Borders Literature Online

Hugo Andreas Setzer


Hugo Andreas Setzer

Preamble Hugo Setzer
seperator line


I always say you're Mexican, but of course you are part German aren't you? It's a very interesting mix. Tell us about your background, your education and about the journey to becoming CEO of Manual Moderno, one of Mexico's leading publishing houses.


Yes, you are right, I am both Mexican and German. My parents came to Mexico after WWII and settled here. I was born in Mexico, but was fortunate to have a bicultural and trilingual education.

Our company, Manual Moderno, has been around for 62 years and, though my father did not found the company, he joined it at an early stage and managed it for many years, before I came in. I am an Industrial Engineer, so at the time I was finishing college I was not particularly interested in my father's publishing business. But once I started, I realized how fascinating it is and stayed on. That was 30 years ago.

Then I started serving, in different capacities, in my home publishers association. At the same time, I enjoyed attending IPA congresses since the one held in Mexico in 1984. In time I had the opportunity of participating as a speaker or moderating one of the congress sessions. IPA congresses are a unique opportunity to network and learn from colleagues from all around the world.

Afterwards I had the chance of serving on IPA's Executive Committee from 2004 to 2010 and then from 2013 to my election as Vice-President in 2016 and finally President in 2018, for the period 2019-2020.

seperator line

On June 13th 2019, on the side-lines of the Africa Rising seminar hosted by the Kenyan Publishers Association and the International Publishers Association June 14th - June 15th 2020 in Nairobi, the IPA signed 2 MoUs, one with the Association for the Development of Education in Africa (ADEA) and the other with African Publishers Network (APNET).

Let’s focus on the cooperation between APNET and IPA. What successes has the partnership between IPA and African publishers recorded so far?

MOU Signing Kolawole and Hugo

The IPA has a number of MoUs with different partners - APNET and ADEA of course, but also IBBY (International Board on Books for Young People), Dubai Cares, Emirates Airlines and CERLALC (The Regional Centre for the Promotion of Books in Latin America and Caribbean).

MOU Signing Albert and Hugo

If we focus on APNET then I think there are a number of ways that we work together - whether that has been in promoting the Africa Publishers Innovation Fund [], or our current work bringing the SDG Book Club to Africa, and I must thank you for your own work on that front. But there’s also the regular work of IPA supporting copyright law reviews whether that is in Kenya, Nigeria or South Africa. On top of that we were delighted to feature APNET’s chair, Samuel Kolawole, in our IPA in Conversation with interview series where we looked at how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting the book sector around the world.

Hugo and Samuel

Samuel’s conversation was great not only because of the general insights from APNET’s excellent report on the impact of COVID but because he kept the focus clearly on what will work in an African context and what the particular challenges are. I hope that we can keep working together more closely in the years to come.

APIF APIF grantees
seperator line

On April 23rd 2020, UNESCO’s World Book & Copyright Day, global book industry organisations [EIBF, IAF, IFRRO, IPA, STM] issued a joint-statement.

The statement was an appeal to governments worldwide for economic support following lockdowns imposed by governments desperate to protect their people from the ravages of the Coronavirus.

Talk to us about the arguments put forward in that joint-statement and about how the IPA’s Moscow Call for Action adopted at the Moscow International Book Fair on 3rd September 2020, builds on it.

World Book Day

Our statement in April came as many more regions started realising the scale of action necessary to control the virus but also the economic impact that action would have. The book sector is an ecosystem and, as I have said many times before but especially this year, it is important that we stand together. That initial call was about marking that solidarity and calling governments in a general way to support their book sectors. Following that statement IPA issued a number of letters in support of member associations that were asking their local government for support. As I’m sure you are aware, while we have read about excellent support schemes for culture and books in many countries, there are also a lot of countries, including my own, that have not recognised the importance of supporting their cultural industries.

Our Moscow Call for Action came at a time when we had a much clearer picture of the kind of policies that governments around the world had used to support their publishing sectors. It was about being more concrete and giving our members something clear that they could take to their ministries and say, ‘Look, this is what they are doing in x or y countries. We need policies like these.

Ambitious Literary Policies

Our State of Publishing Report on Ambitious Literary Policies demonstrates how many policy areas can have an impact on creating a thriving book sector. The Moscow Call for Action is equally diverse, whether we are looking at VAT on books and eBooks, budgets for libraries, reduced postal tariffs for book deliveries, fighting piracy.

All of these policies are about providing oxygen for our industry.

