Pedagogical Resources, Pedagogical trends

The Sage / Gold Leaf Pedagogical Report is published!

The Sage / Gold Leaf Pedagogical Report was the brainchild of Kiren Shoman, the Editorial Director and Head of Pedagogy at Sage Publishing.  She conceived of the idea of this study when we asked her to contribute to a more specific survey on the impact of the TEF that we were preparing for the Booksellers Association in advance of the ABT Conference 2017.  Kiren was ahead of the curve among publishers in understanding that pedagogical resource requirements at UK universities were undergoing a sea-change; and that it would be vital to the future success of students, academics and publishers alike to begin to map it as it unfolded. 

Sage commissioned the study in the summer of 2017.  From the outset, Kiren decided very generously to publish the report and to make it available free of charge to all interested stakeholders.  Originally the plan was for the study to cover the academic year 2017 – 2018, but relatively early after work began it became apparent that the first semester of the academic year 2018 – 2019 should be included as well, as not all the universities who participated in the in-depth part of the study were able to accommodate the earlier dates. 

The methodology we used was both comprehensive and ambitious.  The primary research consisted of three national Surveymonkey surveys, for students, academics and librarians, which as far as possible mirrored each other; in-depth semi-structured telephone interviews with academics and librarians at each of the five participating universities; and six student focus groups.  This was complemented by extensive desk-based secondary research which involved consulting journals, books and more ephemeral publications, such as articles on specialist websites, to gain as well-rounded and well-informed picture as possible.

Sage and Gold Leaf are particularly indebted to the participating universities.  We have promised not to identify any individuals (except the project ‘champions’) who contributed to the research, but we are proud to be able to name the universities: the University of Edinburgh, the University of Greenwich, the University of Huddersfield, the University of Nottingham and the University of Surrey.  At each of these universities one or two project champions very kindly agreed to support the research by explaining it to their colleagues and helping us to set up the calls with academics and librarians and co-ordinate the student focus groups.  They generously gave a considerable amount of their time in order to achieve this; and without the champions’ help, the study would certainly have foundered right at the beginning.  We would like to put on record our very sincere thanks, both to them and to all their colleagues and the students who took part.

In common with Sage, we believe that this report makes a very significant contribution to the understanding of this rapid period of change in UK Higher Education.  We have discovered during the course of our work that many of the changes we have identified and explored in the UK also apply more widely to tertiary education in other countries. We therefore believe that the report will be useful to interested parties everywhere; and we hope all the readers of this blog who download it will find it both useful and enjoyable.

The report can be found at

Learning from Libraries, Libraries

Learning from Librarians – The RCP Library

Gold Leaf Library Portraits, Part 1

Libraries matter, more so today than ever before. They are places for information, meeting and learning spaces, community hubs and much more. Gold Leaf frequently works with libraries across the globe, and like many of our clients, we can sometimes forget how diverse, unique and special each individual of these places are. This series is providing a focus on individual libraries: quirky and interesting, tiny and massive, ones with a long heritage and ones that are very new, those with particularly interesting, collections, architecture or stories to tell. For this, we are looking forward to interviewing many fascinating people who make these places so very special.

Library of the Royal College of Physicians

(Picture of the RCP Library Reading Room, (c) Jonathan Perugia,

Please give us your name and describe your role.

My name is Julie Beckwith and I’m head of the Library, Archive and Museum at the Royal College of Physicians (RCP), London. I have strategic responsibility for the RCP’s collections of rare and current books, archive and manuscripts, silver, portraits and medical instruments with the help of a hard-working team of 16. There are eight staff in the Library team including a library manager, a rare books librarian, an e-resources specialist, a systems librarian, reader services librarian and colleagues who provide valuable support for collections development, document delivery and office management.

Why did you choose to become / what do you enjoy about being a librarian?

I  didn’t plan to be a librarian at all. I really wanted to be a nurse and then thought about studying history but was offered a place on a library course. I have never looked back and my current role has given me the opportunity to combine my interest in healthcare, history and libraries.

