Library of Wales: Authors disagree over books' funding

The Library of Wales series has sold 50,000 copies but the Welsh government is facing a call to withdraw financial support

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A call has been made for a scheme which republishes classic Welsh books that have gone out of print to continue to receive public funding.

Wales Book of the Year winner Jon Gower backs the Library of Wales series, which has sold 50,000 copies since it was launched in 2006.

It costs the Welsh government £50,000 a year for the Welsh Books Council scheme.

But some critics have argued that financial support should be scrapped.

In total, 34 books have been published through the scheme, and Mr Gower said he was in the process of reading every one.

Start Quote

In a Wales which has problems with literacy, having good books and encouragement to read such books is a good thing”

End Quote Jon Gower Winner, Wales Book of the Year

"We look after castles and museums look after artefacts. Books are dead artefacts unless they're read," Gower told the Sunday Politics Wales programme.

"In a Wales which has problems with literacy, having good books and encouragement to read such books is a good thing."

The author, who was the winner of the Welsh-language Wales Book of the Year this year for his novel Y Storiwr, argues that literature has its rightful place in Wales, alongside competing budget challenges facing governments.

"There is this deeply philistine argument that says... books versus hospitals," he said. "Well, in a grown-up country, and as Wales matures politically, there has to be room for all of that."

But at a talk in Cardiff last week, the novelist Julian Ruck was extremely critical of the public funding of the Welsh publishing industry.

Audience heckles

His views sparked heckles from some in the audience.

The author, whose Kidwell-e Festival finished early this year after failing to attract enough visitors, said he supported funding for the arts and for Welsh-language books but not for English-language publishing.

Start Quote

This is your money, my money, the voters' money. What are they doing?”

End Quote Julian Ruck Author and scheme critic

"Where's the scrutiny? Where's the accountability? Where is somebody independently going in and saying, 'What the hell are you doing?' " said the writer.

"This is your money, my money, the voters' money. What are they doing?"

But postgraduate literature students at Swansea University said the Library of Wales series was a vital resource as many of the titles were previously difficult or impossible to find.

The Welsh government said the series was established following a review in 2006, which recommended that culturally important 20th Century literary works in English should be republished and made available to new audiences.

"Work on making both traditional printed copies and e-books more widely available has continued and the original collection of five books has now grown to 34," said a Welsh government spokesperson.

"Developing e-books has made the books accessible to as wide an audience as possible, worldwide, and is bringing Welsh literature written in English right up to date.

"The Library of Wales is an excellent way of selling our nation to the world through literature, as well as keeping our literary heritage alive for future generations."

  • Sunday Politics is on BBC1 Wales at 11:00 GMT on Sunday.

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