Kolman: 'publishers should shout more about innovation'

Kolman: 'publishers should shout more about innovation'

The International Publishers Association president Michiel Kolman has called on publishers to "shout more" about how they are innovating, rather than leave it to the global technology companies to claim that space. Speaking at the opening of the IPA Congress in New Delhi, India, on Saturday (10th February), he urged publishers to take a more active part in framing policy that affects the industry.

Meanwhile Angela Gui, daughter of the publisher Gui Minhai, awarded this year's IPA Prix Voltaire, challenged the IPA on the Chinese Publishers Association's membership of the body, in a Skype interview broadcast at the Congress.

In his opening address, Kolman told attendees: "Our strength is our centuries of experience in bringing authors’ works to their readers, and we are constantly innovating in how we do that. We provide high quality information to our end-users in the right format and at the right time. This is well illustrated by how medical publishers provide crucial information to emergency room doctors so that they can take crucial decisions. And that is now supported by Artificial Intelligence. Can it get more futuristic than that?"

But publishers "need to shout about how we do that more", he warned. "Global technology companies have successfully presented themselves as the exciting future. While some of their gloss is starting to fade amid scandals of fake news and tax avoidance, they are still framing many of the policy questions that will have an impact on our industry. We need to start re-framing these issues."

Using a cricketing metaphor, which he said was appropriate in a country that loves cricket, Kolman said: "We need to start hitting some sixes. Differently put: 'We need to get on the front foot.'"

The title of this year’s IPA congress is "Shaping the Future: Innovation Meets Experience", with speakers including Francis Gurry, director general of the World Intellectual Property Organization and Maria Pallante, c.e.o. of the American Association of Publishers.

This evening (12th February) the 2018 IPA Prix Voltaire award ceremony will be held, with the prize going this year to Gui Minhai, the Swedish publisher and bookseller from Hong Kong, who also served as a board member of the Independent Chinese PEN Centre, and who is currently being held by the authorities in China.

But Angela Gui, Gui Minhai's daughter, queried the Chinese Publishers Association's membership of the IPA, in an interview held yesterday (11th February) during the Congress via a live Skype link from London.

“A so-called interview with my father appeared on Friday in which he is forced to say that he had been led astray by Swedish diplomats and was involved with divulging state secrets to them,” she said.  “I don’t think there is any doubt that everything he said in the interview was scripted. There are a lot of questions about my father’s legal status at the moment.  I don’t know where he is and I am worried that he will be in custody for a long time.”

Interviewed by Jessica Sanger of Germany’s trade association, the Borsenverein, Gui said she was unsure how to proceed with her own advocacy of her father’s case. “But I would like to know why the Chinese Publishers Association is allowed to be part of the International Publishers Association [IPA].  How is that defensible alongside the IPA’s values?” she asked.

The interview took place in a session that looked at the effect of awards and recognitions, during which Jennifer Clement, President of PEN International, delivered a keynote address in which she said: “I challenge the IPA and everyone in this room to play an active role in defending freedom of expression in both China and beyond at a time when this fundamental human right is under grave threat.”