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Bonnier announces new initiative to boost diversity in UK book industry
OpenBooks will launch in February 2023 to promote careers in the UK book industry to 14-19-year-olds from underrepresented backgrounds. A joint initiative between the Publishers Association, the Booksellers Association and the Association of Authors Agents, it has received support from Bonnier Books CEO Perminder Mann who spoke about the initiative at the Sharjah Publishers Conference in the United Arab Emirates on Monday.
“OpenBooks will showcase a range of book-related career options across publishing, bookselling, literary agenting and beyond,” she told delegates. “Drawing in a wide range of inspiring speakers, events will be curated to bring insights into the book industry, demystifying career options, identifying routes in, and positioning the books industry alongside other inspirational creative industries such as film, TV and music.
“Events will be open to all and freely available to watch online at any time, reducing barriers to accessibility including travel and cost.”
The initiative will be promoted via UK schools and education settings, community groups, youth organisations, bookshops, and other networks, as well as directly to young people online.
Mann is the daughter of first generation immigrants from the Punjab in India. Interviewed on stage about representation in the industry by incoming International Publishers Association president Karine Pansa, Mann said that diversity – she prefers to use the phrase “inclusion and representation” – is a “commercial, social and moral imperative”. She continued: “We we need a workforce that represents the audience that we want to serve, a workforce that will create publishing lists that speak to every reader and listener – if we achieve this we will connect with more readers [and] we will sell more book. Representation will benefit publishers financially. It will ensure we remain relevant and sustainable as an industry. In the UK we have an incredible rich multicultural society – we simply can’t afford continue to market and sell books to the same narrow demographic.”