Newly Developed Data To Fuel IPA’s 33rd World Congress in Norway

In Feature Articles by Porter Anderson

At the 2020 International Publishers Congress in May, seven new research reports will be released on leading issues in global publishing.

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

Seven Research Studies Underway
As winter closes in on the fjords, it’s not uncommon for Norwegians to think of spring. But the coming May is of particular interest in Norway’s book industry as that’s when the country will host the International Publishers Association’s 33rd International Publishers Congress in Lillehammer.

The IPA International Publishers Congress (May 28 to 30) is being structured as a major source of new information for the world publishing industry, with seven new, professionally executed studies in the works to support the themes of the congress’ debates.

Representing the Norwegian host organization, Kristenn Einarsson, points out today (November 13) in an interview with Publishing Perspectives, member-associations of the organization’s 69-nation roster already are registering, taking advantage of an early-bird pricing structure that runs to the 30th of November.

Working with IPA vice-president Bodour Al Qasimi, who chairs the organization’s programming committee, Einarsson’s program is geared toward action, both by breaking news with the results of its research studies’ new data and also by creating breakout discussion sessions in which delegates can react to the reports and formulate responses.

The IPA Congress Research Studies

Kristenn Einarsson

The plan to develop new, professionally produced data for the industry is divided into a seven-study suite of new reports, several of them now in the hands of respondents.

He lists the studies underway as:

  1. “Publishers’ Work and the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals,” the UN SDGs. This, of course, is where many of the social-responsibility issues facing publishing today lie, including gender equality and other elements of the diversity conversation and the climate crisis
  2. “Lost Reading and Readers, and the Way Back” examines available research on declines in reading and will als0 spotlight efforts to combat the trend
  3. “What We Know About What Works” in learning materials and the digital dynamic’s impact on them will identify models that that can be seen to be working, as well as those that aren’t. This report is to come in with research papers and studies on learning materials, compiling recommendations for future digital strategies
  4. “How Is Educational Material Organized Around the World?” responds to the surprising range of approaches and the need for a comparative study of what various regions are doing
  5. “A Global Report on Copyright and Publishing” is being compiled in Geneva, where IPA has its headquarters, with the assistance of an independent researcher; the effort is to collate an overview of existing copyright laws in the countries where IPA has members and with the ultimate objective of covering all the member-states of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) to help identify challenges
  6. “Best Public Policy Measures for the Publishing Industry” is being written by Norwegian professors Helge Rønning and Tore Slaatta, whose book is on Norway’s literary policy instruments; Ronning and Slaatta currently are updating a previous European survey and expanding its reach to other parts of the world
  7. “Challenges To the Freedom To Publish” is to sum and quantify up violations and threats, with case studies and regions and countries of most concern

The studies on “lost reading and readers,” on public policy, and on the freedom to publish already are out for response, Einarsson’s colleague Åsfrid Hegdal tells Publishing Perspectives, and the other projects are in various stages of preparation.

The idea to create a strong battery of research ahead of the congress, Einarsson says, “grew out of our programming committee discussions” about how to ensure the relevance and timeliness of the Lillehammer event for a diverse industry with a suite of concerns and challenges.

“We really concluded that we want to do the synthesizing needed to do the proper work on these reports.” And while that has led to a bigger load of advance work, he says, the importance of opening up new knowledge–so the congress delegates can strategize–is obviously the key to the actionable event the IPA wants its congress to become.

Einarsson, Bodour, and their associates expect to get the studies’ reports to Lillehammer delegates in advance of the congress, so that they can come ready to engage in the discussions, breakout sessions, and debates of the event. You can find a PDF of the program’s early outline here.

The 2020 IPA Publishers Congress

It’s the first IPA congress held in a Nordic country since the 21st edition was seated in Stockholm, and a congress was the initial event of the IPA’s founding in Paris, in 1896. The IPA’s Lillehammer congress follows Norway’s year as Frankfurter Buchmesse’s guest of honor, led by NORLA.

Einarsson, of course, is best known in the association as the chair of the Freedom To Publish committee, which, among other duties, confers the IPA’s annual Prix Voltaire for “exemplary courage in upholding the freedom to publish and enabling others to exercise their freedom of expression.” See our sidebar today for news of the 2020 prize’s nominations opening.

On his home turf, the Icelandic-born Einarsson is also the former CEO of Den norse Bokklubben and Kunnskapsforlaget, and now is managing director of the Norwegian Publishers Association.

Timed to dovetail with the Norsk Litteraturfestival, the Norwegian Festival of Literature in Lillehammer, the congress is a biennial event, last held in February 2018 in New Delhi, and is expected to draw several hundred delegates from many parts of the world.

And even as the IPA’s new regional conferences in Africa and the Middle East roll out (with Asian and Latin American events in the making), the congress stands as the world body’s chance, every other year, to take stock of the position of publishing at the international scale–the successes, the pressure points, and the goals for the near- and long term as digitally powered associated–and sometimes competing–entertainments arise to challenge reading and the culture of books on the international stage.

Not for nothing is the over-arching theme of the congress: “Reading Matters.” And that theme is being paralleled in many other events in world publishing, as in the upcoming FutureBook Live conference in London, where The Bookseller’s Philip Jones is stressing the importance of the question, “How [do] we maintain the cultural caché of books?”

You can see the outlines of the programming taking shape now, and they reveal another element of the plan: a two-track opportunity designed to make the congress equally valuable for both the trade and educational publishing communities. “Educational publishing is such an important part of any local publishing market. In some countries, it’s the only local publishing market or the part of the market that enables some publishers to take risks in trade publishing.

“We wanted them to have a special place in the program to discuss their issues while benefitting from the broader discussions about the global publishing industry.”

To that end, the program offers a special “Nordic Educational Experience” on the pre-congress meetings day (May 27) and a special full-day track for educational publishers on the Friday (May 29). That educational track, in fact, can be bought as a single-day pass for those whose work is germane only to the educational sector.

Below we’re embedding an initial promotional video that the Lillehammer team has put together for its congress, in which Einarsson, Bodour, IPA president Hugo Setzer, Lillehammer director of culture Olav Brostrup Müller, and Norwegian Festival of Literature director Marit Borkenhagen describe the setting of the congress and some of its goals.

More from Publishing Perspectives on the International Publishers Association is here, and more from us on the IPA’s world congresses is here. More on the Norwegian market is here. Publishing Perspectives is the international media sponsor of the IPA’s 33rd International Publishers Congress.

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.