Reflections on the 33rd International Publishers Congress

Photo of all the women attending the 33rd International Publishers Congress Credit: Nabs

What a feeling - the exhilaration (and a little relief after chairing the programming committee) – following the end of the 33rd International Publishers Congress. After nearly 2 years of preparations we had over 600 delegates and speakers registered from 63 countries to Jakarta to discuss, dissect, analyse and celebrate our international publishing sector. 

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Tbilisi – ‘Multifaceted and Chaotic’ World Book Capital

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UNESCO’s World Book Capital City programme is one of the most acclaimed international literary projects. Various cities from different parts of the world strive to win this honorable status annually. The project originated Madrid. Six years after the launch of World Book and Copyright Day (April 23), IPA President, Pere Vicens had the idea, inspired by the successful experience of the city of Madrid, to nominate the best city programme aimed at promoting books during the period between one "Book Day" and the next.

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The Path from Literacy to Freedom

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September 8 is UNESCO’s International Literacy Day intended to ‘remind the public of the importance of literacy as a matter of dignity and human rights, and to advance the literacy agenda towards a more literate and sustainable society.’

After the sunny days of summer, we should probably begin the fall publishing season by thinking about the positive outcomes that literacy promises us; thinking about those hopes that a literate society will hold onto; thinking about those books that are vitally important to readers in these challenging times of pandemic and war; thinking about those books that readers expect from us—the publishers. The world is moving faster than ever. Can we keep up? Can we still satisfy and surprise our readers?

In my region – the so-called post-Soviet space, currently in focus due to the ongoing brutal war in Ukraine – representatives of the cultural sector are often asked: "Should culture interfere with politics?!"

Answers vary but we cannot escape our recent experience of the nature, price, and consequences of the dictatorship we have lived through, fought, broken its strong walls, and emerged, scarred, from the ruins. This region knows that such regimes target the ability to think freely in order to achieve their objectives. People living here clearly understand that under dictatorships, politics will never ignore culture; they will never let it grow into an island of freedom. Dictatorship strives for "order". Freedom causes diversity, a kind of "disorder", which is vitally important for art but potentially disastrous for dictatorship. Therefore, a logical question arises: how can culture ignore such a dangerous opponent as politics?!

In reality, culture does not ignore politics. For centuries human minds have fought against slavish obedience and for the main purpose of human existence—continuous creation, continuous development, and continuous innovations. Bringing our learnings to the written page through books is a historic part of forming healthy societies but also the fight against the book and literacy. It is why two important focus areas of the International Publishers Association are so relevant: the freedom to publish and literacy. In the post-Soviet space (and other similar regions), independent thought and literacy are expected of people to resist relapse. Dictators in waiting imagine: "Once conquered, easily conquered again." But is this possible with people who have seen slavery, then tasted freedom, and have personally experienced the good and the bad of two completely different lifestyles?!

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International Day of Education – Publishers constantly adapting to transform education

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The theme for UNESCO’s fourth International Day of Education is Changing course, transforming education and the last two years have shown how educational publishers have been able to pivot quickly, changing course, to keep pupils learning.

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Publishers have helped us inspire 290,000 children to read – but there is still work to do

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Our charity, Book Aid International, works for a world where everyone has access to books that will enrich, improve, and change their lives. Every year, we provide around one million brand new books to thousands of libraries, schools, universities, hospitals, refugee camps and prisons around the world where people would otherwise have few books, or no books at all.

The support of publishers is vital to our work. Publishers donate all the books we send, and we hear again and again from our partners and readers around the world that the quality of the books we provide is what makes our charity unique.

We know that simply making books available is not always enough – particularly when it comes to supporting education. That is why in addition to providing books, we also work with our partners to create reading spaces for children in libraries, train teachers and librarians, create school libraries and fund the purchase of local books.

Our largest education programme, Inspiring Readers, has put over 372,473 brand new, publisher donated books into the classrooms of over 290,000 African primary school pupils in Cameroon, Kenya, Malawi, Sierra Leone, Uganda, Zanzibar and Zimbabwe and funded the purchase of 50,237 locally published supplementary books for schools. We have found that when vibrant and up to date books are available children are attracted to reading, then learn to read more easily and that reading confidence helps them in other subjects as well.

In addition to supporting pupils’ reading directly, a well-stocked school library creates a world of new resources for teachers and allows them to teach in an exciting way. For example, we’ve heard about teachers using picture books to teach counting and non-fiction books about topics like volcanos or dinosaurs to enrich science lessons.

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Building international networks around literacy

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Happy International Literacy Day!

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Measuring Reading – a European approach to comparability

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On 16 June during Bologna Children's Book Fair, Aldus Up, the European book fairs network co-founded in the framework of the Creative Europe programme and coordinated by the Italian Publishers Association (AIE) published two studies on existing surveys on translations and reading habits in Europe (the full report is published here).

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The SDG Library: lessons from Norway on inspiring the next generation

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The SDG Book Club was an idea formed through a unique collaboration between the IPA and the United  Nations and involved the full spectrum of the book chain. The idea was simple; to use books as tool to encourage children aged between 6-12 to understand sustainability and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

Originally launched in the six official UN languages, the idea was quickly adopted for local markets with the first SDG library established in Norway in 2020. One year on, we invited Kristin Ørjasæter, Managing Director of the Norwegian Institute for Children Books to reflect on the success, to hear about their future plans and advise for others hoping to establish their own SDG library.

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Reading – a Real Superpower

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After two years of being the Executive committee member at the International Publishers Association, I was thrilled to accept the invitation of the chair of IPA’s Inclusive Publishing and Literacy Committee, Michiel Kolman, to lead the committee’s literacy taskforce.

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SDG Book Club spreads to Indonesia

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Francyne Harrigan, the Director of the UN's Information Centre in Jakarta talks to us about how she brought the UN SDG Book Club initiative to Indonesia with a local twist.

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Taking concrete steps towards the SDG goals: how publishers can contribute.

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Rachel Martin interviews Sherri Aldis, Chief, United Nations Publications.

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New Portuguese language SDG Book Club launched

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As part of Global Goals Week, associations from the Brazilian and Portuguese book sectors came together to announce a new SDG Book Club that will launch in 2021.

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Getting Children to be Part of the Solution: Norway’s Sustainable Library

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An Interview with Ellen Sporstøl and Kristin Orjasater on how Norway is inspiring the next generation of readers to become more sustainable. 

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Shining a spotlight on publishers actions towards the SDGs

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This week is Global Goals Week, an annual week of action, awareness, and accountability for the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In 2020, there is a sense of urgency. We have 10 years to achieve the ambitious targets set by the SDGs and that is short amount of time. At the end of 2019, the UN announced that the world was not on track to meet this target. Furthermore, they issued an urgent call for action to accelerate the partnerships, collaborations and projects that are needed to achieve the goals. 

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IPA Regional Seminar, Amman (day 2): More united than divided

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The second and final day of the IPA Regional Seminar in the Middle East was opened by Sharjah publisher Bodour Al Qasimi (Kalimat Group), who is (among other things) also the IPA Vice-President.

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