On Monday, the Frankfurt Book Fair hosted the first of a series of weekly webinars for rights professionals, leading up to and culminating with an in-person event at the fair, which runs October 18-22. The first session focused on artificial intelligence with an appearance by Madeline McIntosh, former CEO of Penguin Random House US. Other speakers were author and tech philosopher Tom Chatfield; Duncan Calow, a partner at the law firm DLA Piper; Thomas Cox, managing director of IT services at the consulting company Arq Works; and Peter Schoppert, director the National University of Singapore Press.

While much of the session looked at legal issues and copyright concerns, McIntosh opted to discuss the use of AI from the perspective of a publishing house, noting that when it comes to rights issues, AI could potentially impact several key areas, including assisting with fighting piracy (though it is just as likely to exacerbate the issue); tracking contracts, including policing contract terms and flagging expirations; and helping with book scouting.

McIntosh advocated for thinking of AI as a tool to help writers and publishers, and not replace them. There will also, McIntosh added, be opportunities to use AI to assist with the creation of marketing materials, finding new readers in untapped markets, translation, and the creation of audiobooks.

“Everyone in publishing is severely overworked. I think we all can acknowledge that," McIntosh said. "So, I’m using efficiencies here not to suggest that there should be reductions in people’s jobs, but more the use of technology which would actually allow humans to automate the parts of their daily tasks that are not as much worth their human time in order to focus more productively where we are best used."

This article has been updated.