DK is a global publisher of illustrated nonfiction books, covering diverse topics for adults and children, such as natural history, cooking, crafting, gardening, and fitness. DK’s main office is in the U.K., where most of the titles originate, but there are other offices around the world of differing sizes. In Canada, DK has a small office of six people. I am the managing editor, and I’m responsible for adapting titles for the Canadian market to create our own Canadian editions.
People often ask me, “What’s so different about Canada that requires making changes to a nonfiction book?” The answer is plenty, depending on the subject matter and whether I am adapting from a U.S. or U.K. edition. Of course, certain topics require no Canada-specific changes, such as fitness titles—although the joke is that we should stage our own photo shoot to show people doing yoga while wearing parkas in the snow. But other topics, such as books on pregnancy and gardening, definitely benefit from being “Canadianized,” often with the help of an expert in the field.
Take gardening, for example. Most of Canada has a short growing season, and many plants that can be grown easily in the Southern U.S. or in the U.K. just can’t be grown here. Also, some plants that are prized in another country are considered invasive in Canada. Which month is best for a particular gardening task also varies widely, depending on location. I will often read in a U.K. edition about getting out to dig over your beds in January in preparation for planting. If you tried that during a cold Canadian January, you’d break your shovel!
Adapting a gardening title for Canada usually involves replacing any plants that wouldn’t easily survive a Canadian winter with more hardy varieties, or alternatively labelling them as tender and adding information on how they can be overwintered. If hardiness zones are provided for plants, we change these to the Canadian-plant hardiness zones developed by Natural Resources Canada, which differ from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s zones. Occasionally, we add new pages of content that are relevant to Canadians. For example, our Canadian Gardener’s Guide includes pages on native Canadian plants, food gardening for a short growing season, and creating a rain garden—an effective and attractive way of dealing with flooding issues that are an ongoing concern for many property owners.
Another topic that benefits from a Canadian adaptation is pregnancy and childbirth. It’s true that Canadian babies are made and develop in much the same way as babies around the world, but there is still plenty of useful Canadian-specific information that can be added. Maternity/parental leave and benefits, options for prenatal health-care providers, the types and timings of prenatal screenings and diagnostic tests, and options for where to give birth are all topics that are customized for our Canadian editions. If I am adapting from a U.K. edition, changing nappies to diapers is also a must. And did you know that breast-fed babies who live north of 55° latitude (about the level of Edmonton) should get a higher supplement of vitamin D between October and April than those who live below this latitude, due to a lack of sunlight? #WeTheDarkNorth
Whether it’s sifting Canadian birds out of the birds of North America to make our bestselling Birds of Canada (and Birds of Eastern Canada, Birds of Western Canada, and Pocket Birds of Canada—we are indeed a nation of bird enthusiasts!), adding in metric measurements to our Kids’ Fun and Healthy Cookbook, or walking new parents-to-be through their maternity and parental benefits in our Pregnancy Day by Day, there is plenty of value to be added for our Canadian readers!
Barb Campbell is the managing editor at DK Canada.