I enjoy the variety of work and particularly researching, meeting people and answering queries. You never quite know what you’re going to be asked next (or by whom) so each day can be very different. One of the very first things I ever did in a Library was to fill dishes with Branston pickle ready for a lunch; I was recently involved in commissioning a tapestry by the Keiskamma Trust for the RCP’s 500th anniversary and organised a celebration featuring the Keiskamma Music Academy. Last year I worked with the Royal Academy of Music on a new music commission by composer Joseph Howard, played by brass quintet London Metropolitan Brass on the actual anniversary. So not everything has been about books and journals!

Please describe the RCP library and its aims. (How big are the library holdings, how many staff do you employ etc.)

What was then known as the College of Physicians was founded by King Henry VIII in 1518 to regulate the practice of medicine in the City of London and 7 miles around by licensing those who were qualified to practise medicine and prosecuting those who weren’t. The aim was to protect patients from unscrupulous individuals who did more harm than good. More information about the RCP’s current vision and aims are on our website (link below).

Now with more than 55,000 printed volumes, both historical and current, as well as thousands of electronic resources including ebooks and ejournals the Library was established by the first president, Thomas Linacre. Most of the original collection was lost in the Fire of London in 1666 but a bequest from the first Marquis of Dorchester came to the College in 1688 and we have continued to acquire new items by donation or purchase since then. With the Dorchester collection came a significant number of non-medical books covering topics such as religion, mathematics and astronomy, all appropriate for fellows who were required to be knowledgeable about all things, not just medicine.  We have been digitising some of these, most recently as part of a commercial partnership with publisher Wiley. We also have collections of clinical material and topics of interest to the RCP to support members and staff in their work. This is increasingly electronic. In addition, we aim to keep a copy of everything published by the RCP. A separate Medical Education Resource Centre supports the staff developing education courses and the doctors who attend these. By developing and preserving these collections we maintain more than 500 years of the organisation’s history while supporting the work of the RCP’s global membership today.

Together with the archive and museum teams we promote the collections through related services, events and exhibitions. The professionally qualified and experienced staff that make up the department work closely together, bringing a wide range of individual skills, expertise and knowledge together to create member, staff  and public benefits –  from high-profile, award-winning  exhibitions to accessible collections and a range of services.

Our aims are to

  • ensure the long-term preservation and sustainability of our collections
  • expand and develop our remote services eg e-resources, digitisation projects
  • make sure our collections are fit for the future
  • increase member and public engagement eg promotional activities
  • improve the visitor experience.

What makes the RCP library a special place to work?

A fantastic team, a variety of interesting and challenging work, opportunities to work with other organisations and to be involved in all sorts of activities – from private views of exhibitions to celebrating the RCP’s 500th anniversary and of, course, the superb collections.

What does the RCP library offer to its readers and researchers?

As well as the collections mentioned, the Library offers a range of services such as expert literature searches, inter-library loans and document delivery. We provide access to tools that help members keep up with research, we offer skills training and research space. In addition, the library team offers an enquiry service, answering enquiries not just about the library but about the work of the organisation. Apart from our e-resources we are digitising many items in our historical collections to make them more widely available. A weekly blog provides opportunities to focus on particular items in or aspects of the wider collections and we look for opportunities to show them to visitors to the building, for example in exhibitions or perhaps at one of our ‘Museum late’ events. 

Are there any special collections or projects you are particularly proud of?

It’s quite a challenge to pick out particular collections or projects as there is such a range to choose from.

What are the particular challenges you face at the RCP Library?

Libraries everywhere continue to face challenging times. They are often undervalued and the perception by some that libraries are not needed because everything can be found online is frustrating. Libraries are not just collections of printed materials – they are so much more. They have knowledgeable and skilled staff, they are spaces for social activity, interaction, culture and engagement and of course, research and learning.  Many are open to the public and are free to use.

For the RCP Library, one of the challenges is to ensure members know what we do and how we can support their work. Alongside this is demonstrating value, making sure services and collections are relevant, interesting and properly resourced and keeping up with advances in technology.

