Takes on the PIRATES.
Not quite. Pose the basic leader--profile question--"What books are you reading right now?--and Schroeder pulls a "no comment." Practicing one of the keys to membership retention that she has picked up during four years in association management, the president and CEO of the Association of American Publishers (AAP) is sensitive to any appearance of favoritism. What novel is on her night table or what management guru's guide gets briefcase space "is something I can't answer," Schroeder says. "If I ever do that, then I've got members mad that I didn't mention their books."
Schroeder is quick to assure that she "really does enjoy a wide range of books. I read like mad. So does my husband." And all that extra space in their empty nest? It's filled with fiction and nonfiction from must-remain-nameless publishers.
As for the subjects on which Schroeder will elaborate, at the top of her list is copyright law. With the proliferation of digitization have come both opportunities and threats for the 310 members--book publishers and suppliers--of AAP, a $6 million organization with offices in New York City and Washington, D.C. The critical need by publishers for protection of their works--not only in print, as always, but now also in electronic form, where copyright enforcement is much tougher--was likely behind a headhunters call to Schroeder during AAPs last recruitment for a CEO. While in Congress, she had gained much knowledge of copyright law through service on the Intellectual Property Subcommittee of the Judiciary Committee.
The position at AAP pulled Schroeder from Princeton, where she'd gone to teach after serving in the House of Representatives for 24 years. Schroeder had a few key reasons for leaving public office: She believes in "going when you are at the top of your game, rather than waiting until you sink to the bottom." Another belief of Schroeder's is that society discriminates against career women as they age. "At 55 years old," she says, "I thought that if I'm ever going to do anything else, I'd better get on with it or I'm going to be too old." Plus, Congress had changed, not to her liking. "I really felt like I was in nothing but a food fight every day."
Schroeder is still fighting, but these days with pirates and sometimes librarians. In her battle on behalf of publishers to protect intellectual property, Schroeder feels less frustration than she did during her last few years in Congress and better positioned for victory. In the following interview, Schroeder talks about her strategies for advancing AAP's goals and what's behind her fighting spirit.
ASSOCIATION MANAGEMENT: While worried about copyright, which is more at risk with electronic publishing, are AAP members eager to be involved in more technology-driven publishing?
Schroeder: Absolutely. It's very exciting to be in the throes of such huge change after 500 years of basically doing everything the same way. If we can protect copyright digitally, then think of the money saved: You're not going to have warehouses and big printing facilities and paper and shipping stuff back and forth. And think of you as the consumer. You can just order what you want, pay for what you want, and put it on your reading machine. Our desire is to build a legitimate way to do that, rather than have some pirate find a way to do it, then we try to bring it back to legitimacy.
ASSOCIATION MANAGEMENT: You're quoted on AAP's Web site saying that your industry's number one priority is finding ways of building security into the publishing process by enabling publishers to better protect their investment. What's the size of that investment?
Schroeder: The publishing industry in the United States is $26 billion, plus or minus, a year. So it's huge. And the thin, little protection around it is copyright.
The people who have sold the technology have a done a wonderful job of convincing the public that content should be free. Let's take Napster: Everybody pays for the computers, they pay for the online connections, they pay for the CDs, they pay for all that. But then, when it comes to the music, they think it should be free.
We're working very hard to get the WIPO [World Intellectual Property Organization] treaties ratified around the world, which will give a certain level of protection of copyright on the Internet. We're also looking at piracy. We have a huge high-tech pirate in Korea, and that's a major case that we re right in the middle of.
ASSOCIATION MANAGEMENT: What is the worst thing that someone on the opposite side of your issues might say about debating you?
Schroeder: That we only care about the bottom line: profits. But that's nonsense. We care deeply about protecting America's creative genius, keeping the U.S. economy strong, and saving American jobs. The intellectual property part of our economy has been growing at twice the rate of the rest of our economy. It's the largest export. There are many jobs in America that involve intellectual property and must be protected by intellectual property law.
ASSOCIATION MANAGEMENT: I understand that another key issue for AAP is freedom of expression, and the association works to protect that through a Freedom to Read Committee and an International Freedom to Publish Committee. Does that mean AAP supports expression of any and all ideas, including language that might be considered offensive to certain groups or obscene?
Schroeder: We really do believe, as Jefferson believed, that a free press is absolutely vital to a democracy. You always think it's going to be so easy to describe how you can censor reasonably, but once you buy into that, it becomes very difficult.
There are a huge number of states where proceedings are under way to censor Harry Potter. We gave "Banned Books Week Heroes" medals to two children who were so appalled that they'd gone out and organized against this. It's inconceivable to me that anybody would really think that somebody is going to read Harry Potter and believe in witches, just as if they read The Wizard of Oz and then believed in witches. You've really just got to throw up your hands and say, "I don't think the government belongs here."
