Brexit will have far-ranging effects on society as well as business, so it is up to publishers to continue with the “political act” of facilitating the expression of new ideas, Faber c.e.o. Stephen Page has said.
Giving the keynote speech at London Book Fair’s Quantum Conference today (Monday 11th March), Page said in the “darkening times” in which we live, ideas of truth, expertise, compassion and tolerance are being assaulted. In light of this, Page said the publishing industry must acknowledge that the act of making public ideas and stories is a political act.
“Our society is changing, and a new generation is beginning to turn against [the profit motive]”, he said. “To raise the standards today may require greater courage for publishers in the UK, as it has in other countries such as Turkey or China. I’m not saying that we face a totalitarian future, but we do face a world of rising prejudice and violence, and this will be exacerbated by Brexit, or even by not leaving the EU. This new world is one that will be made by ideas, and ours is an ideas industry.”
Among the issues facing publishers that will be exacerbated by “the mess and chaos” of Brexit are copyright, territorial rights, and the danger of the dominance of Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix and Google.
Page said: “I fear there are those who believe that global English language markets are in their interests, both retailers and publishers. They are not.” Referencing publishers such as Profile, Europa Nosy Crow and OWN IT!, Page added: “If you look at the brilliant publishing being done in the independent sector by small, British companies, you can see why readers are so well served.”
He continued: “The sheer richness of the UK’s Creative Industries is based on the opportunity offered by a rich and diverse local market that then leads to international trade, migration of books into TV, film and games. This supports writers from many backgrounds, a diversity that can be socio-demographic, racial, regional or sexual. This depends on a rich ecosystem within bookselling, publishing, and media. Allowing breaches of territory will erode this ecosystem and dilute our rich environment.”
Page had a warning though of the "new challenge" produced by social media of the "increasing vulnerability to criticism faced by writers". He said: "There is a new speed to how news travels and judgement is cast. Threats and abuse proliferated on social media platforms is a global challenge and for writers there is a new exposure to threat and prejudice in the course of promoting or discussing their work, which is a matter for publishers to consider seriously."