Is there anything else you would like our readers to know (about yourself or the RCP library)?

I believe strongly in the value of libraries and reading and spaces such as museums, galleries etc. to health and wellbeing.


Royal College of Physicians website:

Library web pages:


Wiley digitisation project:

The RCP Library Reading Room can be found on the top floor of the RCP main building at 11 Andrews Place, London NW1 4LE. It is open to the public (research appointments are required to view historical collections) and can be visited Monday – Friday between 10am and 5pm.Please check website before visiting for occasional changes to opening times.

Finances, Universities

Bums on Seats: Regulating the UK Higher Education Sector

Gold Leaf carries out a great deal of research in and around universities, both in the UK and in many other places in the world.  An issue that several of its recent research projects has highlighted is the heightened competition to which the HE sector is now being subjected globally.  In the UK, this was largely caused by the decision taken by recent governments – of both main political persuasions –  to create a ‘market’ within the HE sector; unfortunately, in the minds of students and their parents, it has also become linked with the rapid hike in fees that took place at around the same time.  This has had the unforeseen (and presumably unwanted by the government) effect of causing some students to believe that they are ‘paying for’ their degrees – i.e., paying for the actual grades they are awarded, not just the tuition fees.

It is perhaps unfortunate that during the same period the activities of HEFCE [Higher Education Funding Council for England] were wound down, as HEFCE was replaced by the OfS [Office for Students].  A certain hiatus resulted, as the OfS seemed to be relatively slow in getting into gear and for a while little regulatory work seemed to be being carried out in the sector.

This has now changed.  The OfS has flexed its muscles by publishing a series of important reports and directives, one of the most recent of which is entitled Financial Sustainability of Higher Education Providers in England.   The report states that, as part of the registration and ongoing monitoring process, all higher education providers are now required to demonstrate to the OfS that they are financially viable and sustainable. 

Some Vice-Chancellors of even well-known and very well-established universities may have quailed at learning this, as their seeming failure to be able to balance the books has frequently been dissected by the Press over the last two or three years.  The OfS doesn’t explain its methods, however – there are many kinds of capital, for example, not all of them tangible, and it doesn’t say which kinds are acceptable in boosting universities’ perceived solvency – but it does say “our analysis suggests that the sector overall is currently in reasonable financial health”.   Better news than might have been thought, then. But, sounding a greater note of caution immediately afterwards, the OfS adds that “the general picture masks considerable variations in financial performance between individual providers”.  Not really a surprise, but perhaps some Vice-Chancellors should start quaking, after all.

Although some providers are predicted to do less well next year than initially expected, the OfS says that this is mainly because the forecast growth in student numbers has been over-optimistic in the short term; but apparently universities’ student recruitment ambitions now stand a greater chance of being realised.  Of the 183 registered UK HE providers, 122 are assuming growth in student numbers of more than 5% – the students are expected to come from the “UK, EU and overseas” – in the next four years.   The OfS notes that most of these providers are not reliant on this projected growth to reduce their projected costs (i.e., their calculations are not based on what economists call ‘margin’) if their student recruitment ambitions are not met, so the OfS will continue to monitor them closely for financial stability.  Good news for students and their parents, then.  Vice-Chancellors still under pressure!

However: “Collectively, providers forecast the number of overseas students to increase by approximately 56,000 full-time equivalent (FTE)(20.7 per cent). Fee income from overseas students is projected to rise by £1.7 billion (37.9 per cent), suggesting an anticipated increase in the average fee charged to overseas students. The government’s recently announced international education strategy aims to support the sector to increase the number of overseas students.”  Is this a cunning element of the government’s Brexit plans?

Almost as an afterthought, the report acknowledges that the higher education sector continues to face uncertainties, “including the UK’s future relationship with the EU; potential changes in government policy following the review of post-18 education funding; and as a consequence of student choice following a continuing decline in the 18-year-old UK population to 2020.” 

