IPA’s Kolman: role for publishers in ‘post-truth’ world

IPA’s Kolman: role for publishers in ‘post-truth’ world

Publishers should stand as “beacons of trustworthiness” in an age of fake news and alternative facts, International Publishers Association president Michiel Kolman has said.

Kolman, who is senior vice-president of global academic relations at Elsevier, told The Bookseller Daily that he hoped publishers would “take a leading role in providing trustworthy, reliable information—it’s the core of what we do”.

He added: “An STM publisher spends time on the selection of articles, then works with an author so the article is enhanced, and only high-quality work is published. That’s also core to a literary house. I really hope, in this turbulent world, that publishers are beacons of trustworthiness.”

Kolman said freedom to publish was central to the IPA’s activity—and that it was under threat across the world. The trade body and Kristenn Einarsson, the new head of its Freedom to Publish Committee, are engaged on such issues: IPA staff may attend the imminent trial of Turkish writer Asli Erdoğan; and Kolman will travel to China next month to meet with publishers, Chinese publishing association members and government officials, with freedom to publish on the agenda alongside piracy concerns.

Asked where he stood on Simon & Schuster US dropping far-right commentator Milo Yiannopoulos’ book, Kolman said: “There is the criteria of quality: would [the title] pass the test? And he might be expressing an opinion most disagree with, but should he not have a vehicle to express it?”

Kolman said he believed publishers could “drive change—in the right way” in terms of technology altering the fabric of society. “In 10 years, jobs we used to have [will have] disappeared, and new ones appeared; we will live in a Big Data society. To make that change happen smoothly, to have the right information, is crucial. Science plays a crucial role, as does education. We will have to educate people for different roles, different jobs. Publishers can.”