The day started with a traditional candle lighting ceremony, before the Minister for Science and Technology, Dr Harsh Vardhan, arrived to launch the day’s proceedings. IPA President Michiel Kolman gave a keynote address where he called on the publishing industry to stop being defensive and to shout about the industry’s many successes, sentiments that were echoed by FIP President, NK Mehra.

The big picture

The opening session, the Global Leaders Forum, featured heavyweights Amitabh Kant (CEO of NITI Aayog – the National Institution for transforming India), former IPA Presidents YS Chi (Elsevier) and Richard Charkin (Bloomsbury), and Matthew Kissner (John Wiley & Sons) looking at the big picture around the systemic disruption of global publishing. Mr Kant confirmed the Indian government’s support for copyright and called on the sector to embrace technological change to meet the challenges of educating an Indian population undergoing the biggest demographic transition in history. Mr Charkin said that, following decades of dramatic change in publishing when marketing and then distribution were key, the author must now come back to being the central focus for trade publishers. He added that we have to educate the 5 biggest publishers in the world – Google, Facebook, Apple, Amazon and Microsoft – about proper respect for copyright. Mr Chi predicted that the publishers that will thrive in the future are those that have both an analytics capability and unique content. He spoke of the breakneck speed of change that publishers have to manage just to survive. Mr Kissner questioned the superiority of digital, saying that, currently, many digital books were inferior to print books and that the shift to digital means that publishers must rethink the way we present information.

Creating a digital marketplace that works

The heavily anticipated second session Shaping the Future of Copyright, hosted by IPA President Michiel Kolman, featured Maria Pallante (CEO of the Association of American Publishers) and Francis Gurry (Director General of the World Intellectual Property Organization) tackling several key questions around how to create a functioning global digital marketplace for creative content?

It was agreed that governments and non-governmental organizations have a role to play in bringing stakeholders together to develop voluntary measures that honour copyright while still enabling the enormous benefits of global digital delivery that has given the tech platforms an enormous advantage over traditional publishers.

Respect for copyright, it was noted, can result from capacity building in less developed markets. Countries that have the infrastructure to support a local publishing industry also recognize the benefits of copyright, which in turn leads to better and more consistent enforcement against copyright infringement.

The session ended on a positive note: publishing and publishers are here to stay, vital not only to culture, but to educated, stable societies. Publishers just have to embrace change and continue to innovate, as they have in the past.

The global freedom to publish challenge

PEN International President, Jennifer Clement, opened the final session, Do Freedom to Publish Awards and Recognition Help?, with a compelling keynote reminding us that challenges to freedom of speech are global and that women in particular are the worst affected. This was followed by a moving first-hand update via Skype from Angela Gui, daughter of the 2018 IPA Prix Voltaire recipient Gui Minhai, on her father’s continuing ordeal. She was sure that her father would welcome the award, contrary to recent reports, and was convinced that vocal support from the world community was better than silence if her father’s situation is to improve. This feeling was echoed by the 2017 IPA Prix Voltaire recipients Cavit Nacitarhan and Elif G√ľnay who made a direct appeal to the publishers everywhere to support their Turkish colleagues who have borne the brunt of the repressive regime in Turkey.

That brought the day’s proceedings to a close with the audience agreeing that this was one of the best opening days to an IPA Congress.

I post this as I run to the gala dinner. Make sure you follow #IPAcongress2018 on twitter during tomorrow’s discussions. We have a jam-packed second day covering the social responsibility of publishers, responding to copyright challenges, the threat of self-censorship, how to create the readers of the future, online literature and bringing publishing markets together – all topped off by the 2018 IPA Prix Voltaire award ceremony.

Kal milenge!