Frankfurt’s Publishing Perspectives Talks: Climate, Women’s Leadership, Blockchain

In News by Porter Anderson

Our 2019 Publishing Perspectives Talks at Frankfurt will explore how climate crisis, women and executive leadership, and blockchain affect book publishing.

On Frankfurter Buchmesse’s International Stage in Hall 5.1 at A128, a 2018 program. Image: FBM, Anett Weirauch

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson
Daily in Frankfurt at 10:30 a.m.
An annual tradition at Frankfurter Buchmesse, the Publishing Perspectives Talks series of events look at pressing issues of the day with newsmakers whose viewpoints both inform and question assumptions and trends in world publishing.

As before, the 2019 program will be presenting on all three trade-visitor days—Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, October 16, 17, and 18.

Each day’s event is at 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. on the International Stage, Hall 5.1, A128.

Our three focal themes this year are selected because they both reflect some of the most important controversies in and around the international publishing industry, but also because there’s a reflection in each topic of where publishing and the world of books can make the strongest contributions to a world in which both intelligent storytelling and responsible information become daily more critical.

Here are the three days’ plans. In some cases a speaker may yet be added to a program.

Publishing and the Climate Crisis

From left, Stephanie Barrouillet, Anne Sverdrup-Thygeson, Rollan Seisenbayev, John Farndon, Gabriella Page-Fort, Stefanie Langner-Ruta

Wednesday October 16,  10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.
International Stage, Hall 5.1, A128


  • Stephanie Barrouillet, SB Rights Agency, Israel
  • Anne Sverdrup-Thygeson, Norway, scientist and author, Terra Insecta (JM Stenersens Forlag, 2018)
  • Rollan Seisenbayev, author, The Dead Wander in the Desert (Amazon Crossing, 2019), Kazakhstan
  • John Farndon, translator from the Russian, The Dead Wander in the Desert
  • Gabriella Page-Fort, USA, editorial director, Amazon Crossing
  • Stefanie Langner-Ruta, Germany, head of production, S. Fischer Verlage

In this program, we explore the climate crisis from several angles in publishing. Literary rights agent Stephanie Barrouillet will introduce a South Korean children’s book on plastics and the sea—of special interest to supporters of the 4Ocean project. The book is making fast strides in international rights sales.

Anne Sverdrup-Thygeson, scientific advisor to the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research (NINA) will speak about her runaway “Insect Planet” that cautions conservation of insects—even though they outnumber humans 200 million to one on Earth.

Kazakhstani author Rollan Seisenbayev is the author of The Dead Wander in the Desert, published September 17 by Amazon Publishing imprint Amazon Crossing in its first English translation by John Farndon and Olga Nakston.

The novel tells the true-life tale of the destruction by Soviet agricultural designs of the Aral Sea, once the fourth largest lake in the world.

Ranked among the planet’s worst environmental disasters, its eastern basin is now called the Aralkum Desert.

Seisenbayev, one of Kazakhstan’s best-known authors, will be joined by translator Farndon, to talk about his tragic tale of fishermen father and son, Nasyr and Kakharman, who fight the Soviet bureaucracy in a desperate attempt to save the collapsing ecosystem.

John Farndon, himself, brings to the table a wealth of ecological experience, having written the Atlas of Oceans: An Ecological Survey of Underwater Life (Yale University Press, 2011)

Gabriella Page-Fort, the 2017 PW Star Watch “Superstar”-winning editorial director of Amazon Crossing, will be on hand, as well, to talk about climate fiction and other nonfiction and the role of publishing in the fast-mounting international climate crisis.

And Stefanie Langner-Ruta, head of production at Germany’s S. Fischer Verlage, brings more than 20 years in publishing production experience to her knowledge of tactical responses many publishing houses now are making in their own corporate answers to the crisis.

Our audience members in publishing will be asked to tell us about their own perspectives and views on publishing’s responsibility and—if they participated—their experiences in joining (as many publishing groups did) the September global climate strike.

Women’s Leadership in Publishing

From left, Tracey Armstrong, Mikyla Bruder (image: Jordan Stead), Roanie Levy, and Jorunn Sandsmark

Thursday October 17,  10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.
International Stage, Hall 5.1, A128


  • Tracey Armstrong, president and CEO, Copyright Clearance Center (CCC), USA
  • Mikyla Bruder, publisher and global marketing chief of Amazon Publishing, USA
  • Roanie Levy, president and CEO, Access Copyright and Prescient Innovations, Canada
  • Jorunn Sandsmark, managing director, Kagge Forlag, Norway

On Frankfurt Thursday, we get the viewpoints and updates of key women in top positions in publishing, as we look to better understand where they see advances this year in women’s representation in the executive suites and where the challenges are most pressing ahead.

With the appointment announced on September 16 of Amy Einhorn as Macmillan’s president and publisher of the Henry Holt division in the States, we’ve seen another top position go to a woman, and yet the pathway to leadership for female executives is far from clear in international book publishing—success stories still seem more anecdotal than systemic. Ironically, the industry in some ways is ahead of other business sectors, with Claire Zillman and Emma Hinchliffe asking on Thursday (September 19) in Fortune, “Where Are Wall Street’s Women CEOs?” and the Washington Post’s Jena McGregor on September 10 writing of how Forbes this month listed 99 men and only one woman in its new ranking of the 100 most innovative CEOs. (Forbes editor Randall Lane since has written, “We deserved the backlash.”)

