The Business Herald’s markets and banking reporter.

Closure sends classic NZ book titles overseas

Hachette blames online competition and the rapid growth of e-books for the decision to shut local arm.

The Edmonds Cookery Book and Richie McCaw's The Open Side will be produced in Australia.
The Edmonds Cookery Book and Richie McCaw's The Open Side will be produced in Australia.

Popular New Zealand books such as the Edmonds Cookery Book, the Footrot Flats comic strip series and All Blacks captain Richie McCaw's biography will be produced and reprinted in Australia following the closure of publisher Hachette's New Zealand publishing arm.

Blaming online competition and the rapid growth of e-books, the company announced yesterday its New Zealand publishing unit would be shut down after the 2013 programme, resulting in the loss of 15 jobs.

None of Hachette New Zealand's staff responded to the Herald's inquiries yesterday.

Among its best known authors are Nicky Pellegrino, who wrote best-sellers When In Rome and The Italian Wedding and Paul Thomas, the Weekend Herald columnist and author of the Ihaka detective novels set in Auckland. His Inside Dope won Australia's Ned Kelly Award for Best Crime Novel in 1995.

It published the iconic Aunt Daisy Cookbook, compiled from hints the legendary broadcaster gave during her long-running ZB show, which ran from 1933 to 1963.

The company also published biographies on a host of sports stars such as McCaw, Benji Marshall, Shane Bond, Mark Todd and Ali Williams under the Hodder Moa banner.

Its clients included the New Zealand Rugby Union, Edmonds and Footrot Flats author Murray Ball.

The Edmonds Cookery Book has sold over 3 million copies since it was first published in 1908, making it the best-selling New Zealand book by far, according to historians.

Forthcoming titles include Ball's Luv From Dog, paralympic champion Sophie Pascoe's biography Stroke of Fate and an updated edition of Jonah Lomu's autobiography My Story.

Malcolm Edwards, chairman of Hachette Australia and New Zealand, said the company's IT, administration and finance functions in this country would be immediately relocated across the Tasman.

"These changes have been caused by the diminution of our business in New Zealand, caused largely by the increased sourcing of books from overseas at the expense of the local trade, and the rapid growth of e-books," Mr Edwards said.

Hachette's long-serving management team in New Zealand - managing director Kevin Chapman, editorial director Warren Adler and financial controller Rick Groufsky - would leave the company.

"Regrettably, we expect that approximately 12 other jobs will be lost," Mr Edwards said.

Hachette New Zealand would become solely focused on the marketing, sales and promotion of international titles and the New Zealand backlist.

Graham Beattie, a book blogger and former managing director of Penguin Books NZ, said Hachette was one of the few international publishers that had a presence in New Zealand and published books written by Kiwi authors.

"It's sad news," he said. "It is a sign of the times."

Small, independent publishers would likely pick up New Zealand authors who would have otherwise been published by Hachette, Mr Beattie said.

But such publishers did not provide the same opportunities for Kiwi writers to sell their books overseas.

Publishing giants Random House and Penguin are in the process of a global merger, which includes their operations in New Zealand.

- NZ Herald

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