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Hudson: recession threat to publishers' autumn schedules
01.06.09 | Graeme Neill
The recession has hit some publishers' autumn release schedules, the outgoing president of the Publishers Association has claimed.
Ian Hudson, deputy c.e.o. at Random House, told delegates at the Book Industry Conference that funding short-term working capital requirements was a "major challenge" for many publishers. He said: "Indeed, some publishers I’ve talked to tell me that their ability to deliver their autumn publishing programme is being limited by the credit crunch and their difficulty in covering their pre-autumn working capital requirements."
The Bookseller has previously reported that several booksellers, including The Book People, Borders and Blackwell, have had credit insurance withdrawn during the past six months. Hudson said that the greatest fear among publishers was the credit worthiness of retailers. He told delegates: "On the one hand publishers want to offer support to their customers during these difficult times, but on the other hand they simply cannot afford to take the damaging bad debt hits if more customers collapse.
Hudson said that while sales figures have shown the market holding up well compared to other media industries, it ignores the income streams from the likes of book club sales and foreign and serial rights. He said: "All of these channels of income are under pressure to one degree or another. What’s more, sales patterns are shifting between channels and between genre."
However, Hudson stressed that behind the immediate effects the recession was having on the book trade, there were several issues, with long-term implications, that needed to be dealt with now: "Copyright is the legal basis for our defence to piracy, our protection against the influx of cheap US editions and the whole basis for charging for our books at all," he said. "If government supports the watering down of copyright it will shoot the book trade and UK PLC in the foot. What’s more, in the digital environment, government must get off the fence and actively support the enforcement of copyright online."
He said that the challenges facing digitisation were the threat of piracy, enforcement of territoriality and maintaining the value of books. He added: "We fail to work together to address these challenges at our peril."
The PA president struck a note of optimism when describing the value of cooperation between retailers and publishers. He said the trade reaction to the collapse of EUK and the knock-on effect on its subsidiary Bertrams, which Hudson said came within a "hair's breadth" of collapse, was a cause for pride.
He continued, "If we are to continue navigating a safe path through this recession and come out stronger and future-ready on the other side it will be essential that this close co-operation continues."