Aside from the fact that the last statement appears to blame the decline in 18-year olds by 2020 on “student choice” (were the first-borns so obnoxious that they deterred their parents from providing siblings?), the report fails to inspire confidence.  The cautious optimism it demonstrates in the face of almost certain adversity seems almost reckless.        

Nevertheless, it is an interesting document: it produces some useful financial detail about where the university sector in the UK is heading, and as it is only 23 pages long, offers both information and entertainment (infotainment?) at the expense of not too great an outlay in time. 

The report may be found at

Conferences, copyright, London Book Fair

Copyright, Books and Progress

This year’s Charles Clark Memorial Lecture at London Book Fair, entitled Copyright, Books and Progress, was delivered by Professor Daniel Gervais, Milton R Underwood Chair in Law and Director of the Vanderbilt Intellectual Property Program at Vanderbilt Law School. 

Professor Gervais said that copyright is more about intermediation than authors; it is meant to help create value in the marketplace.  Today, the power of online users has eclipsed many of the discussions on the rights of authors and professional users.  The new intermediaries are not copyright owners, but companies such as Facebook and Google who generate revenues by selling advertising.  Their aim is to pay as little as possible for creative works.     

Copyright implies “one size fits all” – but now this doesn’t work.  Allowing the re-fragmentation of rights materials to create a single protected object does work.  The ability of the Internet to disseminate worldwide at little cost is a powerful leveller; but saying no to a user online is the least desirable option.  If copyright can be aligned with purpose, the need for more limitations and exceptions will be reduced. 

The nature of content should matter to us all; progress doesn’t necessarily mean “new”, because new doesn’t always justify progress. Does copyright law incentivise the right things? In order to achieve its aims, new content must not only be created but made available, while finding ways not to disadvantage those who have spent their lives perfecting their creative craft. Spending time on creativity is essential for humanity to reach maximum levels of achievement. 

In the knowledge economy, creativity has replaced the value of material goods.  Human emancipation through science and the arts is progress; the role of governments is to promote progress by ensuring that the “greater proportion” of change is for progress. Good governance of human progress is about promoting conditions for business to thrive across borders and for humans to develop their potential. 

 Professor Gervais offered a few “concrete” suggestions:

  • In the face of the takeover of human creativity by a small number of large technology companies, we can either take a laissez-faire approach, or we can use copyright to foster creativity more proactively. 
  • OR we can regulate dissemination.
  • OR we can implement a policy that implies some regulation.

Internet users certainly need filters; but for many forms of enterprise, the Internet is “it”; and the Internet is also the only means of revenue for many companies. 

Copyright law therefore matters: it is the main policy tool we have to effect financial flows to professional creators and publishers – highly desirable goals for the future of progress.  “The Internet’s purpose should be to foster, not hinder, rights.”

Editing, General

Ten top tips from Gold Leaf’s academic journals editor, Jim Bennett

Jim has been editing academic journal articles at Gold Leaf for almost a decade. In his experience, authors don’t seem to understand that their submissions should be as perfectly crafted as possible. He says he is constantly surprised that authors are so careless about how they express themselves; he adds that even his meticulous editorial commentary doesn’t guarantee subsequent improvement. Perhaps the following will help as an aide-memoire.

Here are Jim’s top tips to save at least some of the time spent on revisions by authors, editors and reviewers.

  • The language and tone of the article must be appropriate to context and purpose.
  • Consistency, consistency, consistency! (For example, if you establish a particular tense sequence, you must adhere to it; if you give an acronym with first usage of, say, a group’s title, use the acronym throughout – don’t revert at random to the full title.)
  • Try to achieve readability for the ordinary alert educated reader – avoid jargon where possible and don’t use long words where short ones will do.
  • Avoid metaphor, especially clichéd metaphor. (You might think your ‘emperor has no clothes’ is appropriate – it isn’t, as it’s terribly hackneyed!). And, if you really must use metaphors, don’t mix them!
  • Avoid long and complicated lists; keep all lists to a minimum. (Your reader doesn’t need to be swamped with ‘comprehensive’ detail – no list is ever comprehensive! 😉 – just because you wish to demonstrate your wonderfully broad command of a topic.)
  • Aim for clear English, generally expressed in short sentences and, wherever possible, use active verbs, not passive.
  • Religiously eliminate all information extraneous to your article’s main thrust.
  • Apply appropriate citation protocols and, in your reference list, conform exactly and consistently to the practice of the publisher. If a ‘style sheet’ is provided, follow it!
  • Discoverability is your watchword. Help your reader by always providing relevant and correct URLs, ISBNs, ISSNs and DOIs.  Ensure that the url both functions and takes the reader to the cited page(s), not home pages.
  • Read the document aloud (in your head!) to identify unwanted solecisms, repetitions and stylistic infelicities.

