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24 September 2017

Jim Douglas Lecture 2017

Jim Douglas who died in 2016 was one of Canada's best known publishers. He formed several publishing companies in Canada and served as Founding President of the Association of Book Publishers of British Columbia and as President of the Association of Canadian Publishers.  His publishing career also took in advising both publishers and government as a publishing consultant, participation in trade missions, drafting and teaching publishing courses at SFU's Canadian Centre for Studies in Publishing and substantial roles in many other publishing-related activities.

But while Jim's contribution to publishing was forged in Canada, he started life in Scotland. He was born in Edinburgh in 1924 and after attending schools there, got a job at the head office of John Menzies in 1939. A year later with the second world war on he joined the RAF as an apprentice and by 1943 he was on flying missions in the far east. After the war he was recalled to the RAF after a couple of years working in a bookshop in Edinburgh.

Then in 1954 at the age of 30 he emigrated to Canada. Within a few years he had established himself as a top book sales representative and in 1964 started his own sales agency. After selling that in 1966, he set up JJ Douglas Publishers - the first of several publishing companies he was involved with. One of them was Canongate in Edinburgh. In 1965 he became a director and shareholder and its Canadian representative, moving to reciprocal representation in 1973 when he had his own publishing company.

During his lifetime Jim was honoured for his war service and his contribution to publishing (including being appointed a Member of the Order of Canada).  A year after his death, the Simon Fraser University in Vancouver hosted the first annual Jim Douglas Lecture to recognize Jim's great contributions to the British Columbia publishing industry. The inaugural lecture was given on 20 September 2017 by Marion Sinclair, Chief Executive of Publishing Scotland. Marion's talk was about "Scottish Publishing Today and its Place in the World," a subject with very clear parallels in Canadian independent publishing.

For more about Jim Douglas, see the appreciation 'Remembering Jim Douglas' by Mark Stanton on the BC BookLook website and Overview of the Jim Douglas Publisher of the Year Award on the BC Book Awards website.

For information on the Jim Douglas Lecture, see the Simon Fraser University website.