In separate and contrasting presentations at the AAP annual meeting, noted Forrester analyst and disruption enabler James McQuivey was joined by the witty polymath and digital apostate Jaron Lanier, both offering starkly differing responses to the rise of the digital era. Both speakers were followed onstage by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who was greeted with warm applause by the gathering after an introduction by her publisher, S&S CEO and outgoing AAP board of directors chair Carolyn Reidy.
Held at the McGraw-Hill Auditorium in midtown Manhattan, the Association of American Publishers general annual meeting focused on intellectual property and was entitled The Next Chapter In Protecting IP: Policy, Disruption, Innovation and Sustainability. Attendees at the meeting heard from both sides of the digital divide. In addition to the speakers already noted, Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY), a longtime New York congressional representative, was on hand to discuss being named the ranking member of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the internet, as well as on the state of copyright legislation in Congress.
Reidy, who will be succeeded as AAP board chair by Brian Crawford of the American Chemical Society, gave a quick rundown of the past years' accomplishments at AAP. She noted that the AAP school division merged with the Association of Educational Publishers, and that AAP membership has grown 62% since the last general meeting. She also outlined a number of efforts on intellectual property rights, including a takedown effort in China around a piracy website with 12 million infringing articles. She mentioned ongoing litigation over fair use, and pointed to a "one-sided" discussion being waged by "tech companies with enormous resources looking to devalue copyright." Reidy told the group that "we need to make our own case to Congress" on the importance of copyright,” and called on publishers to have “more visibility in Washington D.C. We need a more concerted effort to make a stronger impression on key Senators and Congressman.”
In conversation with AAP president and CEO Tom Allen, Nadler gave an overview on congressional action (or inaction) on copyright legislation, on his switch to the IP subcommittee, and being named ranking member and leader of the subcommittee’s minority democrats. He said “IP issues are one of the few areas where divisions are not along party lines. So we might accomplish something.” Nevertheless, while hearings are likely on a number of issues, including fair use, takedown notices and the First Sale doctrine, he also said the hearings were an “exploration” of the issues and that legislation was unlikely.
This was just a prelude to presentations by technology and consumer trends analyst McQuivey, author of Digital Disruption, a book on the havoc unleashed on traditional businesses by digital networks and devices. McQuivey essentially told the publishers to get used to it. In the smartphone era, McQuivey said, digital disruption is cheap, easy and constant. He was even “outed,” in his words, during the Q&A when asked who published his book. “Amazon,” he said, “I’m owning disruption.”
Among other disruptive ventures such as Airbnb, Netflix, and Kickstarter, he also highlighted Square, an iPhone device that lets anyone accept credit card charges, and showed how it has disrupted banks and credit card companies. Square also allows anyone to use a simple email message to pay someone as if they were using cash. Indeed in his talk McQuivey told the publishers to stop fighting it, exhorting the audience to, “disrupt yourselves. Internalize disruption to find new opportunities in your businesses.”
On the other hand, Jaron Lanier, author of Who Owns the Future, his most recent book, was probably considered a tonic after McQuivey’s tales of an era of perpetual disintermediation. Lanier’s first words to the gathering were “I started something that has hurt you badly,” before recapping his own involvement in launching the world of digital networks that we live in today. Lanier said he turned down offers from Amazon “to publish with a traditional publisher because I want you to succeed.”
Noted for his early work on artificial intelligence and virtual reality (not to mention being an accomplished musician and visual artist), Lanier is the digital native that traditional publishers can only dream about. He said the internet can be “reinvented” to do away with the evils of easy copying and file sharing, that the digital economy is wiping out the middle class, and that Big Data, the ability to use networked cheap computing for predictions of all kinds, is a short term “winner takes all," strategy. He said digital will lead to the “disruption of employment,’ in every area of life, not just media and the arts. Self-driving cars will wipe out truck drivers, bus drivers and cabbies, robotics will uproot more factory workers and with the rise of automated translation programs, even translators are in danger of being disintermediated. “The pattern will be repeated. Everything can be made hyper efficient.”
After an hour or so of back and forth about the looming digital paradise, or perhaps apocalypse, Hillary Clinton brought a sense of relaxed fun and old fashioned book hype back to the proceedings. According to Reidy, Clinton writes her own books and uses her staff and trusted associates to give her constant feedback on her writing. Clinton told anecdotes about her husband and about writing her previous books and talked about the new memoir, which will chronicle her time at the State Department. She also encouraged publishers to get involved with First Book, a nonprofit organization she and Bill Clinton support that has distributed more than 100 million books to low income children all over the U.S. “60% of low income families have no books at all in the home, that’s not like the middle class neighborhoods I grew up in. we know that the synapses in kids’ brains light up when they are read to. Reading fuels brain development in young children.
“Reading is a gift that I want every child to have,” she said. “I’m an old fashioned reader who loves books.”