The London Book Fair has just issued a press release detailing its London Book Fair International Excellence Awards, given in association with The Publishers Association. And despite some very worthwhile and well-deserved commemorations, there was plenty of industry-focused industrious talking up of what an industrial industry publishing is in the UK. That’s In Da Dust Try, just in case the current government’s ears didn’t happen to catch the loud soundbites of the chief dignitaries.

In fact, Jack Thomas, Director, The London Book Fair, said: “In the last few years, we have seen the rise and rise of international publishing and it is brilliant to see this celebrated at The London Book Fair International Excellence Awards. Each one of our winners brings something special to the industry. We are proud to give them the recognition they deserve as they are the people and organisations who make publishing the significant, powerful global industry it is today.” Meanwhile, Richard Mollet, Chief Executive, The Publishers Association (UK), said: “It is great to see publishing innovation and excellence receive such international recognition. The sheer spread of countries whose publishing industries are recognised tonight demonstrates the continuing global relevance of our industry in the digital age.”

Not one word there about the cultural and intellectual importance of books, or their contribution to the development of civilization. Presumably the big hats were too busy oiling the wheels of industry (or the ears of politicians) to remember.

Fortunately, some of publishing’s representatives appear to have remembered the values that the industry leaders seem to have forgotten. “Judges identified Belgian publishers as some of the world’s most innovative in children’s and educational publishing,” with awards to Clavis Publishing and Uigeverij Van Inm, while “New York-based non-profit Library for All picked up The International Education Initiatives Award for their work helping people in developing countries ‘lift themselves out of poverty through education’.” Croatian publisher Fraktura, meanwhile, was honored for “a year of global success in which the leading literary publisher has brought writers from more than 40 countries to Croatian readers.”

The London Book Fair Lifetime Achievement Award this year went to Peter Usborne, founder and Managing Director of Usborne Books, who judging from his comments, hails from a time when publishing was about more than industriousness. “Publishing children’s books is an extension of fatherhood, and I wanted to go on being a father forever. But I never went into this job to earn serious money … I absolutely adore what I do, and so do most of the people who work here,” he said to the Financial Times. “They feel they are doing something worthwhile. My work is my hobby. It is an amazing privilege to run a children’s book publishing company.”

Judging by the words of the LBF’s leading lights, though, such values, along with the incomes of the authors who actually write the books, appear to have been crushed by the wheels of industry.


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