Covid-19 has held 2020 hostage. The cost is undeniably the vast numbers worldwide of those afflicted by the disease, the over 1.2 million lives lost and a hard-hit global economy. Many of us have witnessed the death of dreams this year, but many of us also feel that the disappointments and frustrations we are experiencing can be juxtaposed with hope: this year is also a portal leading to opportunities.

How does this perspective resonate with you as President of the International Publishers Association?

This pandemic is something no one could have foreseen or prepared for. It meant a complete disruption of our lifestyle and put us all around the world to a test.

From the beginning, our priority at the IPA was to keep close communication with our members spread out in 69 countries and to share valuable information with them. That is why we created our COVID-19 resource page.

As we received information about all the initiatives publishers were undertaking in their countries, how they were stepping up to support society in difficult times, about how they were cooperating with authors and booksellers to find solutions and new ways to reach readers, I realized the degree of resilience and innovation of our industry.

This makes me feel proud of being a publisher and optimistic for the future. We have so much to contribute to society with the books we publish.

We bring readers entertainment, solace in moments of despair, we help educate our children and we deliver reliable, curated scientific information to those who need it. I think there’s a bright future ahead for publishers.

seperator line

You gave the inspiring keynote address at the 19th Nigerian International Book Fair, the first ever virtual Nigerian book fair held September 1st - 7th 2020. Its theme: Information Technology as Panacea for the Book Industry Sustainability amidst Covid-19 Pandemic.’


Remind us about the key points and recommendations you made.

Since the title of the Book Fair had to do with information technology, I talked about the importance for publishers to embrace digital, now more than ever. I mentioned the advantages of digital, not least that it also enables us to tackle accessibility challenges for visually impaired readers.

But I also said that we must not forget the importance of content. Publishers have a crucial role of ensuring quality and of curation, of being the gatekeepers of reliable, trustworthy information.

During the address, you referenced Maryanne Wolf’s book: Reader Come Home: The Reading Brain in a Digital World.

Why do you consider this book so important? Shed some light on the important points Ms. Wolf raises in her book.

maryann wolf

Thank you for asking this question. I found this book to be really insightful and well written. Ms. Wolf warns that we may be losing our capacity for deep reading, for the more time-demanding cognitive process nurtured by print-based mediums, in favour of easily digested, less dense, less intellectually demanding information. That is why she proposes the development of a “biliterate brain”, explaining, from a neuroscientist’s point of view, why it is fundamental that we educate our children with a blend of printed and digital materials.

seperator line

Let me quote you talking about IPA’s publishing reports launched at the Frankfurt Book Fair, 15th October 2020:

Never before has the IPA undertaken such an exercise of establishing a clear picture of our industry from so many different angles

All 7 reports produced under the auspices of the Norwegian Publishers Association, contain information which is very useful for formulating the book industry’s policies and for making business decisions, but here I am interested in knowing a little about what we can expect from these 3 reports:

IPA Global Report on Copyright & Publishing ,
Publishers and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals
Licensing Practices in a Global Digital Market

I encourage your readers to take a look at all of the reports but thank you for picking out these three. Let me look at each one in turn.

The IPA Global Report on Copyright and Publishing is a remarkable endeavour and I have to thank all of the contributors for making it a reality. We have brought together in one place the copyright provisions that impact publishing in all of the countries where IPA has members. We are talking about key provisions from over 60 countries and a range of languages summarised and translated into English. We can start to see which countries are lagging behind in making their copyright laws relevant for digital distribution (and to fight digital piracy).

I mentioned the Sustainable Development Goals briefly earlier and I know this is an issue you are particularly interested in. This may sound strange but I’m not sure even we expected this report to be so deep and rich. We know that publishers are active on certain goals like SDG 4, education, but what this report shows is that around the world publishers are active on all of the goals.

SDG Decade of Action

What is important is that we have ten years to achieve the goals and publishers can play a role in two different ways: by the books that we publish and by the way we conduct ourselves as businesses. The SDG report is full of best practices on how publishers can do that and we’ve already taken it one step further by working again with the UN to create an SDG Publishers Compact - a sort of pledge for publishers that want to do more.

SDG Publishers Compact

Finally, the report on Licensing Practices in a Global Digital Market really goes to the core of the evolution of our business and why copyright policies in particular need to be carefully thought through. Licensing has always been important in publishing as a way of taking great books and educational resources from one market to another and one format to another. As digital develops, the range of opportunities is growing but license and the strong exclusive rights behind it, are what enable our industry to adapt.

This is perhaps the first report to try to look at the full chain from author to publisher and then the secondary licensing of CMOs [Collective Management Organisations] and to look at different regions like Africa and Asia and different kinds of publishing like educational and STM [Scientific, Technical & Medical].

