Snapshot of the week – 24 November 2017

Snapshot of the week – 24 November 2017

The last fortnight has seen the publishing industry tackling two of the most difficult of subjects – diversity and sexual harassment, and with regard to the latter it has felt like a watershed moment.


The second Building Inclusivity in Publishing Conference, organised by The London Book Fair and the Publishers Association, highlighted many of the good moves that have been made by publishers on diversity – among them HarperCollins’s BAME Scheme, Penguin Random House’s Penguin Pride and WriteNow schemes, and Little Brown’s new “inclusive” imprint Dialogue Books – while acknowledging that more still needs to be done.  On the difficult subject of sexual harassment and workplace behaviour, the results of the Bookseller’s survey shocked many, though not female readers perhaps, many of whom will surely have thought ‘at last…this has been going on for years…finally we are talking about it’.


The importance of diversity in the industry was underlined by the presence of Matt Hancock, Minister of State for Creative Industries, to give the keynote address at the Inclusivity conference.  He told delegates:  “There’s still much progress to be made.  The most recent DCMS [Department of Culture, Media and Sport] statistics show that only 11% of those working in the Creative Industries are BAME [black, Asian, minority ethnic], though this is up 15% on 2015, an improvement more than two-and-half times that of the wider UK workforce.”


He added: “Meanwhile, recent events in the entertainment industry serve as a reminder of the importance of building a Creative Industries workplace where all are treated equally and with respect, and opportunities are genuinely equal.”


The ripples from the Harvey Weinstein affair – and the allegations against Kevin Spacey that followed – are being felt right across the publishing industry, and not just in the UK.  The Bookseller deserves credit for acting quickly here – and finds itself almost part of a movement among the English language publishing world.  Following the Weinstein scandal breaking in the States, Publishers Weekly launched its own survey into sexual harassment in the industry, asking female professionals for their experiences.  It discovered that the industry was ‘rife with sexual harassment’.


Laura Dawson of Numerical Gurus, which provides services to the information, library and book industry, told PW that she was skeptical that the problem had diminished: “This type of behaviour has everything to do with power, and the abuse of it. I don’t know if that’s a dynamic that humans can ever rid ourselves of, but we can decide not to tolerate it when it happens.”


Now, Books + Publishing in Australia is conducting its own survey.  It will cover ‘personal experiences of sexual harassment, witnessed incidents of sexual harassment and company procedures to protect staff from sexual harassment’.


One wonders if other industries away from publishing have launched their own surveys.  Indeed, if something good has come out of the sordid Weinstein (and Spacey) affairs, it is this global soul-searching.


One week it’s Waterstone up for sale; the next it’s Barnes & Noble.  But publishers on both sides of the Atlantic have been breathing sighs of relief as both possibilities seem to have gone quiet, at least for the time being.  There have been no more Russian moves regarding Waterstones, and the offer by Sandell Asset Management in the US for Barnes & Noble was rejected by the B&N board.


And still the indies open!  Julie Fleischaker, former director of marketing and publicity at Brooklyn’s Melville House, is opening Greedy Reads in Baltimore in early 2018, and fellow US house Europa Editions is partnering with its parent company, Italian publisher Edizioni E/O to open an English language bookstore in Rome.  The new shop, to be called Otherwise, will be adjacent to Edizioni’s existing shop, Altroquando.


Many happy returns to Kindle, which turned ten this week – except of course, with a Kindle, returns are not an issue.  It is almost hard to believe that there used to be whole Kindle departments in Waterstones – and who would have imagined back in 2007, when Kindle first launched, that ten years later Amazon would have 13 bricks and mortar bookstores, with a 14th set to open in Bethesda, Maryland next year.


The retirement party for Hachette UK CEO Tim Hely Hutchinson was a splendid affair at Tate Britain.  In his well-received speech, Hachette’s worldwide chief Arnaud Nourry took guests through Hely Hutchinson’s career, from Macmillan, through founding Headline, to his current position.  Nourry noted that “Good business practice and courtesy were Headline’s modus operandi….”.  Many in the room would say those qualities belonged to Hely Hutchinson himself.


Finally, in the light of all those surveys, everyone working in the industry could perhaps heed what was written on the luggage labels that some guests appended to their bags at HarperCollins’ splendid celebration of the life of Michael Bond, creator of Paddington, at St Paul’s Cathedral.  They read simply: ‘Please look after one another’.

Roger Tagholm writes our Snapshot of the Week.

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