ASSOCIATION MANAGEMENT: Are you ever called on the carpet on this by mothers who say, "You were so supportive of family issues while in Congress, and this is not about Harry Potter, it's about obscenities in books."
Schroeder: You can't take up every single fight. AAP has a committee to look at free-speech issues, and while the committee has no criteria defining what books deserve to be defended, they pass on a lot of things in which they don't see the social value. We only have limited resources to fight for what we think has gone way too far. So while we don't have specific criteria, I don't think any publisher will be signing up to defend something telling five-year-olds how to make a bomb at home and kill their parents.
ASSOCIATION MANAGEMENT: As an executive who is contacting Congress and advocating on behalf of an association, how have you put your experience on the other side of the table to good user?
Schroeder: I really understand how very limited the time of members of Congress can be, and one of the big mistakes I think a lot of advocacy groups make is they come in and sit down and spend an hour with [their elected representative], telling you everything about X. And you don't really need to know everything about X. You only need to know the part that you're going to be dealing with. So I tell [AAP members], "This is not about telling Congress how to publish a book. They aren't going to publish a book. They need to know about how a piece of legislation affects someone who does publish a book, and why. That's all.
I also know that members of Congress would still much rather see members of your organization who are constituents of theirs than they would you. You may be the greatest debater and the most persuasive speaker on the planet. But if any of your members are located in somebody's district, you would do very well to brief them, even if you go with them, because those are the people who vote
I think the hardest thing about being a leader is knowing when you shouldn't be out there. Sometimes it's better to ask someone else to lead on an issue-they may be more effective. So it's really knowing where you're going to be effective, and being willing to pull back when you're not.
ASSOCIATION MANAGEMENT: Considering all the highly charged issues you're working on, what are you most passionate about?
Schroeder: The thing that I'm most passionate about in this whole area is how upsetting it is that our literacy rate is still so terrible--we're one of the worst in the developed world. I want to see the person who tells me that we'll need less education to make it in the new century--I don't think so. I'll debate that until I'm purple, and I think I'm gonna win--I don't care how good they are.
I've been very pleased that our board has let us do things like our "Get Caught Reading" campaign, and try to say to people that reading really is fun, and we should get back involved in it, and people should be reading to their children between zero and five, and day care centers should have more books, and I could go on and on. The nice thing is that most of my board members are passionate about this, too.
ASSOCIATION MANAGEMENT: Is there an issue with which your board may not share your passion? And in that case, how do you negotiate the difference?
Schroeder: I suppose they're not as passionate about lobbying as I would like them to be, and my job is to just try and keep connecting the dots. I say to board members, "You may not like the fact that you need to be in Washington to do these things, but if you like being in business, you've got to spend some of your time focusing on Washington."
ASSOCIATION MANAGEMENT: What aspects about working for a board of directors make you miss your previous life as a public servant?
Schroeder: Actually, I find working for a board positively delightful. I mean the difference between having 700,000 people--your constituents--who think they're your board of directors, versus having this nice, little, manageable group...The board is a smaller constituency and there's some unity in it.
ASSOCIATION MANAGEMENT: Do you have a Palm Pilot?
ASSOCIATION MANAGEMENT: Are you going to he reading hooks on a screen in the future?
Schroeder: I probably am not.
ASSOCIATION MANAGEMENT: Do you feel pressured to do so?
Schroeder: I may belong to a generation that is not retrainable. But never say never, because one of the great things about digital publishing is, you can increase the type size, and that will be terrific if any of us starts losing our vision. Right now, large-print books are fairly limited; there aren't very many of them. But [digitizing books] is a phenomenal way to give the aging population access to everything. So I would say, if my eyesight holds up, I probably will remain with paper most of the time; if it doesn't, there's another option. ASSOCIATION MANAGEMENT: What about the feeling you get from reading a big book to your kid, sitting on your lap-is that going to get lost amid technology in the future?
Schroeder: No. People are passionate about books, and I don't think that's going to change over time. But I'm apt to look at electronic books eventually for information about travel and business and such. I think they're going to be huge in schools.
ASSOCIATION MANAGEMENT: You won't tell me what you're reading. Are you writing anything that you can talk about? If you wrote a book while serving as CEO of AAP, how could you choose the publisher?
Schroeder: I couldn't do it. That would be a real conflict of interests. I think I best just save that for later.
Gerry Romano, CAE, is senior editor and features manager of ASSOCIATION MANAGEMENT. E-mail: email@example.com.
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|Title Annotation:||interview with Patricia Schroeder|
|Date:||Aug 1, 2001|
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