publisher is the online environment for discussing the books, which allows the readers to engage with the literature in a familiar way and share their thoughts with their peers in a secure setting. It combines the traditional printed medium with contemporary technology in a fresh and appealing way, and we can’t wait to see where it will lead. We are very proud of Dan Anthony’s work and feel he is the perfect fit for the project.
As a publisher, are you positive about the future of reading? How can digital technologies like Betwyll social reading app help?
Gomer is very positive about the future of reading. More people are reading, writing and engaging with books. Apps and projects such as Betwyll are not only finding and promoting new ways of attracting young people to reading, but also of getting them to discuss the things they’ve read in an environment with which they are familiar. Traditional media and new technologies are not mutually exclusive. We welcome the challenge of fusing the two.
Photo: the most used words by the students commenting on the book The Rugby Zombies – Sombis Rygbi on Betwyll
Sam Brown, originally from Cornwall, has learned Welsh and now lives in Carmarthenshire. He has a BA in German from Bangor University and an MA in Welsh and Celtic Studies from Cardiff University. He joined Gomer in 2016 as a marketing officer, and works closely with authors and book suppliers across Wales.
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