Irish Publishing: Dead or Alive?

Eoin Purcell

In case you thought Irish publishers were not at the races with the future
You should have gone along to the debate on that very topic at the Dublin Book Festival on Friday. Seán Ó Cearnaigh chaired the panel with: Michael Gill (Gill & Macmillan) and Michael O’Brien (The O’Brien Press), Conor Kostick (Author and Chair of the Irish Writers’ Union).

Although the format was a little staid (Seán Ó Cearnaigh posed questions directly to the panel) and a little ruined for me by the fact that the question I asked was stupidly phrased and didn’t get across the point I wanted, it was still a fascinating experience. Given that the Festival is in its first year, I can see this getting better and better. There is real value in panel discussions like this one.

Unlikely Revolutionary
Michael Gill especially came across well and was a revelation to me. I’ve seen Michael O’Brien in action before. It would be a rare person who would deny that he is a forceful proponent of whatever position he is supporting and his record as a publisher speaks for itself. But it was Michael Gill who seemed the revolutionary to me, pushing Irish publishers to explore the digital opportunities and to overcome the barriers and challenges.

Both he and Michael O’Brien seemed certain of the dangers Microsoft’s and Google’s scanning and digitisation of books pose to publishers. I think their views are beginning to win me over (this is helping too).

No more Net Book, EVER
The only real area of conflict arose from the suggestion that perhaps selling price contracts might make a return, this from Connor Kostick, the only author on the panel. Michael Gill gave an emphatic smack down to this and left little doubt about his position on the matter. He also seemed reluctant to countenance a return to any kind of Price Maintenance, something both Connor Kostick and Michael O’Brien seemed keen on.

I have to say, I dislike price maintenance instinctively, it just doesn’t feel right and the happy capitalist in me resents any pricing tools.

I’ve some more notes on the discussion but I need to think them over a little more before I write them up!

Enjoyed the day at the Festival,