#FutureChat recap: Women in publishing -- and reading

#FutureChat recap: Women in publishing -- and reading

Coming in #FutureChat on Friday (27th February): Imprints -- relics of the print past or potential assets in digital times? Join us each Friday for our live #FutureChat with The FutureBook digital community at 4 p.m. London (GMT), 5 p.m. Rome, 11 a.m. New York, 8 a.m. Los Angeles.

Ask a good question and you get ... a better question. We actually got several "better questions" on Friday, when we turned the always-convivial conversation of The FutureBook digital publishing community to questions about women in publishing. To be fair, we started #FutureChat with two good questions of our own:

  • Could the fact that the publishing industry, especially in the UK, is dominated by women mean that the industry's output favors books that appeal more to girls than boys?
  • And with such a terrific gathering of talent and expertise as the domination of many parts of publishing by women, what do we make of the fact that so few women break through to the top echelons of the executive suite?

So quick and spirited and multi-directional were the threads of the debate that what I'll give you here only will scratch the surface.

Do spend some time opening up those "view conversation" prompts on Twitter at #FutureChat to see more.

Before breaking out some tweets for you, I'll just give you a quick look at a couple of favorite exchanges. First, on the long-running question, "What will boys read?" Michigan's Camille LaGuire and London's Dave Morris gave us a fun back-and-forth. This is how to discuss a serious subject with a light touch:

Dave Morris: Curious thing is, the reading stats for Harry Potter are about 55/45 boy/girl. So why don't boys pick up other novels too?

Camille LaGuire: Standard wisdom: boys want a boy on the cover.

Dave Morris: A robot, dinosaur or tank will do equally well!

Camille LaGuire: But not if there is a girl with the robot, tank or dinosaur.

Dave Morris: A lot depends on the age of the boy and how the girl is dressed - I'm sorry to say!

Camille LaGuire: Also, "standard wisdom" is often wrong.

And one of the questions I found myself bothering everyone with near the end of the chat had to do with who selects and buys the books for boys and girls. The general consensus from research, as I've read it, is that moms do most of the book buying for both genders. And at many points in our conversation, it was acknowledged that more engagement in books and reading for young people by fathers would be a help.

But in terms of digital publishing, what I wanted to know was whether there is a change in the answer to who-does-the-buying/selecting of reading apps?  Men are often thought to be closer to the tech/device world of apps -- so does the book-selection-and-purchasing leadership move over to the male side of the family once we're into the realm of book apps?

Tom Bonnick of Nosy Crow, which specialises in reading apps for kids -- and had boys in mind with the development of its Jack and the Beanstalk app, he tells us -- agreed that the question is quite interesting: does such a change in format lead to a change in the main buyers of books for kids?

I was glad to have my Bookseller colleague Charlotte Eyre, our children's editor, with us.

And children's picture book author Jonathan Emmett, highlighted a little of the irony he sees in finding children's book awards programmes skewed in favor of women authors:

So, after hearing all week that there are very few men writing YA, have just been told twice on #FutureChat that there are lots of them. ;)

On this complex set of issues (even when you have more than 140 characters at a whack), the #FutureChat participants did a nice job of parsing some important elements of a challenging set of factors in publishing today.

Here are some highlights -- as ever, not an attempt to recreate the order of the exchange or complete volleys of tweets, just to hit some of the points made. One of them, from Miral Sattar, had to do with s Fortune 1,000 study indicating that companies with women c.e.o.s tend to see better stock-market performance.

Join us each Friday for our live #FutureChat with The FutureBook digital community at 4 p.m. London (GMT), 5 p.m. Rome, 11 a.m. New York, 8 a.m. Los Angeles. Main image - Shutterstock: Stokkete