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. 

We were impeccably welcomed by our hosts. I have to thank the Jakarta regional government for making Congress registration free of charge which made a huge difference post pandemic. I also have to thank IPA’s exclusive global travel partner, Emirates, who made it possible for me and the IPA secretariat to attend.

We obviously built our programme around our theme Reading Matters: Embracing the Future but it was still so satisfying to hear to common themes come through in most topics.

The pandemic reminded us why reading matters. So many people turned to reading in those difficult days. Many markets saw bumps in sales. But so many children in poorer countries without access to the books in their schools were deprived of being able to read. In many parts of the world children are still catching up. When discussing the freedom to publish and hearing about the difficult situations in Thailand and Iran, you understand how much reading matters to people there. My panel on children’s publishing kept coming back to the need to create that love of reading in children. We had a dedicated panel on the evolution of reading rates and how reading has to compete with other forms of entertainment. While reading was always emphasized, the discussions always turned to the future: where are the opportunities? how can we do things better?

There were wonderful moments that electrified the room, like when all of the women attending took to the stage at the end of the session on women in publishing. In a way the Congress enabled us all to come together but also to come together around specific issues, to learn from each other. We were able to celebrate our peers, whether that be those colleagues, like Indian publisher Asoke Ghosh, who have dedicated their lives to supporting the international publishing sector, or publishers like IPA Prix Voltaire 2022 winner Thanapol Eawsakul from Thailand who risks his own safety to publish challenging books. I was also so happy to see my colleagues from CBL pick up the innovation in publishing prize for Conexao Livraria. 

So often we can find ourselves stuck in our day to day work, fighting to be the best publishers we can be. This Congress was a moment to take a step back and see the bigger picture. The Congress was obviously very far away so our Brazilian delegation was small but with the next Congress scheduled for Guadalajara from 4-6 December in 2024, I really hope we can see more Brazilian publishers sharing their expertise and learning with their international colleagues. I personally can’t wait.


This post has also been published in Portuguese here:

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