“We need to shift the dialogue from ‘will publishing survive,’ to how we are taking our industry forward, seizing unprecedented opportunities for transforming the very nature of the book, for disseminating information, and for distributing content,” said Simon & Schuster CEO and outgoing Association of American Publishers chairman Carolyn Reidy, speaking at the AAP’s annual meeting in New York.
Her speech opened the meeting and ended with a rousing call to action among publishers to change the conversation around the book publishing industry. Reidy implored publishers to be vocal about the value they add to the “marketplace of ideas.”
“We must also give life to a new type of discussion about publishing. What we do; the value we add; our role in perpetuating the marketplace of ideas; our investment in content, in enabling authors to create great works; our roles in helping students learn, and assisting professionals to improve their job performance; in providing first class entertainment and information to the general reader; in extending the reach of American ideas and culture throughout the world, and of course our innovation and work with our technology partners,” she said.
Over the past several years, publishers have been on a charm campaign among readers, authors and other stakeholders, to explain what they do in a world in which anyone can publish a book.
In 2012, Random House released a series of videos explaining what it does in the process of creating a book. In late 2011, Hachette had circulated a publisher manifesto that explained to agents and authors the value that the company adds to the publishing process.
Reidy called the publishers in the audience to do more:
We need to speak out more about what we do, and we need to speak about it more loudly, and with more conviction. There is no question about the vibrant contribution we make to the life of this country, its citizens, and the rest of the world, yet our accomplishments, in both print and the new world of digital, have been undersold.
The AAP cannot change the conversation by itself. Each of us, for our companies and our industry, must be more forceful in communicating the value of our work.
To publicly establish the enduring significance of our industry in this rapidly changing world we will need a long campaign, and it is one that we must begin if we are to assure a favorable outcome many years hence.