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Organisations representing authors, publishers and booksellers have issued a joint letter today, 23 April, World Book Day, calling for governments all over the world ‘to recognize, support and celebrate the importance of books, learning solutions, and professional and scholarly content by adopting economic stimulus packages to sustain their respective publishing sectors and the value chains that surround them’.

The letter has been distributed by the International Publishers Association in Geneva, Switzerland, whose president Hugo Setzer is one of five signatories.  The other bodies that have signed the letter are the European and International Booksellers Federation in Brussels, the International Authors Forum in London, the International Federation of Reproduction Rights Organisation in Brussels, and STM [Scientific, Technical and Medical] the Global Voice of Scholarly Publishing which is based in the Hague, Netherlands and Oxford UK

It is the first time that these bodies have come together to issue such a call and it underlines the gravity of the threat posed by the coronavirus to the global book business.  The letter acknowledges ‘the vital role that books play in society’, their importance in understanding other cultures and teaching empathy and how they are necessary ‘for scientific research, to educate our children and in lifelong learning.  Books help us become better human beings’.

The letter notes how, with the closure of schools, many parents have had to become educators, while teachers themselves are having to find new ways of bringing their lessons to pupils.  ‘Authors and publishers around the world have responded by licensing their content and digital services’, the letter observes.  ‘Online book readings like ‘Read The World’ have exploded online, with publishers and authors quick to give parents support. The world is relying on research published in specialist journals to guide its health policies and develop a vaccine. Journal publishers’ investments in the verification of research and its wide communication are crucial here. And they have stepped up, voluntarily making research related to COVID-19 freely available and amenable to reuse.’

The letter also notes how authors and publishers need the work of collective management organizations to protect their copyright. ‘This chain, so vital to society, is under imminent threat’, it asserts

The letter warns that the COVID-19 virus is having ‘a disastrous effect on people everywhere. Economies are shutting down and nobody knows for sure when we’ll return to normal, or even if that’s possible. The impact on the world’s creative industries, including the book sector, has been devastating’

The signatories warn that in many countries the book industry is ‘struggling for oxygen’ and it concludes:  ‘We must find ways to ensure the future for authors, publishers, editors, designers, distributors, booksellers and those who work in collective management, so that the book industry can bounce back once this pandemic is conquered. A world without new books would be a sad and impoverished place. We are working hard to come through this crisis, but we need help to survive. We need governments to help us get through it together.’