By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson
Al Qasimi: ‘Stay in the Game’On the second day of the 26th biennial São Paulo International Book Fair professional program, the International Publishers Association (IPA) president Bodour Al Qasimi gave the program’s keynote address.
The program today (June 30) also featured an extensive discussion of fellowship programs and their importance in international publishing, led by IPA vice-president and Brazilian publisher Karine Pansa. We’ll have more on that part of the program shortly, as this “Professional Journey” continues under the direction of the Brazilian Publishers and Brazilian Book Chamber (Câmara Brasileira do Livro).
During the still-ongoing coronavirus COVD-19 pandemic, Al Qasimi has made a point of traveling to various parts of the world to meet with publishers, listen to their assessments of the impact of the pandemic, and lead the formulation of what the IPA calls its Inspire Charter, a guide to a cooperative approach for world publishing, toward a more sustainable industry framework.
Al Qasimi singled out Pansa for special thanks, referring to her as “my sister in arms” and the IPA figure expected to succeed Al Qasimi in the top role early in 2023 .
Al Qasimi reminded the group that she has included stops in Bogáta and Buenos Aires in her pandemic-era swings through Latin America, which she stressed is an important regional presence on the international publishing stage.
“I’m happy to be in Brazil,” she said, “because I learned recently that the Brazilian Book Chamber, the resilient publishers’ union and the National Association of Libraries work together to lobby for financial support for publishers in the absence of government assistance.
“So this is a great example of collaboration. And this type of collaboration is exactly what we look for at the IPA. It’s something that’s very important, especially during the pandemic.”
She credited some of such teamwork to Brazilians’ fondness for football, recalling a comment from Pelé about how “a team isn’t made up of isolated individuals.”
“Always stay in the game and don’t be passive,” Al Qasimi said. “It’s that philosophy that really gave birth to the Inspire initiative in IPA.
The ‘Inspire Charter’ for World Publishing
“Inspire is short for our ‘International Sustainable Publishing and Industry Resilience’ plan,” she said, with cooperative, engaged community among publishers as a central element of its approach.
“This came about really as a response to what was happening to publishers during the pandemic,” Al Qasimi said.
“It was a way for us to bring together all the stakeholders in the publishing value chain to talk to each other for the first time in history. We were talking to booksellers, libraries, warehouses, printers, distributors, illustrators, and authors—the whole value chain was really communicating with each other to find solutions for our industry.
“And this is an important way for us to really pave the way forward and to have a roadmap for our industry. We asked our members who should be included in this team, and the answer was everyone—everyone needs to be included in this plan. Everyone in our industry has an important role to play. No matter how small you are, you’re still an important player.
“This was a huge, huge initiative for us,” Al Qasimi said about the development of the Inspire program, led by the offices of IPA in Geneva.
“And I’m happy to share that all of our reports [PDF] are available for anybody who’s interested to learn more about this on the IPA site.
“It’s a way for us to really jump-start our industry after the pandemic.
“I know we’re not over the worst yet,” she said. “I know where some places are still suffering the impacts of the pandemic.
“But we are, I think, seeing a lot of hope and a lot of resilience coming out of our industry.”
Joined by the World Intellectual Property Organization’s chief Daren Tang and the UNESCO director-general Audrey Azoulay, the IPA produced a February symposium on the Inspire Charter and its findings.
One of the upshots of the work on the Inspire Charter was the identification of five areas of stakeholder focus for world publishing—basically the most important elements of both needs and progress in the world industry.
She listed them for the São Paulo professional program audience, which included some who have been quite active in the development of the organization’s evaluations and plans.
Five Leading Concerns for Publishers
Those five areas and brief excerpts from Al Qasimi’s comments about them follow.
- Copyright: “We have to strengthen all of our channels of protection of copyright. As much as possible. Especially with the increased demand for digital content. Suddenly, piracy becomes very easy. So we need to make sure we’re always protecting our authors’ work.”
- The freedom to publish: “During the pandemic , we saw many cases in which we had to protect some of our publishers and authors and give them the freedom that they needed to publish without government censorship.”
- Sustainability: “Everywhere I went I was asked this question about the paper crisis happening in our industry. How can we be more sustainable as a publishing industry? What can we do to reduce our carbon footprint? So we identified sustainability as a very important theme for us in the Inspire initiative.”
- Diversity and inclusion: “Always, I get asked about this question. It seems to be a very hot topic at the moment wherever we go. Diversity and inclusion is important. If we don’t put it on our agenda, then it just doesn’t become a priority. So wherever we go, we see pockets of progress, but we need to work together to make sure that we can really see more significant progress in this field.”
- Publishing technology and innovation: “We can’t ignore the tech companies and all the progress that they’re making. So we need as an industry to be aware of the opportunities but also the challenges that technology does provide us with.”
Recalling Pelé’s concepts again, Al Qasimi told the group, “I want to say that no one plays alone. Success depends on your whole team being a single unit.
“It’s very important for us to always play as a team, always to keep our eyes on the ball, to stay nimble, to bring the full range and diversity of our skills to this game, to focus on success, and most importantly, to enjoy the game.”
A Brazilian PublisHer Event
On Friday, Al Qasimi will lead the first Brazilian meeting of PublisHer, the network of women in the international publishing business she established in 2019 during London Book Fair.
But on Thursday, after a coffee break, Al Qasimi did what every good publisher does at a professional program at an international trade show and book fair: she took a one-on-one meeting.
More from Publishing Perspectives on the Brazilian and Lusophone market is here, more on the world publishing industry’s rights trade is here, more on trade shows and book fairs in the international book publishing industry is here. More on the International Publishers Association’s Insight Charter program is here, more on PublisHer is here, and more on the work of Bodour Al Qasimi is here.
Publishing Perspectives is the International Publishers Association’s global media partner.
More from us on the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on international book publishing is here.