Just how white Is the book industry?

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Just how white Is the book industry?

Dec 12 2020

In an extensive article, the New York Times asks "just how white is the book industry," and then sets out to quantify the answer through an extensive report that will serve as a baseline for future updates...

...First, we gathered a list of English-language fiction books published between 1950 and 2018. That list came from WorldCat, a global catalog of library collections. We wanted to focus on books that were widely read, so we limited our analysis to titles that were held by at least 10 libraries and for which we could find digital editions.

We also constrained our search to books released by some of the most prolific publishing houses during the period of our analysis ... we were left with a dataset containing 8,004 books, written by 4,010 authors.

... We guessed that most of the authors would be white, but we were shocked by the extent of the inequality once we analyzed the data. Of the 7,124 books for which we identified the author’s race, 95 percent were written by white people.

Author diversity at major publishing houses has increased in recent years, but white writers still dominate. Non-Hispanic white people account for 60 percent of the U.S. population; in 2018, they wrote 89 percent of the books in our sample.

This broad imbalance is likely linked to the people who work in publishing. The heads of the “big five” publishing houses (soon, perhaps, to become the “big four”) are white. So are 85 percent of the people who acquire and edit books...

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