About the CPNB
Collective Promotion for the Dutch Book
About 40 million trade books are sold in the Netherlands each year with a total turnover of some 500 million Euros. Since 1930, Dutch publishers and booksellers have cooperated in promoting trade books; in 1983 this task was allotted to the CPNB (in Dutch: Collectieve Propaganda van het Nederlandse Boek), a foundation set up in Amsterdam. The CPNB aims to encourage the habits of book reading and book buying. Each CPNB campaign has its own mix of two strands, one idealistically promoting reading, the other, more commercially, encouraging the public to visit their local bookshop.
The CPNB was set up by professional publishing and bookselling bodies, the Nederlandse Boekverkopersbond (Dutch Booksellers Federation) and the Groep Algemene Uitgevers (Trade Publishing Group) respectively. Their members together account for a good 90 per cent of the Dutch trade book sold through bookshops. Both organizations provide the basic annual budget for the CPNB on a fifty-fifty basis, the money being contributed by their members. Each also provides three of the six CPNB board members. The largest part of the basic budget is used by the CPNB to pay for the campaign office which has a staff of thirty working under director Eppo van Nispen tot Sevenaer. Apart from office expenses, the budget also covers a number of other non-income generating activities, such as organizing press conferences or the introduction of new campaigns.
The principle underlying the yearly campaign programme is that each campaign must generate its own revenue. Most campaign revenue inevitably reaches the CPNB via the bookshops since a major part of the CPNB's activities are to do with developing, selling and distributing point-of-sale material. This includes specially published books as well as posters, window display material and magazines. The bookshops are given the opportunity – once per campaign – to order the material; once the orders are taken the material is produced and distributed accordingly. In this way, the costs to the bookshops remain low. In recent years libraries have also been able to order the campaign material.
The CPNB works closely with the publishers who advertise in the CPNB magazines and whose authors write for CPNB publications. Finally, the revenue is augmented by sponsorship, government subsidy and ad-hoc cooperations from other organizations, whether with idealistic or commercial aims.
The CPNB campaigns cover literary fiction, children's books, crime and thriller writing, and travel writing and travel guides. There are also campaigns aimed specifically at primary school children, children aged twelve to sixteen and the more casual bookshop visitor. Each campaign is complemented by massive free publicity. The more intensive campaigns are backed by advertising on radio and television.
Book Week runs for ten days in March, from a Wednesday to a Sunday. First held in 1932, it aims to remind the public of the wealth of books available in the bookshops the rest of the weeks of the year. In order to do this effectively, the CPNB aims for maximum coverage in the media just before the Book Week opens as well as during it.
The excitement generated is intended to tempt the general public into a bookshop during Book Week. One important stimulus is the Book Week gift, a short novel commissioned specially from a writer of contemporary fiction (for example, Cees Nooteboom in 1991, Renate Dorrestein in 1997, Arnon Grunberg in 1998, Harry Mulisch in 2000 and Salman Rushdie in 2001). The bookshop buys the books from the CPNB and gives one away to every customer who spends at least EUR 12,50 on a Dutch book (whether original Dutch or translation) during Book Week.
The Book Week gift is a phenomenon. In recent years, its print run has exceeded 750,000 copies; this means that it reaches one in eight households in the Netherlands during the ten days of Book Week, and that 750,000 customers have come through the doors of the bookshop and bought at least one book each.
The other pillar which supports Book Week is the theme chosen. This puts a different category of book in the spotlight each year, and has a spin-off into the publishers' backlists. The theme concentrates the minds of all those involved in Book Week, too. Publishers join in with new books, reprints and special campaigns. During Book Week, bookshops, local libraries and cultural centres join forces to organize visits by writers and put on festive events. Dozens of writers travel the country in the Week, meeting their readers. The theme also gives the media a hook on which to hang their reports about Book Week. Recent themes have included Latin America and the Caribbean (1996), religion (1997), family ties (1999) and the Classical Age (2000).
Book Week traditionally opens with Book Ball, by now a famous social event. Writers, publishers, booksellers, journalists and programme makers flock to it, giving it immediate appeal to the media. Television and front-page newspaper coverage remind millions that Book Week is back. In the days following the Book Ball, television spots keep Book Week in the public eye.
In this way Book Week has grown from being a marketing campaign to an event which belongs as much to the Dutch calendar as the St Nicholas Feast, carnival and the Frisian Eleven Towns Skating Marathon. Other branches of industry look on the book trade with envy.