Podcast – Cookbooks and Digital Media

Today we have the pleasure to be with Tim White owner of the Books for Cooks bookstore in Melbourne. We talked about the cookbook industry, and how digital media and new technologies are modifying this ancient business.

Relax and enjoy the first episode of the Eating Words Podcast!


Welcome to this new edition of the Eating Words Podcast. Today’s special guest is Tim White, owner of Books for Cooks, a Melbournian bookstore specialized in food.

Have you ever wonder when people started to write about food?

Well, if you ever did, you are in the right place; turn on the volume and relax as we are going to talk about the evolution of food books.

Tim, thank you so much for joining us today. First of all, can you tell us what is a cookbook?

Today it’s an incredibly broad topic, we see books that are travel … cookbooks with recipes, we see fiction with recipes, we see biographies and bibliographies with recipes.

Our approach is to say: cookbooks are the core of that and then anything that would inform the user or reader around food or wine.

So, Tim, both the history of cooking and writing are ancient. When do you feel that these two merged and people started to write about food?

You can go back to Dionysus with the Athenians, which is roughly fifth century BC… It’s more a play about, it’s a satire… a gossip, a chat about what people had at dinner parties… But you can give it a style of food, develop a menu and..

And that’s how food studies in history sometimes have to use those [history] books just to analyse what people used to eat.

And then you have also the interesting, really interesting stuff like the tax records, because many of the earliest written records are tax records for kingdoms for recording the amount of grains produced, of fruits… because they wanted to tax that. And from that you can derive you know… an understanding of sort of a basic diet for regions and areas.

So, food has become a hot topic in digital media lately. Food bloggers and digital journals are always including food content. How do you feel it affects the print cookbook industry?

Ok… Interesting question. Let’s start with: has e-books had an impact in the print book industry?

My answer to that would be emphatically, no. We experimented with selling e-books for two years and our experience was that people don’t adopt them… The rise of digital publishing, etc. has made that… I think a lot easier to bring together beautiful, classy products. we have got a number of really good self-published books here, that have origins perhaps in sort of digital space.

But I think the biggest trend is definitely bloggers, you know… we get IR releases from publishers telling us that this person has so many social media followers etc.… so there is a rebalancing of risk; publishers are looking for people who already have an engaged audience, and it’s no longer someone who might be on radio or someone who might be on TV etc… It’s someone who has a real connection.

Tim thank you so much for joining us today and as a final question: Christmas is coming, do you have any recommendations for this year?

[Laughing] Oh Christmas, let’s see… Matt Wilkinson’s new book that he has done with his wife and family – Sharlee and the Hooligans – Mr [& MRS] Wilkinson’s [how it is] at home. This is urban, Melbourne everyday food. That’s real, sustainable and connects with farmers and producers; it’s not too expensive and is damned delicious!

Thank you so much!

My pleasure.

Now it’s your turn to share your thoughts, do you feel like digital media and food bloggers are changing this cookbook industry? Leave your comments below!

If you enjoyed this podcast please don’t forget to subscribe and share. You can also follow us on social media to get extra-special content!

Thank you so much for joining us, see you next week on the next edition of Eating Words.


Featured Image taken by Manuel Rubio with the permission of Tim White at Books for Cooks.

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