IPA’s Pansa at Guadalajara: ‘A Union of Cultures to Build’

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The 37th iteration of the Guadalajara International Book Fair is opened by IPA’s Karine Pansa, flagging world publishing’s challenges.

International Publishers Association president Karine Pansa is applauded at the opening ceremony of the 37th edition of the Guadalajara International Book Fair. To her immediate right is Hugo Setzer, the IPA past president who now is president of Mexico’s influential book chamber, referred to as the CANIEM, and Marisol Schulz, longtime director of the public-facing Guadalajara fair. Image: FIL Guadalajara, Natalia Fregoso

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

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IPA’s Reach Expands to 81 Countries, 101 Associations

‘We Have Books To Discover’
The opening of Mexico’s annual public-facing Guadalajara International Book Fair is always a festive affair.

This year, the International Publishers Association (IPA) president Karine Pansa of São Paulo has used her commentary at Saturday’s kickoff ceremony (November 25) to put onto the show’s traditional long table of VIPs several of the most serious issues facing the world publishing industry today. In a gratifying first, Pansa has been given the honor of being the only publisher to declare Latin America’s biggest book fair open.

These are not the thickening plots that many book consumers in the teeming aisles of the Guadalajara fair may know as well as they should.

Related article: IPA’s Reach Expands to 81 Countries, 101 Associations. Image: Getty iStockphoto: Elijah Lovkoff

Days after the 2023 IPA general assembly confirmed that the world body will reach in January a new record of 101 member-associations in 81 countries, Pansa has reminded the publishing leadership that next year’s  Feria Internacional del Libro de Guadalajara will be the seat of the 2024 International Publishers Congress, the 34th such biennial summit of the 126-year-old IPA.

“Freedom of publication is threatened in many ways,” she said, “from abuse of libel laws, social media pressures, government censorship. This can affect all types of books: commercial, educational and academic.

This comes as “Just to the northern border of Mexico,” Pansa said, “we see books being removed from the shelves of school libraries.”

Her reference there was of course to the era’s furious barrage of book-banning efforts by the political right in the United States, quantified by PEN America as having jumped by 33 percent in the 2022-2023 school year to a total 3,362 book bannings and attempted bannings.

Related article: Ahead of Oral Arguments: Amicus Briefs Filed in Texas’ ‘Book Rating’ Law. Image, inside the rotunda of the Texas state capitol building: Getty iStockphoto: Gnagel

Most recently, the Association of American Publishers—which will co-produce the 2024 International Publishers Congress with Mexico’s publishers at Guadalajara—has joined its leading sister organizations in the American market to file a 76-page appellate brief in the state of Texas, immediately to Mexico’s north, demanding that the Austin-based Texan government be stopped from requiring bookstores to give sexual-content ratings to all their books, a vigorously contested Republican Party bill called HB 900.

But Pansa also pointed to Mexico’s own ongoing battle with publishing suppression, saying, “In Mexico, publishers of educational books have been deprived of their freedom to publish and have had to take their own government to court. The IPA supports them and will support them at all times.”

It’s unlikely that many in the packed audience for the Guadalajara opening ceremony aren’t aware of Pansa’s reference. She was pointing to the Andrés Manuel López Obrador administration’s effort to take over textbook publishing.

Related Article: Mexico’s Book Chamber Files Lawsuit in Textbook Dispute. Image: Walking home from school in Vallodolid, in the Yucatan Peninsula: Getty iStockphoto: Kertu EE

It’s a plan that has prompted the Cámara Nacional de la Industria Editorial Mexicana (CANIEM)—the National Chamber of the Mexican Publishing Industry—to take the national government to court in a lawsuit, an amparo claim, a request for protection that arrives with what’s reported as unanimous agreement of the CANIEM board of directors working with the chamber’s legal counsel.

The government’s cancellation of Mexico’s 25-year program of textbook development and publishing means, the CANIEM charges, “that publishing houses interested in proposing content for students at the secondary level will no longer be able to prepare projects to be submitted to the secretary of public education for approval”—reflecting a trend seen in other international markets in which increasingly authoritarian regimes try to wrest control of educational content creation from the private sector’s publishers.

