Bloomsbury executive director Richard Charkin has warned of the dangers of the book industry being “monopolized” by “a single distribution channel”.
Giving his keynote speech at the opening of Sharjah International Book Fair’s professional programme 2014 earlier today (3rd November), Charkin argued that publishers needed to be paid properly for the books they produce, and he levelled criticism at unspecified companies which "don't care” about the industry.
“Right now many of us are fearing the monopolisation of channels in the distribution world,” Charkin said. “Publishing has always been about maximizing the opportunities to reach readers. The last thing we want is a single distribution channel." He added: "We have companies in our industry now who do not care about our industry. They are more interested in selling lumps of metal (e-readers and tablets). I do not blame them but I think they have to accept that books are there to be paid for and that publishers are here to stay in business, not least for the authors whose books they publish…We are in a new world. We have to be idealistic, yes but we have also got to be pragmatic to stay in business.”
Charkin, who takes over as president of the International Publishers Association in January, also predicted the days of selling territorial rights for books were coming to an end. “More and more of our customers and readers want to buy books wherever they want to," he said. "We have English language rights for North America, for Canada and the UK in a way which I think is becoming outmoded. We will move to see ‘world publishing’ with many books I think.” He also used his podium to criticize the practice of pirating books. “Copyright is completely sacrosanct in my view. It is the job of everyone in this room to protect that. It is the most successful form of legislation throughout the world,” he said.
The fourth year of the professional programme at SIBF is the best attended to date. Ahmed Al Ameri, director of Sharjah International Book Fair, said the event was considered the “gateway” for Arab publishing around the world. “Over 300 publishers from over 30 nations are here, including Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Iceland, Poland and Sweden, who we are welcoming for the first time,” he said.
UK publishers attending include Profile, Carlton, Macmillan, Kingfisher, Orion Children’s Books, Oxford University Press and Wiley.