By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson
‘We Face Significant Challenges’Today (August 31), in her morning address at the Book 2.0 Conference in Lisboa, International Publishers Association (IPA) president Karine Pansa has told her audience, “We need to be tough and we need to be smart.
“We need to ensure that authors and publishers continue to be rewarded for their work and investment. We need to ensure that ideas can continue to flow freely and that our readers can access a wide range of voices and perspectives.”
What Pansa, the editorial director at Girassol Brasil Edições in São Paulo, has done in her commentary at the Museu Nacional dos Coches is remind more than 50 delegates to the conference from Portugal and other markets that “The Future of Reading”—as the conference is themed—may well lie as much in the preservation and promotion of policies and laws as in arts and letters.
Pansa’s remarks come just days after she and her publishing colleagues in Brazil were successful in their unprecedented lawsuit to protect essential educational-publishing rights and responsibilities from a São Paulo state-government effort to dilute them. The editorial director at Girassol Brasil Edições knows a lot about how and why “we need to be tough and we need to be smart,” having experienced, first-hand, the need to take her own local government to the São Paulo Court of Justice and defend Brazil’s Programa Nacional do Livro Didático, PNLD, the National Textbook Program.
Fresh from that victory, Pansa has translated the energy of a major success into what may be a new tone from the IPA—one perhaps a bit less measured than in the association’s past, more emboldened against rising instances of censorship and copyright infringement. These threats to publishing are buoyed today in many world markets by authoritarian currents in government moves and are quickly being surfaced in brazen corporate efforts to train artificial intelligence on the human genius of literature.
“Some of the biggest companies the world has ever known will seek to use new technologies to justify the need for new laws—laws that weaken authors’ rights and copyright.”Karine Pansa, IPA
“There are many companies,” she said in Lisboa this morning, “some of the biggest companies the world has ever known, that will seek to use new technologies to justify the need for new laws—laws that weaken authors’ rights and copyright.
“The resilience of our sector is built on solid laws and effective public policies that protect copyright and enable the enforcement of those rights,” Pansa said. “Based on these key enablers, the modern publishing industry has curated the best books humanity has ever produced; educational publishers combine research and practical experience to produce high-level educational resources; publishers of technical and scientific books, called STM, bring the best of global research. In doing so, the publishing market will continue to adopt new technologies, including artificial intelligence, in different ways in their businesses.”
But despite calling for optimism in the potential of publishing to prevail, Pansa spoke of the imperative of realism, the need to be honest: “We already see,” she said, “that the arrival of social media has, in many ways supported an increase in freedom of expression, creating platforms for the exchange of ideas. However, we also see these platforms being used to spread disinformation and intimidate people into silence.
“In our own sector, we have seen many authors and publishers pressured to withdraw books from the market, change promotional campaigns, and make more edits to content.” While not mentioning concerns that some of the most popular social media may be a vehicle for surveillance, she spoke of regimes “in which publishers face intimidation, imprisonment, or even death for the works they publish. The IPA is here to support these publishers and recognize our courageous colleagues through our Prix Voltaire.”
‘Barriers to the Growth of the Reading Habit’
The program in Portugal has offered more than 20 events, created as debates and discussions, and organizers prior to the event reportedly expected attendees to include the Portuguese president, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, various ministers of state, and Antonio Feijó—since May 2022 the president of the powerful Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation.
“When it comes to diversity, can we better represent the cultural richness of our societies through the books we publish? When it comes to inclusion, can we ensure better representation in our workforce, for example in relation to gender?”Karine Pansa, IPA
The delegates heard from Pansa about the importance of policies that support building a habit of reading in a population—fundamental among these “public policies already used here in Portugal and in some other countries such as the book voucher. The fixed price law and tax policies to support the sector,” she said, “namely zero VAT for all books, have become a popular way to support this and are an excellent tool for all book formats to support the promotion of this habit.”
Taking advantage of the chance to focus on the contemporary talking points of a world industry in transition, she asked, “When it comes to diversity, can we better represent the cultural richness of our societies through the books we publish? When it comes to inclusion, can we ensure better representation in our workforce, for example in relation to gender? As far as sustainability is concerned, we do an excellent job of publishing books that raise awareness of these issues. But how do we behave in business itself? Are we sustainable?”
Pansa pointed out in the 126-year history of the IPA, four presidents have been women: Ana Maria Cabanellas (Argentina); Bodour Al Qasimi (United Arab Emirates); Pansa; and, anticipated to be president after her current vice-presidency, Gvantsa Jobava (Georgia). She told the Book 2.0 audience that she hopes the terms of office held by women at IPA “can serve as an inspiration for women publishers around the world to aim for the top positions in their companies and support women on the rise.
“Employee diversity within our businesses is also important for the future of the books we produce,” she said. “Our industry can reach a wider and more diverse readership if we ourselves are diverse and sensitive to stories from different backgrounds.
“As far as sustainability is concerned, we do an excellent job of publishing books that raise awareness of these issues. But how do we behave in business itself? Are we sustainable?”Karine Pansa, IPA
And touching on other key issues of accessibility and the critical need for robust digital infrastructure to support the delivery and promulgation of knowledge, she pointed out that the fourth of the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals is education, she said, “We do not believe that quality results can be achieved with platforms based on free or open educational resources.
“We certainly don’t believe that eliminating the local educational publishing market through open educational resources will bring a positive result for students.
“Much less do we believe that, for every student around the world, online education will replace school–either in its current format or in a future model of hybrid education.”
And having opened her remarks by talking of optimism, she closed by clarifying that optimism requires not giddy happy talk but recognizing the realities of what’s necessary and acting on it to cultivate the purpose and potential of world book publishing.
“We are at an exciting crossroads,” Pansa said, “where the industry can thrive in a digital environment, as long as our two foundations, copyright and freedom to publish, remain solid. However, we face significant challenges in keeping these foundations strong, especially in a world where copyright is frequently challenged by technological and commercial forces.”
Being “tough and smart” as she told the Lisboa assembly, “requires advocacy, partnership, and coordinated action. It requires that we continue to work together to shape a bright future for the world of books”–in “a future in which words continue to inspire us, united us, and drive us forward.”
More from Publishing Perspectives on educational publishing is here, more on the freedom to publish and freedom of expression is here, more on diversity and inclusion is here, more on sustainability is here, and more on the work of the International Publishers Association is here.
Publishing Perspectives is the International Publishers Association’s world media partner.