WITH THE first anniversary of the death of Diana, Princess of Wales almost upon us, the books chronicling her life and work continue to proliferate. Most are of questionable taste. Take, for example, the forthcoming offering from Michael O'Mara, the eponymous publisher whose unctuous 1980s tributes to the Queen Mother and to the happy union of Charles and Diana gave way to Andrew Morton (whose latest update to Diana: Her True Story is newly available). Diana: The Secret Years, published in early November, is by the hitherto unknown Simone Simmons. According to O'Mara, she was "the late Princess's best friend and confidante during the last years of her life" and taught Di how to disguise herself so as to pop to the shops unrecognised and travel incognito tourist class. Other than that, O'Mara is keeping his lips firmly sealed around one of his favourite cigars. But Judith Curr, of the US publishers Ballantine, who bought American rights against stiff competition, assures us that "it's the first really new thing on Diana since her death".
AS GRADUATES return from their hols and begin the gruesome task of earning a living, those considering a job in publishing may pause to read a recent industry survey. British publishers still produce 100,000 titles a year - but with fewer people. Key Note's 1998 Market Review: UK Publishing says many books "no longer receive the high-quality editorial treatment that they once did" as pressure increases and staff put quantity above quality. The picture is one of "a shrinking industry", according to analysis in The Bookseller. This supposedly liberal, enlightened industry employs a mere 2.7 per cent of people from ethnic minorities, against a national average of 4.4 per cent. Disabled workers are only 0.22 per cent (4.67 per cent elsewhere). And the overall balance is now shifting in favour of men. In other words, only healthy, Caucasian males need apply.