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In News by Jaroslaw Adamowski – Appearing in Publishing Perspective

A newly drafted bill, expected to be approved by the Polish Parliament, creates a new Chamber of Artists to administer a benefits plan for creative workers.

The Bill Creates a ‘Chamber of Artists’

The Polish ministry of culture and national heritage has drafted a bill to enable the country’s artists—including writers—to register as professionals, gaining access to pensions, health insurance, social security, and other benefits they currently don’t have.

Senior government officials say the bill is expected to be passed by the parliament this year, paving the way for its implementation.

Robert Pietrzak, writing for the Polish news agency Polska Agencja Prasowa, quotes Jaroslaw Sellin, deputy culture minister, saying that the bill has been developed “in strong cooperation with artists’ organizations. The consultations [on its provisions] have already been completed. We have a draft of this bill and … I think we’ll complete our work this year.

“This bill on professional artists,” Sellin is quoted from an appearance on Radio Gdańsk, “is intended to provide artists with stability in regard to social and retirement security.”

Among its other provisions, Article 39.2 of the draft bill states that artists who register as professionals and pay the required social and health insurance contributions—but whose average monthly earnings are lower than 80 percent of Poland’s average salary—can apply to have between 20 and 80 percent of those contributions covered by the state on their behalf.

Under the plan, local artists will register with the Polish Chamber of Artists—an entity that will be created by the bill. The chamber’s council will comprise 21 members, of which 14 will be appointed by Polish artists’ associations and seven by various state institutions. The council and the culture minister will together appoint the chamber’s director.

Nasiłowska: Making a Living ‘From Other Sources’

Anna Nasiłowska is a writer and professor at the Institute of Literary Research of the Polish Academy of Sciences. She serves as the current president of Stowarzyszenia Pisarzy Polskich (SPP), the Polish Writers’ Association.

Talking with Publishing Perspectives, Nasiłowska says that the bill represents a step in the right direction, but that despite its promise, many of the association’s members will not directly benefit from its provisions. This is because writers’ work frequently isn’t structured in a way recognized by the new program.

“The majority of writers in Poland,” she says, “make their living from other sources. Some are employed by universities, others work as journalists.

“There are also those who work at cultural institutions, theater, and some who are retired. Writers work in various institutions. They work as doctors, public servants, or teachers. But there’s also a large group of writers who don’t have employment contracts. For instance, they may work for the film industry or for theaters.”

Most Polish writers’ earnings, Nasiłowska says, “are very irregular. Sometimes they’re high, but those are one-off payments that occur only once in several years.

“It also happens that writers must temporarily quit their jobs because they’re finishing a book, and creative writing requires them to take a trip, or simply focus on a single task.”

The new initiative, however, comes in response to demands formulated by the wider community of Polish artists, themselves, as indicated by recently collected data.

A 2020 report published by a group of researchers from the Warsaw-based University of Social Sciences and Humanities polled almost 60,000 people working in the arts in Poland, including 2,830 persons who identified themselves as working in the field of literature.

Among respondents, 88 percent backed the idea of introducing regulations that would separate artists from other professional groups. Additionally, 87 percent surveyed said they support the idea of allowing artists to pay a reduced social insurance contribution that would provide them with a minimal social security package.

Legislative work on the draft bill hasn’t yet been finalized.

Nasiłowska says that further measures could be introduced by the state to safeguard writers’ social security.

“During the legislative work at the parliament’s commission,” she says, “I also proposed they create a fund for temporary financial assistance. At the Polish Writers’ Association, we often encounter real life drama: writers, for example, who are suddenly unable to work because of aging and/or sudden deteriorations in health or lack of money for medication.

“There are also many writers,” she says, “who receive pensions lower than the standard minimum because various career paths may have been at odds with their primary professional goals, which were in writing.

Audiobooks in the slow lane

Indian publishing houses are yet to build capabilities to produce audiobooks

Written by Venkata Susmita Biswas for Financial Express

January 31, 2022

According to a 2020 Nielsen India report on books, around 63% of consumers still read physical books though, while 31% read ebooks, and the remaining 6% opt for the nascent market of audiobooks.

The ongoing pandemic has given a fillip to the habit of listening to content. As per a report by Redseer Consulting, by the end of 2021, India was estimated to have 95 million monthly active users (MAUs) in the overall audio category. This is a 34% increase from 71 million active users in 2020.

According to a 2020 Nielsen India report on books, around 63% of consumers still read physical books though, while 31% read ebooks, and the remaining 6% opt for the nascent market of audiobooks. Audible and Storytel are the dominant players in this market, with the former promoting its audiobooks through Alexa by making more than 100 Audible titles free to listen. Storytel has introduced a Rs 399 per year plan for regional language audiobooks alone.

Playing by the ear

Yogesh Dashrath, country manager, Storytel India says that in the four years that the company has been operating in India, he has witnessed the audiobooks market mature, not only “in terms of the number of trials taking place, but also the amount of time people spend on listening to books”. Dashrath estimates that an average listener on the app consumes about 15 hours of content every month.

Shailesh Sawlani, VP and country GM, Audible India, observes that listening patterns have shifted during the last two years. “Earlier we would see peaks in user traffic to the app in the morning and evening, possibly when people were commuting, but now that has spread out during the day,” he says.

Spirituality, wellbeing, and self-development are among the most sought-after genres of audiobooks on these platforms. Both these platforms are also doubling down on short-form content to engage users. Storytel has released three Marathi audio dramas and developed five-minute romance stories and podcasts. “The low-entry barrier in creating non-scripted host-based podcasts means there are many such podcasts out there. Consequently, podcasting is bigger than audiobooks at the moment,” admits Dashrath.

Audible, too, ventured into podcasts hosted by celebrities. It hosts 150 exclusive podcasts and Audible Originals, in addition to over 40,000 other podcasts. “New Audible Originals that are free to listen to include shows featuring celebrities like Sanya Malhotra, Varun Sharma, Kubbra Sait, etc,” says Sawlani.

Both Audible and Storytel follow a paid subscription model. Users can earn one credit to buy a book every month on Audible at Rs 200 per month. Storytel’s unlimited plan costs Rs 299 per month. Platforms hope that making a part of their library free to listen will draw audiences that do not want to subscribe. Dashrath reveals that 60% of Storytel’s paying subscribers reside in metro cities.

Not a page turner?

Even celebrated personalities like Barack Obama, Priyanka Chopra and Stephen Fry opt for simultaneous releases of their audiobooks along with the paperback/ ebook versions, and narrate their own books, Indian publishing houses and authors are yet to take the plunge.

Thomas Abraham, MD, Hachette India, explains that an audiobook is not a natural part of a book deal in India. “Creating an audiobook requires extra investments behind studio recording, hiring talent to narrate it, and packaging,” he says. As a result, publishers currently license out the rights to creating an audiobook to platforms that have the relevant infrastructure.

Publishers in the US and European countries tend to own studios to create audio content. Indian publishers are not there yet. According to industry estimates, the cost of producing a basic audiobook is about Rs 1 lakh in India.

Dheeraj Sinha, the CEO and chief strategy officer, South Asia — Leo Burnett, says podcasts are currently more popular than audiobooks as people are able to learn something new within a 30-60-minute listen.