And just a couple of general points:

Computer software has eliminated the need for a double space after a full stop, which typists using conventional typewriters were taught to apply. Use one space only – and certainly DON’T use a mixture of one and two and even three spaces! (Consistency again! 😊)

It’s unhelpful to apply formatting to a journal submission – the publisher imposes a format for the journal and shouldn’t have to unpick the author’s. Use plain Word.

Brexit, Deutsch, Digital Publishing, General

Brexit und Verlagswesen. Eine persönliche Stellungnahme einer britischen Deutschen

(This blog post has been written in German. To see an English translations, click here)

Heute ist „Brexit“-Tag. Eigentlich. Und was bedeutet das für dieses Land?

Heute sollten wir aus der EU austreten, hieß es. Nun also doch nicht.

Als die Briten vor 3 Jahren für ein Referendum an die Wahlurnen gebeten wurden, war vorher klar, dass das Ergebnis knapp ausfallen würden. Das tat es dann ja auch (52% zu 48%) – warum es in so einer Entscheidung keine Zweidrittel-Mehrheit brauchte, wundert mich noch heute. Viele Briten hatten die Nase voll von der EU, von seiner Bürokratie und Inflexibilität. Die Flüchtlingskrise hatte ihren Höhepunkt erreicht und es gab Angst vor Überfremdung, die zwar irrational und unabhängig von der EU war, aber von den sog. „Brexiteers“ wunderbar geschürt wurde. Einem maroden Gesundheitssystem wurde die magische Transformation zum Besseren versprochen und auch an anderen Stellen wurden der Bevölkerung Versprechungen gemacht, die niemals hätten gehalten werden können. Von Wirtschaftschaos, steigenden Preisen und Fachkräftemangel erfuhr die Bevölkerung erst, als es zu spät war. In der gesamten Thematik – angefangen von David Cameron’s Einberufung des Referendums, über die darauf folgende Kampagne, bis hin zur Durchführung – ging es immer nur um eines: Parteipolitik. Um Status und Macht von Einzelnen. Um das Wohl des Volkes und die Zukunft des Landes hat sich niemand geschert. Die Bevölkerung hat es nun endlich begriffen und das Parlament sitzt in einer Zwickmühle, aus der es nur schwer – wenn überhaupt – herauskommt.

Mehr und mehr meiner britischen Mitbürger sehen ein, dass es das Chaos, die Unsicherheit und das Risiko nicht wert war. Ja, die EU hat ihre Schwächen. Ja, es wäre manchmal einfacher und vielleicht auch wünschenswert, Entscheidungen ohne Abhängigkeit von Brüssel treffen zu können. Aber die Zeiten des britischen Empires sind vorbei, und Änderungen kann man nur bewirken, wenn man Teil des Ganzen ist.

Die Stimmung im Land ist anders als sie es vor 3 Jahren war. Die Bevölkerung wurde durch diesen Prozess aufgerüttelt und besser informiert. Aber leider ist die Regierung von ehemaligen Elite-Schülern dominiert, die in ihrer eigenen Wolke leben und zu ihrer Wählerschaft keinen Bezug mehr haben. Das wahre Leben ist den Meisten von ihnen fremd.

Heute ist „Brexit“-Tag. Eigentlich. Und was bedeutet das für mich?

