New Publishers Association president reflects on societal and economic impact of publishing industry

Nick Fowler takes the helm of the leading trade organization for publishers in the UK

Harald Boersma

The Author

Harald Boersma (@hboersma) is Director of Global Corporate Relations at Elsevier, based in Amsterdam.

Recently he talked to Dr. Nick Fowler, Elsevier’s Managing Director of Academic and Government Institutional Markets, about his new role and his vision for the Publishers Association.

[divider] Nick Fowler, PhD

Dr. Nick Fowler was recently appointed President of The Publishers Association (PA), the leading trade organization for publishers in the UK, after spending a year as its VP and Treasurer. He said he is looking forward to leading an organization that represents an industry with great societal and economic impact. At the same time, he has expressed a realistic view of the task at hand, saying, “We’re facing strong headwinds.”

From a societal perspective, publishers are central to the production of world-class literary, educational and academic content, and they carry the responsibility of ensuring these works are available to the widest possible audience. This includes supporting initiatives to digitize content, increase literacy and make works accessible to those who are unable to read books in certain formats.

Trade publishers encourage literacy and enrich lives. Scientific, Technical and Medical (STM) publishers help researchers and practitioners advance science and improve health-care outcomes. Educational publishers help students to learn and professionals to become qualified. These benefits are made possible through publishers’ investments that develop written works and make them accessible.

The economic impact of the UK publishing industry is significant. The 120 members of the PA account for £4.5 billion a year in global sales, and 41 percent of the sector’s revenues come from exports sales. UK publishing grew faster than the UK economy as a whole in 2012 – around 4 percent for the £3 billion books segment alone, while UK consumer e-book sales grew by 366 percent.

In terms of employment the publishing workforce in the UK comprises 33,000 people across 2,500 companies. STM publishers employ more than 10,000 people and generate over £800 million of annual export revenue. As such, the UK publishing industry is a UK success story to be celebrated.

The PA aims to help the industry sustain this positive trajectory — a demanding endeavor against the backdrop of a struggling UK economy. There are also ongoing discussions about how content should be disseminated and paid for in an online world, and about the role of copyright, which sometimes challenges the role of publishers.

Dr. Fowler addressed the fundamental role of copyright by saying:

Copyright allows us recoup investments that we make to provide publishing services. For book publishers, such investments include rewarding authors for the rights to reproduce and disseminate their works. Without such an incentive, authors would be less willing to produce creative works.

Other investments include operating peer review networks for journals, managing submission and publication systems, editing and technologically enhancing works, marketing and disseminating them globally, preserving them in perpetuity, and protecting authors against piracy and plagiarism.

In other words, copyright is the foundation that enables publishers to do what they do, and in turn, it helps to drive investment, facilitate innovation, drive revenues and stimulate growth. It’s the foundation for investments by publishers to innovate new products, services and means of delivery, for example, through tablets, smart phones and e-readers. Also, it allows publishers to continue to produce and disseminate creative works in the years and decades to come. Copyright provides stability to retain existing and attract new investment into the creative sector.

Building upon his contributions to the PA over the past year, Dr. Fowler has a clear view of what to focus on in the next 12 months:

I’ve become increasingly convinced that PA members should work even more closely across our trade, educational, and academic and professional sectors. The PA exists to be the one voice that links together the different arms of publishing and demonstrates the collective strengths, importance and possibilities of the sector. Collectively we can face headwinds more effectively, while extending our role as a constructive agent of change that will keep driving growth, and continue delivering benefits to society at large.
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