Rebecca Smart, m.d. of Ebury, has reassured Frankfurt Book Fair attendees on the eve of the fair that Penguin Random House UK is "open as usual", declaring that the British are global and European citizens. Smart addressed Brexit concerns at the Global Publishers Summit in Frankfurt this morning (18th October).
Smart, who likened waking up to the pro-Brexit referendum vote on 24th June to entering the plot of a "post-apocalyptic novel", took the opportunity ahead of the impending negotiations to both address and downplay the impact of leaving the European Union would have on business relationships, citing examples of global bestsellers, and the importance of PRH UK's publishing partners in Europe and in the US.
Smart said: "Our message to you is that we will remain open as usual, whatever happens during Brexit negotiations. Our European publisher partners are a very important part of the UK industry – we buy from them and sell to them every day. We are global citizens but we remain European citizens, whether EU members or not."
Smart also stressed the need for "unity through diversity", and invited competitors to help "accelerate the change", taking her cue from c.e.o. Tom Weldon whom Smart said had been "quick to calm things" in the aftermath of the result and indeed saw it as evidence of the need to publish more diversely.
"We have to work hard on this," she said. "UK publishing does not have a good record of addressing its lack of diversity. It has remained staunchly white middle class, and its leadership has been too male. Books drive culture, and it’s important that we ensure we are driving it towards representation of everyone in our society. There are voices that are not being heard, stories that are not being told."
Systems, data and insight were raised as a "second big challenge" faced by the industry, urging further investment in systems in order to compete with digital media, because creativity alone would not be enough.
"We need to equip our people with the ability to apply insight to data quickly, to update metadata easily, to market online efficiently. And we need to do this at the same time as doing everything else we do and have always done – this is another challenge of legacy and again I think will be a key focus of the next few years in the UK industry," she said.