Seit über 13 Jahren lebe ich nun als Deutsche in Großbritannien, seit knapp 7 Jahren mit einem britischen Pass. Diesen hatte ich mir damals zugelegt, weil ich meine Zukunft hier sah, und als Steuerzahlerin wollte ich auch volles Wahlrecht haben. Und weil Deutschland einen Zweitpass neben dem deutschen problemlos erlaubt, solange es sich um einen EU-Pass handelt, habe ich auch gar nicht lange gezögert – höchstens die damit verbundenen, relativ hohen Kosten haben mich mal kurz zweifeln lassen, ob es sich überhaupt lohnt. „Ich bin doch eh EU-Bürgerin, und somit ist so ein britischer Pass doch eigentlich gar nicht nötig. Ein ziemlich teuer erkauftes Wahlrecht, aber mehr eben nicht“ – so dachte man noch damals. Und damals ist gerade mal 7 Jahre her.

Ich hätte nicht gedacht, dass ich nur 4 Jahre später heilfroh sein würde, dass ich mir um Aufenthaltsstatus, Arbeitserlaubnis und Gesundheitsversorgung als EU-Bürgerin keine Sorgen wuerde machen müssen. „Brexit“ hatte die Situation verändert und noch bis heute ist die Situation für viele meiner EU-Mitbürger unsicher.

Heute ist „Brexit“-Tag. Eigentlich. Und was bedeutet das für das Verlagswesen?

Seit ich in dieses Land gezogen bin, war ich im wissenschaftlichen Verlagswesen taetig – ich habe mit Bibliotheken weltweit gearbeitet, für und mit großen, kleinen und Kleinst-Verlagen, mit Organisationen rund ums Verlagswesen, Technologiefirmen und Non-for-Profit-Organisationen. Die meisten davon sind britisch und für sie hat der Brexit direkte Implikationen.

Vor allem im wissenschaftlichen Verlagswesen sind die Auswirkungen immens. Durch die immer wachsende Globalisierung von Wissenschaft beschränken sich Autoren und Leserschaft nicht auf den englischsprachigen Markt, sondern sind international. Natürlich spielt die EU hier eine große Rolle: nicht nur in Bezug zu Kundenbeziehung – die Unklarheiten über Handelsabkommen, Verzollung, Mehrwertsteuer etc. bremsen den Vertrieb und die mit dem Brexit einhergehenden Schwächung des britischen Pfundes bedeutet direkte Umsatzverluste – aber auch, und vor allem in Bezug zu Autoren. Ein Großteil des wissenschaftlichen Publizierens basiert auf Forschung; Forschung, die zu großen Teilen von EU-Geldern gefördert wird. Für britische Wissenschaftler ist es bereits seit dem Referendum 2016 schwerer geworden, an internationalen Projekten teilzunehmen, da ihre Finanzierung unklar war und ist. Die britische Regierung stellt nicht annähernd genug Geld zur Verfügung, um dieses Finanzloch in Zukunft zu stopfen. Inwiefern europäische Wissenschaftler in einem Nach-Brexit Großbritannien werden leben und arbeiten können, ist ebenso unklar.
Copyright-Direktiven finden auf EU-Basis statt – keiner weiss, in wie weit die erst in dieser Woche verabschiedete EU-Urheberrechtsreform in Großbritannien greifen wird. Von einer internationalen Kooperation bei der Durchsetzung von geistigem Eigentumsrechten außerhalb der EU ganz zu schweigen.
Die EU setzt Richtlinien – sei es im Bereich von Open Access (Plan S), der Angleichung von Mehrwertsteuern für digitale Bücher und Zeitschriften, oder den internationalen Markt von Online-Gütern und Datentransfer. Wenn dieses Land kein Teil der EU mehr ist, stehen alle diese Themen in den Sternen und die Unsicherheit, wie es in diesen Bereichen weiter gehen wird, ist in den Verlagen deutlich zu spüren.

Heute sollten wir aus der EU austreten, hieß es. Nun also doch nicht.

Zumindest nicht heute. Vielleicht in zwei Wochen, vielleicht in zwei Monaten, vielleicht in zwei Jahren. Vielleicht auch nie.