AI as ‘Automatic Writing Machines’

The November 25 ribbon-cutting ceremony at the opening of the 27th Guadalajara International Book Fair, near the center from left Hugo Setzer, Karine Pansa, and Marisol Schulz. Image: FIL Guadalajara, Rafael del Rio

Pansa reminded her audience that IPA’s “two pillars are promoting copyright and freedom of publication”–the latter prominent two years ago when Pansa was at Guadalajara for the IPA Prix Voltaire’s presentation to Beirut’s Rasha Al Ameer.

Related article: London: Top Publishing Organizations Call for Artificial Intelligence Protection. Image: Getty iStockphoto: S Hansche

“As for copyright,” Pansa said, “some of the biggest companies in the world want to train their automatic writing machines, sorry, ‘Generative Artificial Intelligence,’ with books we have published.

‘Of course they’d like to use the best works to train their tools: works professionally edited with care and dedication, written with passion by excellent authors.

“These companies recognize very well the value of professionally published books, but the problem is that they try to extract that value without license and without remuneration. This is not fair, it is not right, and we will fight hard against it.”

Guadalajara’s Guest of Honor Europe

At the Guest of Honor European Union pavilion at the Guadalajara International Book Fair on its opening day, November 25. Image: FIL Guadalajara, Nabil Quintero

Pansa welcomed the 2023 Guadalajara show’s guest of honor—the 27 and 24 official languages of the European Union—with what she described as the bloc’s “wealth of incredible authors and publishers.

“You are also a bastion of copyright and the ardent defense of freedom of expression and freedom of publication,” she said, addressing the European delegation. “You are home to many IPA members and our close and valued colleagues at the Federation of European Publishers.

“On artificial intelligence, [Europeans] are setting the legislative tone. How you ensure transparency of these platforms and respect for the rights of everyone in this room will set the standard for many countries to follow suit.”

A moment of tribute to the late Raúl Padilla López at the Guadalajara Fair’s opening ceremony. Image: FIL Guadalajara, Eva Becerra

Pansa also paid tribute to the late  Raúl Padilla López, the former president of the Guadalajara fair’s organizing committee, whose reported suicide in April shook the Mexican publishing and university communities.

Related article: In Mexico: FIL Guadalajara’s Raúl Padilla, Dead at 68. Image, FIL Guadalajara, Paula Vásquez

Padilla’s career was not without controversy, particularly in terms of political dynamics around Partido Revolucionario Institucional, PRI, the political party that held complete power in a one-party Mexico for some 70 years. Some news reports, however, referred to a possible Alzheimer’s diagnosis for Padilla, something alleged to have been referenced in a letter found with his body. There was also, according to some press reports, a reference left by Padilla to “persecution by state and federal governments.”

As reported by Augustín del Castillo in a September article for El Pais on the University of Guadalajara’s Museum of Environmental Science–Padilla’s death “paved the way for dialogue to commence once again,” after that US$100 million project had been delayed by six years, with Padillo “embroiled in fights with both the university’s cultural center and the state government.”

In 2021, Pansa said to her audience on Saturday, “Raúl Padilla shared the stage with me and said, ‘FIL is proud to hold firm to its conviction of being a space where human rights are promoted and respected, and cultural expressions are dignified and embraced with impetuous interest; a place where all currents of thought are invited to [be] reflect[ed] through cordial dialogue and debate of ideas.’

“‘In times of complexity,'” she quoted him saying, “‘such as the one we are living in, it is especially important to protect guarantees so that all ideas and expressions of reason can exist and circulate freely.'”

Outside the Guadalajara Expo at the entrance to the 2023 Guadalajara International Book Fair on opening day, November 25. Image: FIL Guadalajara, Paula Vázquez


More from Publishing Perspectives on the Guadalajara International Book Fair is here, more on the Mexican publishing market is here, more on Spanish-language literature is here, more on the International Publishers Association is here,  world publishing’s trade shows and book fairs is here, more on the European Union is here, and more on European book and publishing markets is here.

Publishing Perspectives is the International Publishers Association’s world media partner.

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.com, 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.

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