Emirates Airlines has today become the official partner of the International Publishers Association as, in the words of the joint IPA-Emirates Airlines press release,
the Association ramps up its international programme of events.
The agreement will see Emirates play a vital role in bringing key stakeholders together at IPA’s flagship events such as its 33rd International Publishers Congress, being held in Lillehammer in May 2020. and future Regional Seminars planned for Marrakesh, Morocco and a first ever Seminar in Latin America to be announced soon.
I’m not normally inclined to quote press releases extensively, but this is unusual enough and significant enough to warrant doing just that:
The agreement follows Emirates sponsorship of the IPA’s Regional Seminars in Nairobi, Kenya and Amman, Jordan. The ground-breaking seminars reached hundreds of publishing professionals from the two regions as well as being the focal points for meetings between the IPA and African and Arab publishers’ associations. The Regional Seminars have underlined the potential of digital technologies, and young, dynamic entrepreneurs in the region to overcome many of the challenges of traditional publishing while also presenting an opportunity to bring a diverse range of voices and stories to the wider world.
Hugo Setzer, IPA President said: Emirates has been a valuable sponsor of our Regional Seminars in Nairobi and Amman and we’re delighted to be able to work with Emirates further to build bridges between the international publishing community and grow the love of reading around the world.
Adil Al Ghaith, Senior Vice President Commercial Operations for Gulf, Middle East and Central Asia said: “Emirates is proud to support the International Publishers Association and their work to grow the publishing ecosystem around the world. With Emirates’ extensive network, the IPA will be able to touch an even larger audience to build capacities, foster greater cultural dialogue and exchange of ideas. This sponsorship, along with our support for the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature, is also in line with Emirates’ objective to support events and organisations that enrich the lives of people in the communities that we serve and support culture and arts.”
Okay, so now let’s look at the bigger picture.
I often talk here about the way the centre of publishing gravity has shifted east, away from New York, hampered by historical inertia, and now has a new axis revolving around Frankfurt and the United Arab Emirates, with China providing an eastern counterbalance.
This latest announcement consolidates the position of the Emirates, and especially Sharjah (home of IPA Vice President Bodour Al-Qasimi), as the champion of the emerging book markets. And with Al-Qasimi set to become IPA President in 2021 we can expect this consolidation of Sharjah’s pivotal role in global publishing to continue apace as we start the new decade.
Al-Qasimi and current IPA President Hugo Setzer are both committed to transforming the IPA to become a truly global organisation, and as we’ve seen with the Africa and Middle East Seminars they are turning words into action.
But there’s a long way to go.
As per the latest press release, the IPA comprises 81 members in 69 countries, and a glance at the list shows few surprises. The IPA has, historically, been an RWM (rich white man’s) club, and while the previous presidents Michiel Kolman and Richard Charkin oversaw strong shifts towards a more inclusive organisation, it has been the team of Setzer and Al-Qasimi that have been transforming the IPA into a truly global powerhouse.
Leaving aside the obvious features – that Setzer is Mexican and Al-Qasimi an Arab – the other key factor here can be seen clearly in the press release quote above:
The Regional Seminars have underlined the potential of digital technologies, and young, dynamic entrepreneurs in the region to overcome many of the challenges of traditional publishing while also presenting an opportunity to bring a diverse range of voices and stories to the wider world.
In this respect it’s important that we should not see past IPA endeavours as indifferent to the emerging markets.
The reality is that under the traditional paper & ink publishing model that prevailed as the only viable option until this decade, the emerging book markets were, for all practical purpose, off-limits to IPA innovation and entreaty.
Because what really sets Hugo Setzer and Bodour Al-Qasimi apart from their predecessors is the current incumbents’ understanding that digital offers solutions hitherto unavailable, to bring about a truly inclusive, truly global publishing industry.
Per the press release, next year will see a new IPA Africa Seminar in Marrakesh, Morocco, putting to rest anxieties that the Africa seminars were just sub-Saharan affairs, and we have the tantalising prospect of the first IPA Seminar to focus on Latin America.
The next three years under Setzer and Al-Qasimi promise to be exceptionally exciting and innovative for the IPA, and if I were to have to come up with a concern it would be only to wonder how Bodour Al-Qasimi’s successor in 2023 will be able to keep up the momentum she and Hugo Setzer have initiated.