Die unsägliche Art und Weise, mit der die hiesige Regierung das Thema behandelt, lässt mich sprachlos. Selten hat das Wort „Fremdschämen“ eine bessere Anwendung gefunden; und ich bin dankbar, dass ich noch diese andere – nicht-britische – Identität habe. Und dennoch lebe ich gerne in diesem Land, das ich seit 13 Jahren mein Zuhause nenne. Deutschland ist mir in dieser Zeit fremd geworden – und ist mir doch so nah.

Annika Bennett, Gold Leaf

Digital Publishing, London Book Fair, Trends in Publishing

Vibes from the London Book Fair 2019

This year’s London Book Fair occurred earlier in the year than usual and was once again held at Olympia – an old favourite for those of us who remember Olympia as the venue for pre-Earl’s Court LBFs. Members of Gold Leaf attended on Tuesday and Thursday.

We were very impressed by the overall attendance, especially on Tuesday: there was a real buzz to the fair, with lots of ancillary activities going on right from the start. We applauded the decision of the fair organisers to ban wheeled laptop cases and suitcases from the aisles this year: it made moving around much less hazardous and increased the feasibility of working to the tight schedules that most of us have to cope with.

So what were this year’s big themes? For academic publishers, Plan S in particular and Open Access publishing more generally probably overshadowed everything except Brexit. (Comments on that, especially from European publishers, were fairly uniform: horrified, puzzled, dismayed by the events unfolding in Parliament while the fair was running.) ALPSP ran a seminar on Plan S and Open publishing on the Wednesday morning, at which David Sweeney, Executive Chair Designate of Research England, was the keynote speaker. Elsewhere at the fair, prominent themes included Fake News – or, rather, how to combat it; freedom of speech; and, on a less abstract level, the rise and rise of talking books (please follow this blog to read more about this in the next couple of weeks).

The PEN stand was mobbed by young authors demanding freedom of speech for all – which until recently would have been a laughable exhibition of preaching to the converted, particularly in such an environment; but recent events in both Europe and the USA, as well as further afield in the world, have now demonstrated very strongly the importance of not taking freedom of speech – not to say the accurate representation of the truth – for granted.

The importance of supporting creativity and allowing authors and other creative artists by maintaining copyright law was also the theme of this year’s Charles Clark Memorial Lecture, delivered by Professor Daniel Gervais, Milton R Underwood Chair in Law and Director of the Vanderbilt Intellectual Property Program at Vanderbilt Law School, which was entitled Copyright, Books and Progress. Professor Gervais’ central premise was that copyright should be fiercely defenced to incentivise the “right things” – i.e., matters central to the progress of human civilisation. He said that it was clear that in order to achieve its aims, new content must not only be created but made available, while finding ways not to disadvantage those who have spent their lives perfecting their creative craft. His message was that rules should be created and observed to maximise access to content, while providing authors with sustainable livelihoods. You will be able to read more details about the lecture on this blog soon.

Stephen Page, CEO of Faber, also spoke of the need to preserve the essential values of civilisation in one of the opening speeches of the fair. Like Professor Gervais, he depicted publishing and the laws and norms that underpin it as central to the development of civilised society. “We need to have the courage to fight for our values we believe in: free speech, respect for ideas and intellectual life, for copyright, and for the right of an artist to make a living; and for our local markets.”

The Author Centre was frantically busy, as usual; and several new amenities were provided for authors, including Author HQ, organised by Midas, which gave pre-chosen authors the chance to pitch to agents in a ‘Dragon’s Den’ kind of way.

Indonesia was the guest country of the book fair this year and some of the Indonesia publications were both exotic and wonderful. However, China seemed to have an even greater representation, and Indian publishers also enjoyed a much higher profile than in the past.

All in all, the atmosphere was joyful, celebratory and can-do. Although – as indicated in this summary – some of the underlying reasons for preoccupations aired at the fair were deadly serious, the end result was the display of an industry perhaps more united than usual about what it stands for.