Lee Walker appointed President of the Australian Publishers Association

In Conversation with Lee Walker, newly appointed President of the Australian Publishers Association

How did you start your career in publishing?

I studied to be a secondary educator, but while I was completing my Diploma of Education, I started working in educational publishing as a freelance photo researcher. That was 26 years ago and I have never looked back. I was passionate about teaching and desperately wanted to teach, but the world of publishing opened up to me and provided a different view for how I could contribute to education.

I was offered a full-time position as an Editorial Assistant and went on to work my way up to become a Publishing Manager over the course of a decade. I then moved to Oxford University Press, accepting a role as Director of the Primary Education Division. I am now Schools Publishing Director and work with a wonderful team of publishers and editors developing the very best print and digital content for Australian primary and secondary schools.

Tell me about your experience at OUP Australia?

I have been at OUP for 11 years and I absolutely love it. The Press’ focus on its mission is a great motivator for me. During the best times, and also when it gets a little tough, the mission is a strong reminder of why we do what we do and the positive difference we are making to the lives of learners around the world.

How has publishing changed since you entered the industry?

When I started out in publishing, I didn’t have a computer – I had an electric typewriter. And there was no Internet and email – only typed memos!

You have explained the dramatic changes in publishing – has education also changed since you were studying to be a teacher?

For me, the most noticeable change has been the ever growing focus on assessment and accountability, from federal to state to local levels, and down to individual teacher level, and how the magic of teaching learning to transform young people’s lives can sometimes be lost. At OUP, we are constantly focussing on how we can enhance teaching and learning experiences, and keep the magic alive.

Congratulations on your appointment as President of the Australian Publishers Association. What will your priorities be in the role?

As President, I will continue to work very closely with a very experienced, passionate and committed Board of Directors, at a time when there is a lot going on in the publishing industry.

Our priorities over the coming months will be:

  • advocacy – to continue to strengthen our engagement with government at federal, state and local levels to ensure open and constructive dialogue key issues, including copyright
  • promotion – to continue to support trade and educational events such as the Australian Book Industry Awards (http://abiawards.com.au/) and the Educational Publishing Awards Australia (http://edpubawards.com/), which recognise excellence in publishing and celebrate Australian creators, as well as the Australian Reading Hour (http://www.readinghour.org.au/) and Love Your Bookshop Day (http://www.loveyourbookshopday.com.au/) to promote the benefits of and a love of reading
  • capability – ongoing work on important initiatives such as Title Page (https://www.titlepage.com/) to ensure industry-best access to print and e-book title information for publishers, libraries, booksellers and distributors.

What does the future of publishing look like?

Roles within the publishing industry will continue to change as technology continues to influence what and how we publish. For example, the role of an editor is very different to what it was even five years ago. While an editor’s role includes more traditional editing duties such as copyediting and proofreading, in the educational publishing sector they are sometimes also tasked with populating data spreadsheets for digital uploads, as well as helping authors develop wireframes for digital interactive content.

There continues to be great value in print publishing – print is a beautiful piece of technology and still makes best sense in many learning situations. When a child is learning to read, understanding how a physical book works is important – how to hold it, how to turn a page, how to read from left to right. However, digital technology offers different, and sometimes better, ways of learning, and so it is a critical feature of the future of publishing.

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