In an open letter published on the company's website, PRH UK c.e.o. Tom Weldon has expressed confidence in the industry's prospects on entering a third lockdown and revealed Penguin Random House UK is donating a further 15,000 more books to communities most affected by the coronavirus crisis through its Neighbourly partnership, stressing kindness "will get us through to the other side of this crisis".
Weldon said in his letter that, although "dispirited" to be entering another lockdown, PRH does so this time with knowledge it didn't have before, taking stock that in 2020 it adapted publishing schedules, pivoted digital marketing, created new ways to reach readers online and transformed internal ways of working. He said furthermore that the pandemic had given "the most powerful reminder of why we do what we do", celebrating alongside the industry's ingenuity how books "provided a lifeline, a diversion and a lift just at the time when we needed those things most".
"As tough as the past year has been, I am confident about both our own future prospects and those of the industry," he said. "I draw that confidence from the industry’s remarkably resilient performance in 2020, and from our own increasing investment in authors, new books and new formats. We believe deeply and profoundly in the long-term value of publishing, both in the economic and the social sense."
In view of PRH UK's mission to "make books for everyone", Weldon revealed the publisher is donating a further 15,000 books to community partner Neighbourly, plus an additional 10,000 Ladybird books to families in need via the National Literacy Trust. He also outlined that the publisher's "near-term priorities" will be honing its digital offering, the discoverability of its authors and supply of books to customers, alongside executing its inclusivity action plan and supporting bookshops.
"Hard as it is to look or plan beyond the immediate weeks and months, we have reflected on all we learned in 2020 and identified a few near-term priorities for Penguin Random House," he said. "We are focusing on the continued acceleration into an online world and prioritising the fast and reliable supply of books to readers, as well as driving discoverability of our authors. At the same time, we’ve all keenly felt the absence of high street bookshops during lockdown, and we must work together to protect the broader book ecosystem and diverse retail landscape, which is so essential to our cultural and social landscape.
"2020 was an important moment of reckoning and reflection, and I sincerely hope that inclusivity will continue to be front of mind for our industry. We must continue to inject energy and urgency and, at Penguin Random House, we’ll continue to focus on executing our accelerated inclusivity action plan. Similarly, 2020 underlined the need for business to step up as a force for good in society. I hope and expect that public/private partnerships will become more important as we look to find ways to address widening inequality.
"I feel deeply grateful for the resilience of our industry, the enduring appeal of books, and for the committed colleagues, authors and partners with whom we will weather the storm.
"'What do you want to be when you grow up?' the mole asks in Charlie Mackesy’s bestselling book [The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse]. 'Kind,' replies the boy. That quality, along with many others, will get us through to the other side of this crisis. I can’t wait to meet you there, in person."
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