As the growing PublisHer program initiated by the International Publishers Association (IPA) vice-president Bodour Al Qasimi builds its network of key women in publishing this month at the IPA Middle East seminar in Amman and during Frankfurter Buchmesse, we hear from CCC’s Tracey Armstrong—among the world industry’s most eloquent on how critical it becomes for women in publishing to attain positions in which they “own revenue” and can affect bottom lines. Armstrong is an outspoken proponent of mentoring, but cautions the business that “It’s as important for men to mentor women as it is for women to mentor women in their careers.”

Roanie Levy, under whose leadership Canada’s Access Copyright has sustained one of the world’s most virulent and alarming assaults on copyright under the Canadian Copyright Modernization Act, joins us, both in that capacity and as the founding president and CEO of Toronto’s Prescient Innovations, an industry-leading player in the development of blockchain technologies for the creative industries.

Mikyla Bruder, the Seattle-based publisher of Amazon Publishing worldwide with its 16 imprints, also carries the duties of global marketing chief for the trade publishing house that some in the American industry informally call “the Big Sixth.” Prior to her work with Amazon, she was the director of sales and marketing with Workman’s Timber Press and publishing director with Chronicle Books. Bruder has told Publishing Perspectives in the past, “My favorite quote on diversity in reading comes from Murakami. He said, ‘If you only read what everybody else is reading, you can only think what everybody else is thinking.’”

And Jorunn Sandsmark became managing director of the Oslo-based Kagge Forlag last year, having been in the business since 1999. To date, the Norwegian industry is largely led by male executives, and Sandsmark was an exception in her previous position, as well, as publishing manager for JM Stenersens Forlag, a division of Kagge.

Among the most nuanced elements of the debate: unconscious bias, the behaviors and assumptions programmed into women as well as men—and the importance of raising awareness of these subtle, persistent influences.

Blockchain and Publishing

From left, Sebastian Posth, Roanie Levy, and Simon-Pierre Marion

Friday October 18,  10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.
International Stage, Hall 5.1, A128


  • Roanie Levy, president and CEO, Prescient Innovations and Access Copyright, Canada
  • Sebastian Posth, chairman, ISCC Foundation, the Netherlands
  • Simon-Pierre Marion, founding CEO, Scenerex, Québec, Canada

At last, your questions answered, your confusions sorted, your fears allayed.

In this presentation, three leading experts in blockchain development will provide you with exactly what you need to know about blockchain’s potential value to book publishing, dismissing misconceptions and concerns along the way.

Opening with a discussion of “Why blockchain?” to demonstrate the real-life, day-to-day area of needs in book publishing that this body of development can respond to, our trio of speakers will then give a coordinated set of brief presentations to walk you through a quick journey to understanding where things stand today and what’s ahead.

First, Sebastian Posth, chair of the ISCC Foundation—that stands for the International Standard Content Code—will explain how the decentralized, peer-to-peer essence of blockchain networking has generated a fairly predictable need for some standardization, and the ISCC is the first open, generic identifier designed for digital media content. It can be used to register content on the blockchain and also in off-chain environments. A player familiar to many Frankfurter Buchmesse regulars, Posth has worked in European publishing for years as an entrepreneur and consultant.

Then Roanie Levy—whose Prescient Innovations has become one of the most-watched efforts in blockchain development expressly for the creative industries, rather than being the recipients of the technology, as we were with the Internet and its evolution”—will discuss her teams work in solving the attribution problem that has dogged such research so far. Prescient is building the necessary “attribution ledger,” as it’s called, using blockchain and machine learning, and building on the work that Posth’s foundation is doing in standards.

And then Simon-Pierre Marion of Montreal’s Scenerex, will explain the evolution and promise of Bookchain, the company’s “new, flexible and innovative way of publishing, distributing, and selling ebooks,” an online platform built on blockchain to allow authors and publishers to configure the security, traceability, attribution, and distribution settings (including lending and reselling) of their ebooks and sell them through our catalogue.”

As it happens, Marion’s Scenerex is also the winner of this year’s International Wildcard competition at Frankfurter Buchmesse, and thus will have a stand you can visit in Hall 6.0, A36. Earlier this month, Scenerex also won the DBW Best Publishing Technology award in Nashville.

Our three speakers are highly conversant in each other’s work and know how their respective parts of the process fit together, and they’re developing the day’s presentation so that audience members will be able to follow the natural steps in understanding the developing potential of blockchain for publishing. And plenty of time will be left in this session for questions from the audience so that attendees can find out which of their own challenges can be addressed in a blockchain environment.

On Frankfurter Buchmesse’s International Stage in Hall 5.1 at A128, a 2018 program. Image: FBM, Bernd Hartung

Each of these programs is free to all trade visitors to Frankfurter Buchmesse, everyone is welcome.

More from Publishing Perspectives on Frankfurter Buchmesse is here, and watch for our Show Dailies, the leading magazine of the book fair, available when you arrive each morning at Messe Frankfurt.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.