The 30th session of the International Publishing Association ended May 26 in Bangkok, completing three days of discussions focused on the ever-changing practices that drive global publishing in the digital era. Participants called on publishers to embrace the digital transition and compete for consumer interest at a time when video games and social media dominate the leisure time of a younger generation. Programming zeroed in on the need to encourage literacy in the technologically developed West, but also to address the scarcity of books in the developing world and the rising demand for them.
While digital piracy persists as a global problem, the conference highlighted the importance of strategies other than litigation—from partnerships with content-sharing sites and educational programs to the simultaneous global release of content—to address a complex issue that remains difficult to solve. Indeed, an African publisher cited the important role a lack of books can play in the developing world, noting that book scarcity “in a way promotes piracy.”
And following the disruptive entry of large tech companies into publishing and bookselling, publishers were encouraged to look at fixed book prices, a growing trend around the world (16 countries currently have fixed book-price laws) as a way to protect independent booksellers from the harmful effects of discounting. Indeed, the conference urged publishers to consider new concepts of selling books altogether. A panel featuring HarperCollins CEO Brian Murray, his chief digital officer Chantal Restivo-Alessi, and Scribd CEO Trip Adler hailed the proliferation of new business models and called on publishers to embrace as wide a universe of distribution opportunities as possible, from print/digital bundling to e-book subscription services.
Those were some of the themes covered during the three-day conference, which hosted 509 attendees. Some first-time attendees said it would have been more effective with greater coverage of BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China) markets (“reduce the focus on Western experiences, already well publicized in the media”) and more balanced perspectives (“sharing experiences and strategies instead of sales pitching”) . Others found the format (with panelists formally sitting on a big, high stage) too intimidating for multidirectional exchanges. But overall, the attendees found the sessions to be useful and the trip worthwhile. For Trasvin Jittidecharak, chair of the conference organizing committee, “the turnout was satisfactory given the hectic period just before the Bologna and London book fairs and in the midst of a less-than-ideal global economic situation.”
London will be the venue for the 2016 IPA Congress, with tentative plans to hold the event just before the London Book Fair.