Interview with Angus Phillips

This is the first of a series of interviews on Oxford’s bid to become UNESCO World Book Capital in 2014 – thank you very much, Angus Phillips, for you time and support!

Tell me a bit about yourself and how you are related to books, literature or publishing?

My name is Angus Phillips and I am the Director of the Oxford International Centre for Publishing Studies at Oxford Brookes University. We teach publishing to students from all parts of the world, and have a very international cohort of students. I also write about the contemporary industry and have published several books. I am just starting a new book project about how digital developments are changing the world of the book. I am also editor-in-chief of the journal Logos. I am delighted to be on the steering committee for Oxford’s bid to become World Book Capital.

Why do you think Oxford should become the UNESCO World Book Capital in 2014?

Oxford is the most amazing place with firstly a long history around the book. There is a five-hundred- year history since the first book was printed in Oxford and today we have a range of publishing companies, both  large and small, based here. In the city alone, there are 40 per cent more businesses in the cultural and creative sector compared to the national average. We also have many authors living here who contribute a huge amount. There are lots of exciting developments taking place in Oxford in connection with the book and digital delivery. The WBC year provides the opportunity to give prominence to experimentation in digital formats, whether enhanced ebooks or apps – which is being carried out not just by publishers but also by authors and newer players in the industry.

If Oxford becomes the UNESCO World Book Capital, what will you look forward to the most?

If we are fortunate enough to be chosen, there will be a range of brilliant events taking place in the city. I am most looking forward to the efforts we will put in around the theme of translation. This is a wonderful opportunity to persuade more people to explore other cultures and literatures through reading books in translation, and this is a key aspect of our bid. I am planning to organize a conference at our university around this theme – at the moment only 3 per cent of books published in the UK are translations and we want to raise awareness of this issue.

What is your favourite book and why?

How do you answer a question like this? – it’s so difficult! When we launched Oxford’s bid to become World Book Capital, I brought along my old and tattered copy of Jerome K. Jerome’s Three Men in a Boat. This is full of funny stories and a light-hearted take on life as three men, with the dog Montmorency, row up the Thames. Do read the story about the cheese, or getting lost in Hampton Court maze. The book ends when the party reaches Oxford. Last year I myself did a trip on the Thames – from the source of the river to Oxford – in a canoe with two friends! Our dog was alas not real, only plastic. In the summer I went to Salzburg and Vienna, and read Beware of Pity by the Austrian writer Stefan Zweig – just republished by Pushkin Press in a new translation. You must read it!

Thank you very much, Angus Phillips.


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