"We can travel in time when we read books, it’s like a bridge. All the books have something to do with history and travelling in time, although they are very different – some are set today, others in the past but with modern prose. The connection is the time travel aspect,” says Sigita Pūkienė, founder and director of Lithuanian publisher Aukso žuvys.
"The first Passengers in Time collection had uncanny timing, something Pūkienė has reflected on. She says, “When we started the first season, it was at the beginning of the pandemic, so you couldn’t travel at all. I think reading can transport you – if you have no possibility to travel or move.” Passengers in Time applies this notion even further, as Pūkienė explains, “We played with this idea at every step of the publishing process – from the design layout to the marketing, time is a feature. In fact, the covers even tell you how many ‘hours’ you will travel."
Europe's most exciting contemporary writers
For the current series’ covers, Aukso žuvys decided to move away from the typographical style of the first series and include illustrations. Pūkienė was keen to give young illustrators a platform. “For young artists, it’s very difficult for them to be starting out and get work for a book cover. Our illustration intern did a design sketch which we really liked and then she recommended some unpublished illustrators she knew. It was risky but I like the result.”
Following the success of the first series, the second series continues with some of Europe’s most exciting contemporary writers and novels including Russian-German Alina Bronsky’s The Hottest Dishes of the Tartar Cuisine, Swede Jacob Wegelius’ novel The Murderer’s Ape and Poland’s Wioletta Greg with Guguly (Swallowing Mercury). The book series is sponsored and supervised by the Education, Audiovisual and Culture Executive Agency (EACEA) of the European Commission.
Many of the featured authors have become so popular in Lithuania that Aukso žuvys is now publishing their work outside of the series. “We have four or five authors from both seasons that are very popular here, like bestsellers – it was a discovery for us and a discovery for our readers.” Looking ahead, Aukso žuvys hope to do a third Passengers in Time collection. “I’m trying to collect good authors for this series,” Pūkienė says. “So I hope to continue next year and also continue to use Holmen paper because it works perfectly for this series. I hope it will happen. It depends on the grant we get from the EU.”
"A bright, natural paper with a good environmental footprint that's pleasant to turn."
The paper in question is Holmen BOOK Extra, which Pūkienė describes as, "A bright, natural paper with a good environmental footprint that’s pleasant to turn.” Daiva Mažvilaitė-Varnienė of UAB Antalis, Holmen Paper’s distributor in Lithuania, concurs, “Holmen BOOK Extra’s high brightness helps the paper stand out from the standard cream-coloured book papers. Its rough, natural surface allows for good, comfortable reading. Not to mention the environmental aspects, as Holmen BOOK paper itself generates one of the lowest CO² emissions.”
Nothing beats print
For Pūkienė, nothing beats print and holding a nicely sized book in your hands. Having said that, Aukso žuvys are open to audio book formats and finding new ways to reach audiences. The publishing house is launching an ambitious marketing campaign in February 2023, timed to correspond with the Vilnius Book Fair.
This February, during the book fair, we will do a campaign around ‘virtual travel’, says Pūkienė. “We have outdoor advertising where people in bus stops and train stations have the possibility to connect with a special app where you can reach these books and listen to an audio extract. The aim is to reach different audiences and hopefully encourage them to seek out the books.”
Daiva Mažvilaitė-Varnienė, Backseller at UAB Antalis Lithuania and a Holmen distributor, advised publisher Aukso žuvys on the right paper for Passengers in Time. It had to be a paper with a natural and rough surface, with excellent brightness, thick but still lightweight. “Holmen BOOK matches most of these parameters. But when we talk about brightness – Holmen BOOK Extra is king. And there are environmental aspects to consider too – Holmen BOOK paper generates one of the lowest CO2 emissions".
"We can travel in time when we read books, it's like bridge."