National Book Award helps spread reading culture

October 16, 2022 - 08:15
The 5th National Book Awards wrapped up early this month. The top prize went to 'Hoàng Việt nhất thống dư địa chí' (The Geography Book of United Imperial Việt Nam).
Hoàng Phong Hà (centre) chairs a press briefing before the National Book Awards ceremony. VNS Photo Ngô Minh

Inner Sanctum: Would you please tell me about the overall evaluation of the nominations for this year's National Book Awards?

There are over 57 publishers nationwide participating, with 298 books. The number increased from last year. All books submitted for the competition are printed books, not e-books. This year's translated book segment decreased compared to previous years.

Hoàng Phong Hà, permanent vice chairman of the Việt Nam Publishing Association, and member of the National Book Awards Council. VNS Photo Ngô Minh

Inner Sanctum: Do you think the National Book Awards properly reflected publishing activities in the past?

Admittedly, the lack of participation in e-books is regretful, especially since the publishing industry has made efforts in digital transformation in recent years, and the number of e-books and audiobooks has also increased significantly.

In general, the National Book Awards have properly reflected the reality of book publishing activities with five categories: politics and economics; natural sciences and technology; social sciences and humanities; culture, literature and art; and children's books.

The awards showed many good signs. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of books has increased, and the revenue of the publishing industry in 2021 is nearly VNĐ3 trillion (US$125 million), the highest ever. The number of books nominated for the awards is also higher than last year.

Inner Sanctum: What is the most special feature of this year's National Book Awards?

This is the first time we announced the nominees in advance. In previous years, the nominee list was usually kept secret and only released at the awards ceremony. We were open to comments and suggestions from experts and readers about the nominated books. If any errors were detected, we would promptly change them. The award ceremony honoured the books that deserved it.

With this new approach, we would also like to express our desire to receive comments from the public to make the Book Awards more fair and accurate.

Readers contemplate awarded books alongside the National Book Awards ceremony. VNA/VNS Photo Minh Quyết

Inner Sanctum: Among the 26 awarded books, I see a lack of books on the pandemic, a prominent issue in the past year. What is this?

The National Book Awards Council only accepted books printed from November 1, 2020, to October 31, 2021. Therefore, publishing units that had not yet been able to issue books during that time frame could not send books to participate, or if they did, they would also be considered as violating the rules and not be considered for any awards.

Inner Sanctum: This is the fifth time the National Book Awards have been held. What is the awards' meaning, and how does it influence society?

Over the past five years, the National Book Awards have encouraged and honoured writers and people working in the field of publishing in Việt Nam. The awards have contributed to the preservation and promotion of Vietnamese culture.

The awards affirm books' role, position and importance in social life, promoting reading culture in the community.

Inner Sanctum: What limitations of the awards need to be modified?

After each season, the National Book Award Council holds a seminar to acknowledge constructive comments and seek to improve the awards over the years.

At the end of October, we will have a conference summarising the five years of the National Book Awards to draw experience and find solutions to improve the quality of these noble awards.

In the immediate future, we have several proposals: creating conditions for publishers to print more good books, giving more chances for authors to publish, and increasing the reward value to encourage individuals and publishing houses.

We will coordinate with professional associations to increase books' quality and suggest more books for the Awards in the future. VNS