Three years elapsed before I finally settled on a workable topic for my MW research paper. The final title was How have trends in the publication of consumer wine books changed since 1914 and how does this inform their present prospects?
Hardly the most racy headline, but the phrasing was necessarily neutral and academic, as is the rest of the paper. The tabloid version would be Wine books return from the grave: the shocking truth!
I was lucky to find something to study that was not only interesting - to me, at least - but also relevant to my work. The primary research required me to compile a database of every wine book published in the UK over the last 100 years. My raw material amounted to over 40,000 entries, which I had to sort through one by one - the picture above is the first page of my final spreadsheet.
I then analysed the data to discover what trends were discernible - as mentioned in the overall summary, below:
The UK markets for both wine and books have changed dramatically since 1914. Overall, wine consumption has increased enormously, and with it the number of books about wine – although more recently, the wine and book markets have declined in size.
Little is known about trends in consumer wine books. This paper examines the publication frequency, author and publisher prevalence, genre and format trends of the last one hundred years, including the role of self-publishing and ebooks.
Using records from the British Library and certain online resources, a database of 2,288 wine books was established and analysed to give quantitative evidence regarding historical trends. This was augmented with qualitative research obtained via interviews with prominent contemporary wine book authors and publishers.
The results reveal some strong and often surprising trends over the last one hundred years, and provide an informative insight into the present prospects for wine books that will be relevant to anyone interested in communicating about wine.
The Institute now holds the copyright to my research paper, meaning I'm not allowed to distribute it myself - however, anyone can contact them to request a copy. Also, I will be using some of the findings as the basis for my keyonte speech at the Digital Wine Communicators Conference in Plovdiv this October.