John Degen talks about authors in Canada seeing revenues collapse due to poor copyright legislation changes which have decimated the local educational publishing market. Fei Chen Lee talks with great insight about how licensing and local adaptation is still important even for maths textbooks.

One of the other reports joins on to this, Digital and Paper: Current Research into the Effectiveness of Learning Materials. As the Chair of our Educational Publishers Forum, Stephan de Valk says in his presentation of the report, the future of educational resources can’t be built on a hunch that digital is better. We need research. And that links with my answer to your question about Maryanne Wolf’s book.

Great stories, high quality textbooks, curated research all require investment. Some of the biggest technology platforms in the world don’t respect that investment and in some cases are seeking to change copyright policies to undermine it. In Africa, this risks undermining the development of strong local publishing markets which are important economically and culturally.

seperator line

On 28th October 2020, as IPA President, you served as a speaker in a webinar organised by:

  • Nigeria Copyright Commission
  • Nigeria Association Of The Blind
  • International Council For The Education Of People With Visual Impairment

The title of the webinar: Working together to end the book famine for people with print disabilities

Tell us about the Accessible Books Consortium (ABC) which IPA is a member of and how the WIPO administered Marrakesh Treaty seeks to reduce this book famine for people with print disabilities.

Accessibility is such a significant issue. The Marrakesh Treaty, signed in 2013, got from the beginning, the full support of the publishing industry. According to the WHO, there are about 253 million visually impaired people all over the world. According to estimates by the World Blind Union, they have access to less than 10% of published materials.

That is why IPA, together with other valued stakeholders, immediately joined the WIPO initiative to form the Accessible Books Consortium, with the aim of increasing the number of accessible books. One of the tools to create awareness about the importance of accessible publishing is the Charter for Accessible Publishing, which has been signed by more than 100 publishing houses all over the world.

Accessible Books Consortium

I once mentioned that my goal was to duplicate in the next couple of years the number of titles available in accessible formats. We have to make sure no one is left behind.

seperator line

In July this year, you enjoyed an IPA conversation with Francis Gurry, outgoing Director-General of World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) about a variety of issues including the function of multi-lateralism/international cooperation in overcoming the pandemic. You referenced Yuval Harari’s 21 lessons for the 21st Century.

yuval harari

What does Harari have to say in his book that sheds light on the importance of multi-lateralism/international cooperation?


My interview with Mr. Gurry was part of a series we called IPA in conversation with, where we have engaging conversations with many key players around the world. They are still available to watch on IPA’s web page.

My conversation with Mr. Gurry was of special importance, because of the cooperation IPA enjoys with WIPO, with a view to convincing all stakeholders of the importance of copyright as an enabler of creativity and innovation.

I was particularly interested in talking with Mr. Gurry about the importance of multilateralism, because of opinions he has expressed privately on many occasions.

That is why I remembered what Mr Harari wrote in his book. 21 Lessons for the 21 Century:

The big challenges of the twenty-first century will be global in nature. [...] The whole of humankind now constitutes a single civilization, with all people sharing common challenges and opportunities.

I am fully convinced of that, and I know it is our mission at IPA to bring our members together to work together for a better future. I knew Mr. Gurry, after successfully running such an important organization as WIPO for 12 years, was of the same opinion.

seperator line

You will be stepping down as President of the International Publishers Association on December 31st 2020. Vice-President Bodour Al Qasimi, the first woman and first Arab to lead this global body, will begin her administration on January 1st 2020.

What are your plans going forward?

I would like to continue to do all that I can in favour of the international publishing community. I have offered all my support to my successor, the very capable and energetic Bodour Al Qasimi.

yuval harari

I will also dedicate a bit more time to my own publishing house. This year has been particularly tough for publishers in Mexico, with no government support. While I have gladly dedicated my time to the international publishing community, I will also need to turn my attentions closer to home.

And with what words of encouragement would you like to hand over the baton to Bodour Al Qasimi?

I am really glad to be able to leave the IPA in such good hands. I would encourage Bodour to continue what she has done in such a wonderful way for the past two years as our Vice-President: to be authentic and to trust her instincts. I am sure Bodour will be an outstanding IPA President.

seperator line

©Olatoun Gabi-Williams 2020

Olatoun Gabi-Williams is the founder of Borders Literature for all Nations


seperator line
0 Comment(s)
No Comments

Add A Comment

Preferred Display Name: *
Email Address: *Invalid email.
Your Comment: *
Please add up this figures.