NEW YORK: When Tom Allen took over as President of the Association of American Publishers, his chair was still warm. Pat Schroeder, the former Colorado congresswoman sat in the same chair from June 1997 until April 30 of this year and gave Allen just one month to get up to speed before she took off for Florida and “to sail uncharted waters.” (Sounds like fun…)
“I’m new, go easy on me,” Allen jokes at the start of our interview in the AAP offices on Broadway shortly after his installation.
A former congressman from the state of Maine, Allen is now a little closer to home than Washington D.C. but he’ll no doubt now — in the parlance of author biographies — “divide his time” between his home state, New York and D.C.
“You’re probably not surprised, but I’ve spent a lot of time in Trover Shop,” says Allen, when PP met with him in his offices in New York City earlier this month. (The Trover Shop is a bookstore located on Capitol Hill that specializes in political books.) “I also enjoy browsing Nonesuch Books in Portland” added Allen, giving a nod to an independent store in his home state.
Though he’s only been in this new role for a few weeks, Allen said he’s already met with the United States Trade Representative Ron Kirk to lobby for the enforcement of copyright protections.
“It is very clear that the protection of intellectual property, copyright being one of its forms, is a top priority globally,” he said. “Print piracy is still an issue, but digital piracy is the fastest expanding area. That issue cannot be dealt with country by country, it requires global collaboration. We have a trade and education and scholarly side, what unites them is copyright and piracy.”
The other key priority Allen identifies is education. “The whole question of the role of literacy in a knowledge based society is where we all are now,” he said. “Our educational publishers are developing some new, exciting educational materials that are grounded in how children learn. There is a great potential for us to play a role in educating children who have been left behind.”
Asked about the changing definition of “publishing,” which now can equally pertain to both print and digital, Allen deferred. “Amazon is still to me a bookseller,” he said, after being asked about Amazon’s role in the book trade chain, and he declined to comment about the status of Lulu.com and iUniverse.com, citing unfamiliarity.
“I know from studying the history of the business that decades ago, publishing was a very much a regional or national industry, because you were tied to printing presses and issues of transportation. That is no longer the case. Capital moves across the globe very fast as it does in this industry,” said Allen, pointing out that the line of national affiliations have blurred as well, with so many publishing being owned by conglomerates with their headquarters overseas.
“We are the Association of American Publishers, but as one of the publishers said to me, ‘It doesn’t feel like we’re really American publishers any more, it’s broader than that.'”
SEE: Video interview with AAP President Tom Allen
EXPLORE: The AAP’s Anti-piracy programs