Pat Schroeder Closes the Book on Her Time With the AAP: A Q&A With the Outgoing President of the Largest Association for Book Publishers
As a congresswoman, Patricia S. Schroeder pressed presidents and legislators for welfare, women's rights and military-spending reform. Then, during her 12-year term as president and CEO of the Association of American Publishers (AAP), she planted seeds for battles against copyright infringement and illiteracy. The next role she plans to grow into is retirement, usually the proving ground for gardeners and grandparents, in a way that may incorporate cultivation of a different sort.
Schroeder leaves her post at the AAP May 1, when former Congressman Tom Allen will begin leading the more than 300-member trade association. As one of her last acts in office, Schroeder participated in a book publishing keynote panel, “The Implications of the Google Book Search Settlement,” March 24 at the Publishing Business Conference & Expo in New York City. Here, she speaks with Book Business Extra about her tenure with the association and her plans for the future.
Book Business Extra: What are the biggest changes you've seen in the industry during the dozen years you've run the largest association for book publishers?
Patricia S. Schroeder: Well, it's been interesting, because when I came, we were in the middle of the dot-com explosion and everybody explained to me how books were totally passé. And then along came "Harry Potter" and, wow, everybody was reading again. And now we're back into another era where people are saying, “Oh, books are passé.” But books continue to go on. So it's been interesting to watch this ebb and flow. And at the end of the day, what's so important about books, and what I have learned in this period, is the content. … People love good stories. People want well-documented resources that they can rely on. And books still seem to be the platinum standard. So I've seen lots of things that people thought were going to be changes, but at the end of the day, they ended up not being a change. …
Extra: As you leave office, what are the most pressing issues or challenges facing the industry?
Schroeder: Clearly, digitization has made it much easier for people to pirate any kind of work. And we're seeing that happen more and more and more. So I think that's all the more reason AAP is going to be terribly important, because the only way to fight that is with everybody standing together and working together, and we have some groups that are doing that—that are monitoring the Internet, that are monitoring overseas, that are monitoring universities and everywhere else. But piracy seems to be breaking out all over.
Extra: How can publishers embrace digitization and new technologies, but also protect their copyright?
Schroeder: Well, we started that at the very beginning of my term at AAP by working very hard to pass the Digital Millennium Copyright Act [which, among other provisions, made it a crime to circumvent anti-piracy measures built into most commercial software]. And we continue to stay very involved legislatively and also with the technology, to learn what's going on and how to protect ourselves. So everybody's working hard on it, trying to stay ahead of the curve. And, of course, an association is the perfect place to do that, because people don't have time to spend hours and hours and hours on their own doing it. So it's a good place to work together cooperatively to do these things. And that's what I think we're going to see lots more of.
Extra: How does the effort to improve literacy mesh with digital advancements in publishing? Can both efforts expand publishers' audiences, or will one effort thwart the other?
Schroeder: No, no, no. Both efforts, obviously, can run on a parallel track, and they do complement each other. Being literate is the on-ramp to the digital revolution. People who think you don't have to read because everything's now digital obviously have no clue that with digital, you have to read. So literacy is terribly important, I think, and more and more important. One of the great shames of this country has been that we haven't done a better job on literacy. ... One of my frustrations has been—as you know, we have a strong school division at AAP—and then, every now and then, we encounter school boards or legislators who think, “Well, gee. We'll just get every kid a computer and then we won't have to have teachers and schools and all this expensive stuff.” And you're kind of like, “What?” They just totally missed the point.
Extra: What plans do you have for life after the AAP?
Schroeder: ... I really don't have a game plan, which no one believes. I have always left knowing what I was going to do next. And this time, I don't. So, I guess the time has come to relax a bit. ... I don't know if [gardening and grandparenting] is going to solve it for me or not. ... I'll tell you what I'm not going to do: I don't want anymore 24/7 jobs, you know, where I'm managing something. If I do something, it would be like speaking or teaching, or not being in charge of something totally.