Pat Schroeder, who served as a congresswoman from Colorado for 24 years before being named president and CEO of the Association of American Publishers, died on March 13. She was 82.
Schroeder joined the AAP in 1997 after a distinguished career in Congress, where she was a fierce advocate for women and one of the main drivers in the passage of the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993, which guaranteed women and men up to 18 weeks of unpaid leave to care for a family member. During her time in Congress, she served on the Armed Services committee and was well-known for her dedication to progressive causes and pro-copyright positions.
Schroeder joined the AAP as the rise of the internet was changing publishing in a number of meaningful ways. None of those changes were more important than how copyright would evolve in response to the digital revolution, which involved not only the introduction of e-books but the decision in 2004, by Google, to undertake a program to scan books. Under the initiative, called the Google Book Search program, Google, citing fair use, copied books without permission, but promised to only show book “snippets.” The program was quickly challenged by the Authors Guild and the AAP, in which five major publishers, coordinated by the AAP, sued Google. “The bottom line,” said Schroeder, “is that Google is seeking to make millions of dollars by freeloading on the talent and property of authors and publishers.” A settlement was reached in October 2008, but the agreement would later be tossed by the court.
As more people were turning away from newspapers to the internet to get their news, Schroeder and the AAP engaged in a losing battle to try to convince papers not to close their book review sections. At the same time, the AAP conducted a consumer-facing promotion to encourage people to read books, creating the Get Caught Reading campaign, in which celebrities of all kinds were pictured with a book.
Schroeder was also a firm believer in the freedom to publish. Under her watch, the AAP launched the Jeri Laber Award, which was named after the author, who was one of the founders of Human Rights Watch and of the AAP's International Freedom to Publish committee. It is presented to an individual or company "who has demonstrated courage and fortitude in the face of political persecution."
Schroeder was well liked by everyone in the industry for her outgoing and engaging management style. In saluting Schroeder as she retired from the AAP in 2009, Bertelsmann executive Richard Sarnoff—AAP's outgoing chairman—cited her willingness to take on a host of issues central to the book business.
Maria Pallante, current AAP CEO, called Schroeder "a principled and pioneering Member of Congress, where she used her ferocious legal chops, wit, and skill to advance issues that were often called women’s issues but were really about families or fighter pilots." Pallante added that while serving as AAP CEO Schroeder, "devoted her energy to protecting copyright and freedom of expression. Today, I am shattering a little glass in her honor."
Tina Jordan, who served as an AAP vice president for much of Schroeder’s time at at the organization's helm, praised her for her willingness to take on any issue, particularly those that advanced the cause of women. “Pat Schroeder was a woman's woman. She charted the course for so many of us, and for me personally,” Jordan said. “We are indebted to her for her service, as book people, as women, as human beings. She was an extraordinary person who challenged the status quo to the highest order of our country and our nation. And I am forever grateful I had the opportunity to serve her personally. I am heartbroken.”
Schroeder was succeeded at AAP by another former congressperson, Tom Allen of Maine, whom she helped recruit to the position. “I have very big shoes to fill,” Allen said during the March 2009 AAP annual meeting at which he took over for Schroeder, noting that Schroeder's reputation “extends far beyond this room.”