International Publishers Association President Hugo Setze. Image Credit: Atiq Ur Rehman /Gulf News

Sharjah: Sharjah’s “integrated system” of publishers, libraries, booksellers and authors working together to promote reading was a main dealmaker in its acceptance as World Book Capital 2019, the president of International Publishers Association (IPA) told Gulf News on Tuesday.

Hugo Setzer, in a wide-ranging interview, provided insights into Sharjah’s selection and also discussed threats to the publishing world, mainly concerning copyright violation from internet misuse.

Year-long celebrations

Sharjah on Tuesday launched year-long programmes celebrating its title as World Book Capital 2019, bestowed each year to a city by Unesco (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation).

Unesco decided to name Sharjah as the 19th World Book Capital on recommendation by an advisory committee that includes IPA and Unesco representatives, among others.

Sharjah’s strengths

On Tuesday, Setzer, who is on a visit to Sharjah, said the emirate has two main pillars supporting its recognition as World Book Capital. One is continuous investment in education and literacy and the other is an integrated system of stakeholders in the publishing industry. It is this strength that made Sharjah stand out from many other aspirants for World Book Capital, he added.

“IPA is part of the jury that takes a decision on World Book Capital and sometimes that jury receives some requests from cities where they have a very strong publishing community, but they are not so much involved with librarians, booksellers, authors and so on. It’s important to have them all together, working together,” Setzer said.

“In Sharjah you can see this integrated system where you have all the stakeholders in the book industry working together, and that was an important part for [World Book Capital].”

Setzer also said Sharjah Book Authority’s work in policymaking and annual events such as Sharjah International Book Fair and Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival are inspiring people to read and attracting publishers.

‘Copying machine’

Besides Tuesday’s launch of Sharjah World Book Capital 2019 programmes, April 23 also marked World Book and Copyright Day.

Publishers and authors today are faced with the problem of people downloading and sharing content — including entire books and photo galleries — online without permission or payment to copyright owners.

Setzer called for more awareness about responsible and legitimate use of the internet when it comes to content.

“It makes copying so much easier. The internet is kind of a copying machine because every time you share a file, it’s actually made a copy in the other computer. So it is a problem, and I think we have to do a lot of work on awareness, because people are starting to have to the idea in their minds that anything on the internet is free to use and download,” Setzer said.

IPA has since its foundation in 1896 defended copyright as one of its main objectives. The Geneva-based organisation is the “world’s largest federation” of publishers’ associations, comprising 81 organisations from 69 countries, including Emirates Publishers Association of the UAE.

“Thanks to copyright, we can have the production of so many new titles and the distribution and dissemination of information, because we have this copyright system in place.”

‘Curated information’

Setzer also spoke about IPA’s role in supporting freedom to publish while addressing the proliferation of “fake news”.

“The value that we can give to society is that we have curated information to provide to our readers in a world where there is so much ‘fake news’… Publishers are a trusted source of information, including digital and online,” he said.

“For example, if you’re looking for something online, I think many people realise that if they find information that has been published by an established publisher, it would be more reliable than something perhaps they may find elsewhere.”