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Addressing publishers, editors and agents at London’s Roya Opera Houase on the eve of the London Book Fair, Sheikha Bodour al Qasimi, president of the International Publishers Association (IPA), had a positive message.  She said that despite the ravages of the Covid-19 pandemic, “listening to publishers from the four corners of the world reassured me that the global publishing industry will fare very well through this crisis.  This isn’t blind optimism, but a real understanding of how resilient and tenacious publishers are.”

As IPA president she has travelled widely and heard from many international publishers.  She stressed the importance of one particular skill: deep, active listening.  “I recently came across an interesting and anonymous quote that says: ‘Deep listening is miraculous for both the listener and speaker.  When someone receives us with open-hearted, non-judgmental, intensely interested listening, our spirits expand’”

She has clearly tried to use this skill.  Among the most empathetic of figures in contemporary publishing, she said that these listening sessions revealed “there were gaps that needed our immediate attention, such as digital skills development, more collaboration, action against digital piracy, and sustainability”.

She said she had been busy rallying everyone behind a common vision of “how we see our industry in the future, and how we get there”, and she is encouraged by how willing publishers are to engage both with this vision and the key priorities outlined at the recent InSPIRE symposium, held with UNESCO and the World Intellectual Property Organisation, which is aimed at building s more sustainable and collaborative global book ecosystem.

She thanked the Sharjah Book Authority for backing the IPA Academy training initiative and said this was “yet another example, of how global publishing stakeholders are coming together to support each other during this period of crisis”.

Finally, she ended by saying that, despite the challenges, the energy and optimism displayed by publishers at recent book fairs, including this one, really gives us the hope that we are past the inflection point, and are moving into a new phase of growth and transformation”.