This study aims to investigate to what extent Constitutional ideals of language equity have been implemented in multilingual publishing, to improve access to trade books. In South Africa, publishing in the different language groups of English, Afrikaans and African languages has taken different paths, due to the social and political history of the country. The transition to a democratic government and the introduction of a new Constitution in 1996 abolished censorship and established eleven official languages, to be treated equitably. But this study, using a combination of primary and secondary research, examines the disconnect between these Constitutional ideals and the current practice of publishers. Today, there are few African language books available for leisure reading for adults, and this means that the eleven official languages are not being treated or developed equally. This statement is supported by the study’s analysis of the Publishers’ Association of South Africa’s (PASA) industry reports, which provide figures on the sales of books in different languages in the different publishing sectors. The study evaluates the interventions of two trade book initiatives in the development of African language publishing, which are managed by the South African Book Development Council (SABDC) and the National Library of South Africa (NLSA). These initiatives show that the government is aware of the lack of African language books being read for leisure, and is attempting to improve the situation. However, this study argues that a lack of implementation of the government’s language policy and book policy may further be delaying the reaching of Constitutional ideals. Further issues investigated as obstructing access to books include the book reading culture, the status of languages in South Africa, literary awards for African language books and the accessibility of books in bookshops or libraries. The study concludes that there is no clear-cut solution to improve the situation, but recommends changes in various areas connected to book publishing and book reading, over an extended period of time.