The book trade has reacted with “dismay”, “horror” and “frustration” to this morning’s shock news that Republican candidate Donald Trump has beaten Democrat Hillary Clinton to take the White House as US president elect.
Concerns from the UK trade have ranged from fears over an increase in uncertainty in the trading environment, to a rise of anti-intellectualism, to a rush to privatise public services in the country such as libraries.
But publishers have also issued a rallying cry to the trade keep on “connecting people across the divide” with books and not to “flinch in the face of temporary setbacks”.
Tim Hely Hutchinson, c.e.o of Hachette UK, told The Bookseller “the fight for kindness and tolerance” must continue.
“The lesson of history is that populist politicians do not create lasting benefits for their voters, usually in fact the opposite,” he said. “Populism is often combined with illiberal social values, as seems to be the case with Donald Trump and his supporters. The fight for kindness and tolerance, which has made so much progress in recent decades, must continue - with new leaders and new ideas - and not flinch in the face of temporary setbacks."
Waterstones m.d. James Daunt, though, has expressed his “dismay” at the result and feared an increase in uncertainty. Global markets are in turmoil following the result, with Asian stocks falling “sharply”, the US dollar diving and gold prices surging, according to the BBC. Analysts have likened the shock of Trump’s victory to June’s Brexit result – although neither markets nor currencies have oscillated as wildly as they did after June’s EU referendum.
Daunt said: “I think it adds to the uncertainty we already face as a result of Brexit, so what was already a concern for booksellers is now an even bigger concern,” he said. “Anybody in retail who is not battening down the hatches and who is not concerned about the future is more optimistic than me. The reality is, just like Brexit, we will have to discover over the next two to three years what the real impact will be. I am dismayed by the result…One then has to be concerned about how the European elections may now go.”
Stephen Page, c.e.o of Faber, shared Daunt’s worry over an increase in uncertainty in the markets. “The financial markets are doing what they did after Brexit, so there is a very real sense of uncertainty about what will happen next and I don’t think we’ll know for some time,” he said.
Andrew Franklin, m.d of Profile Books, was also nervous about the global economic impact of Trump’s appointment. “Impact for the trade in the short term will be small, but the global impact will be dire,” he said. “It’s going to push the world into deeper recession. Consumer spend will shrink, as will the appetite for books. It’s certain that the market will be badly affected by this. [Trump is] a deeply malevolent force, he’s a misogynist, a racist… he’s all bad. There is absolutely nothing positive that can be said about this.”
Lizzy Kremer, agent at David Higham and vice president of the Association of Authors Agents, said she was “horrified” and “distressed”, as well as “sad and anxious for my friends in publishing in America”, in reaction to the result. She told The Bookseller: “It’s my daughter’s 14th birthday today. I had to tell her that today America voted a fascist into power rather than a woman; that didn’t feel good. It’s obviously affecting the value of currency, it’s affecting the markets, it will affect business. It will affect everything."
Agent Diane Banks, who was pro-Brexit, meanwhile, said there was no way to react apart from with “sheer horror”.
“It will definitely increase uncertainty in the market,” she said. However, she added that the result might give a temporary boost to book sales. “As for the appetite for books, thinking about why people by books, it’s to spark debate, so in that respect, people will still want to buy and read books,” she said.
Meanwhile Michael Schmidt, a Mexican citizen and founder and managing director of Carcanet Press, worried the result would introduce an “atmosphere of anti-intellectualism that will be very damaging for the cultural sector”.
“It will lead to a society that is hostile to exchanges of ideas and knowledge in favour of exchanges of materials and goods,” he said. “[The result], like Brexit, will lead to insularity and will certainly further increase uncertainty in the market.”
This team has so much to be proud of. Whatever happens tonight, thank you for everything. pic.twitter.com/x13iWOzILL— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) November 9, 2016
Alessandro Gallenzi, founder of Alma Books, blamed “intellectual sheepishness” for the result. “There's just too much intellectual sheepishness and 'après nous le déluge' mentality around,” he said. “What you sow is what you reap. Decades of lack of investment in education and the arts, decades of dumbing-down and anti-intellectualism can only lead to mental apathy and political passivity.”
Author and libraries campaigner Alan Gibbons, meanwhile, said he was nervous about a rush to privatisation which may impact on libraries. "Now he has been elected we will see a hardening of private capital running rampant and a strengthening of the belief that privatisation can provide for everything, which is bad for everyone who believes in public services, including libraries, museums and galleries.”
Others have tried to strike an optimistic note and pointed to the role publishing and books can play in healing divides. Kate Wilson, founder of children’s publisher Nosy Crow, said: “I've already been in touch with a number of my US counterparts, the people we sell to, and I think the best comment came from one who said 'I'm really glad we do the work that we do'. We need to hang on to the fact that the thing we do is connecting people across the divide.”
Faber’s Page, meanwhile, added: “Kazuo Ishiguro said after Brexit he could not believe that half of Britain was suddenly intolerant and clearly the same will be true of America, so I think we have to think about where we go from here. Publishing is a very tolerant industry, clearly there are people in the UK and people in the US who do not feel that the liberal agenda is serving them. It does not mean they are all full of hate and misogyny, but we have to hear there are a lot of unhappy people. Books and writing is an important part of trying to bridge the divide.”
British authors have been reacting on Twitter to the result and expressed sympathy with their American friends and colleagues.
Francesca Simon, originally from the US but based in the UK, tweeted: "Right now this is the worst horror movie ever. The US has just elected the man endorsed by the KKK. I guess US towns should get busy building stocks for all the women who will need to be punished for abortions." American author Stephen King called it “the ugliest election in living memory”.
And American New York Times-bestselling author Amy Tan tweeted today: "Fear trumped reason. Hate trumped compassion. But we still have our principles and can be a support to those now scared for their lives.”
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