Inside the Australian and New Zealand book industry

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PRH, Hachette and ‘PW’ to fund PEN membership fees under Trump

In the US, Penguin Random House (PRH), Hachette Book Group (Hachette) and Publishers Weekly will pay half of each of their employees’ membership fees to PEN America, in a move to protect freedom of speech under US president Donald Trump’s term in office.

In a letter from the editor, Publishers Weekly said ‘no principle is more important to book publishing than freedom of speech’. ‘To help ensure that authors and publishers will remain unafraid to publish works that they believe in, no matter where the subject matter falls on the political spectrum, will require a strong commitment by individuals, companies, and organizations to protecting free speech … PW urges other publishers to back the First Amendment through whatever efforts they deem to be the most effective.’

PEN America seeks to defend press freedoms, and also runs programs highlighting Muslim-American writers advocating for free speech.

Publishers Weekly also expressed concern over reports of plans to eliminate federal agencies the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities, saying it is ‘eager to lend its voice to all parties looking to rally support to keep these important agencies alive’.

The publication follows the lead of US publishers PRH and Hachette, with Hachette CEO Michael Pietsch observing that the US is ‘in a climate where free speech is especially important’.

The move follows a number of protests in the book industry to president Trump’s executive order banning people from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the US. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has said the company plans to fight the executive order by exploring legislative options and supporting the state of Washington’s lawsuit to challenge the order. Former UK children’s laureate Malorie Blackman and author Matt Haig said they would not be visiting the US while the ban was in place, while not-for-profit UK publisher Comma Press plans to only translate books by authors from banned nations in 2018.


Category: International news