Paul Aiken, the former long-time executive director of the Authors Guild, died Friday January 29, one day shy of his 57th birthday.
A lawyer, Aiken first joined the guild in 1993 and was named executive director in 1995. He stepped down from an active role in the association in the fall of 2013 when he disclosed that he has been diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig's Disease. Aiken established a blog, n=2.com, to record his fight against the disease which included taking a number of alternative cures. In addition to the blog, Aiken made n=2.com into a foundation with the aim of “building a global ALS community.”
Aiken led the guild through a time of tremendous change in the book industry, particularly in the digital area. It was during his tenure that the guild filed its lawsuit against Google that charged that the company’s library book scanning project was copyright infringement. Aiken helped to craft the agreement to settle the case and worked hard for its approval, but the settlement was rejected by a federal court in March 2011. The guild continues to appeal the case. Another initiative issue championed by Aiken was getting publishers to raise the royalty rate on e-books, a cause that remains one of the guild’s top priorities.
In a tribute posted on its website the guild observed that it “owes a great deal to Paul, who devoted his keen intelligence, good humor, enormous energy, and the best part of his life to our cause. Paul's optimism and tenacity--for writers, and then for himself and his family--were vibrant and rare. He was a beacon for all of us.
In a statement, guild president Roxana Robinson noted that, "Brilliant and fierce can change the world, but it's generosity that makes it a better place. For twenty years Paul worked to make the world a better place for writers, readers and everyone else affected by the written word.”