Lisa Davis is the Book Purchasing Manager at BookTrust, the UK’s largest reading charity that gifts books to over two million children, including books specially chosen for children with additional needs.
There was recently an article about things that used to be part of a publisher’s day which millennials may find hard to imagine. As a millennial, I don’t necessarily find it difficult to comprehend something I haven’t experienced, and think it’s great how technology has progressed.
However, there are a few things which I actually find hard to imagine about publishing, which shouldn’t come as a surprise.
It’s difficult to imagine how there are still unpaid internships. It’s difficult to imagine how it’s acceptable that entry-level positions pay so poorly. And I struggle to imagine how in an industry considered to be so liberal and progressive, there’s still a pay gap between men and women. But most worryingly, I can’t imagine how we are still having the debate of diversity.
Diversity isn’t a new development, some new realisation. I might not have been born, but I know those of you who entered the industry in the 80s had some of the same conversations then that you’re having now. When I say diversity, I’m not just talking about the need for racially diverse authors. What about books that are more accessible to those with dyslexia or tactile books for children with vision impairment? There are so many people who think books aren’t for them because books aren’t made with them in mind. I find it hard to imagine that this need is still not being addressed by more than a handful of publishers.
Or maybe I don’t. Because I also find it hard to imagine how publishing has become so commercial that it has lost elements of its social responsibility. No, a book full of tactile and interactive elements won’t look good on a P&L – but think of what it will mean to a child who can’t access a board book. It speaks volumes when it’s industry news that a bestselling book like Harry Potter and the Cursed Child will be made available to people with sight loss. This shouldn’t be news – it should be a standard.
While there has been much technological progression in publishing, I don’t think we can be sitting comfortably when some of the most important issues around the industry haven’t changed in decades. I can’t accept we were too busy coping with changes in technology to address these.
So I am a millennial, and I want to create a publishing industry that doesn’t leave future generations scratching their heads, finding it difficult to imagine how the industry is still excluding members of our society when we had the opportunity to fix this.