That good old thing that remains

We live in a time when reading in print is almost passé, where books are merely paperweights on tables, and notebooks are reduced to the four-cornered leafy object we can sift through. The changes which science have brought around have made us, humans, almost oblivious to traditional ways of acquiring knowledge and nearly ignorant of the instruments which our forefathers used to thrive amidst relentless brain brawls and intellectual atrophies.

Of the things our race has effaced, though not completely, books are, by far, the most undeserving of such rampant discrimination. Most people live through their existence sparsely infected by the thoughts of great minds, thoughts that are inscribed in pages,  recollections unfazed by time, magically woven by strokes of poetic ingenuity. They have every chance of devouring ideas, of expanding the horizons left bounded by social norms and the rigidities ironed by superficial ideals, and yet they are achieving nothing, – books remain untouched like stale food feasted by a swarm of flies.

This is not always the case, though, as some countries have proven that their people still have affinity with the printed word and that their youth is still compelled with stories told at night, with magic lamps, golden eggs, and gargantuan beasts.

In Norway, for example, the children’s book industry is at its peak as Norwegian publishers report a high increase in sales, the highest score in the past few years. According to them, Norwegian children’s books have become their foremost export with almost 186 book titles for children and youth sold abroad. 1

This international success is not only brought by classics such as Karius and Baktus by Torbjørn Egner, but also by new and emerging authors. New titles are also in demand and are proving their grip in the foreign reading market. 2

Add to that, several Norwegian picture books have also satisfied the taste of the canon and managed to captivate international award-giving bodies. For one, Garmanns sommer by Stian Hole bagged the Children’s Book of the Year award in the U.S. in 2009.

“Most of our sales are to the Nordic countries, but Germany, France and South-Korea are also important markets to us,” says Kristin Weholt from Cappelen Damm publishing house.

When asked what makes Norwegian books highly in demand in the international market, Hakon Kolmannskog, publishing chief at Samlaget publishing house, says that it all boils down to quality. “Norwegian books for children and youth have a very high quality. We can see that we have been rewarded for investing in good books for children and youth over a long period of time,” Kolmannskog explains.

1 Julie Ryland. Norwegian Children’s Books are in High Demand Abroad. The Norway Post. 04 April 2013. childrens-books- are-high- in-demand-abroad Accessed 16 April 2013.

2 Ibid.

This proves that there are still existing societies in which books are treated with high regards and authors are not socially debased and unjustly compensated. It shows that not all culture is veering towards all what modernity can offer. It shows that sometimes the most important can be found when there’s courage among people to remain respectful to tradition and quality from where we’ve stood, to recognize that some things, like books, can never be eradicated no matter how modernized and fast-paced this world has become.

Knut Harald Nylænde runs the investment group he founded, Moxie AS. He also does management consulting, business development, and has recently taken interest in blogging.