Photo of IPA Executive Committee

Sam Elworthy, Director, Auckland University Press reports:

I wore two hats at the Frankfurt Book Fair this year. Most of the time I was on the New Zealand stand rustling up international interest in our upcoming Auckland University Press titles. But for a couple of days I was talking about copyright, accessibility, the challenges of publishing in developing countries and under authoritarian regimes, in meetings of the International Publishers Association where I’m lucky enough to serve on the Executive Committee.

It’s a great group—publishers from Nigeria and Brazil, Spain and India, the UK and the UAE. Some are heads of associations but many of us are working publishers interested in the bigger picture. As an organisation the IPA is about the same size as AUP—ie it is small! So like many of our New Zealand organisations, including PANZ, it relies on people on committees actually doing stuff. And it means the organisation needs to be very focused on what it can (and can’t) do.

What is does well is focus internationally on copyright (in particular at the World Intellectual Property Organisation, whose treaties govern the intellectual property rights we all enjoy) and then jump into counties when those rights are under threat — most recently in Canada, South Africa, Ireland and the EU; at some point maybe New Zealand. And it does similarly good work around freedom to publish — engaging internationally and locally when publishers in places like Hong Kong and Turkey are thrown in jail or put out of business for publishing material critical of the government. And in a more recent thrust, it’s focused on what it can do to support the development of strong publishing in the developing world, working in places like Nigeria to support the growth of a robust publishing industry.

The room was very male, and NZ did our bit this year by helping to elect a woman publisher from Georgia to the executive committee and a UAE publisher, Bodour Al Qasimi, as vice president. When she becomes president it’ll be the first woman president of IPA in almost 30 years. Something to work on.

What can we bring back to New Zealand? I reckon there’s contributions we can make to the wider publishing landscape — working with WIPO/IPA on development of publishing in the parts of our region that aren’t as rich as we are; engaging with the Accessible Books Coalition to make sure our digital books are as accessible as possible to the visually impaired; and supporting our friends in South Africa and Canada, Hong Kong and Turkey when their intellectual property rights or freedom to publish are under threat. New Zealand may well need their support, and that of the IPA, in return some day.