Yes, books still need publishers!

In a world where information is omnipresent, publishers are an essential part of the creation chain: who else will select, check, host, manage, finance and disseminate high-value content to the widest possible readership?

However, for publishers to continue to fulfil this vital role, they need a balanced legislative framework that enables them to secure a return on their investment in the intellectual property that underpins our industry. The current EU legal framework is fit for purpose, even if some adjustments might have to be undertaken in such areas as orphan works. Mass digitisation is very high on the agenda. Whenever asked, publishers are part of the solution. For example, in France, where they (together with the authors) are supporting the recently adopted law on the digitisation and making available on the internet of out of commerce works. Publishers are also working with Europeana and other public institutions to offer some access to books in their catalogues.

Publishing is the first cultural industry in Europe with a turnover of over 23 billion euros and an estimated market value of some 40 billion euros. 170.000 persons work full time for publishers and hundreds of thousands more are free-lancers, not counting booksellers, printers or technology companies.

On the occasion of its press breakfast briefing organised this morning in Brussels, the Federation of European Publishers highlighted the continuing pivotal role publishers play in an increasingly digital world and its position on the key dossiers currently on the European agenda such as:

  • The Commission proposal on orphan works (works without identified or locatable author or right holder) that is currently discussed in “Trialogue”, including the exception to copyright it implies. Publishers favour such initiative as long as a due diligent search is undertaken to ensure the work is really an orphan and have developed the ARROW project to help making automatised comprehensive searches.
  • The issue of the digitisation of books: on the 10th, the EU Culture Ministers will adopt their conclusions on this issue. FEP supports mass digitisation of out of commerce works as long as they are based on voluntary agreements between all stakeholders and signed in September 2011 a Memorandum of Understanding with the libraries for “out-of-commerce” books which are still protected by copyright. FEP, libraries but also authors and collecting societies are following up to promote balanced projects in this field.
  • The Commission is currently considering whether to allow Member States to eventually lower the VAT regime for e-books, as it is already the case for printed books in 25 Member States (and audio books in 10 Member States). In its Communication of 10 December, the EC recognised the issue of discrimination between various reading formats. Publishers are urging the Commission to extend the current derogation to the evolving e-book market. Two countries have decided to lower their rates: France and Luxembourg.

Mr Fergal Tobin, Managing Director at Gill&Macmillan and FEP President, said: “Without publishers, how can you tell what’s good from what’s bad? We invest in quality and deliver value”.

Mr Richard Charkin, Executive Director of Bloomsbury Publishing PLC., added: “What do publishers do? We select, we invest, we edit, we design, we promote, we distribute, we fund, we support creativity in literature, in information, in research, in education, in print, on-line and all digital forms. And European publishers in particular represent a vibrant independent industry exporting to all parts of the world, employing people throughout the EU, and supporting freedom of expression for all.”

Mr Juergen Boos, director of the Frankfurt Book Fair, underlined: “The digital world is changing publishing from the ground up. The Frankfurt Book Fair serves not only as the gauge for these changes, but also as the launch pad for new ones. This is where the film, book, games and technology industries come together to do business with content. It’s also the place where new collaborations are born and, as a result, new creative works. Content - i.e. knowledge, ideas, information - is what holds societies together at their core. The Frankfurt Book Fair sees it as its responsibility to contribute to the viability of creating this "internal cohesion" in the future as well.”

Ms Anne Bergman, FEP Director stressed that: “As a professional association in Brussels we now need not only to follow the policies of the institutions but also to explain the essential role publishers play in the book chain to justify our call in favour of balanced policies affecting our sector”.

In the coming months, FEP will organise a number of events to promote the role of the publishers:

  • The second edition of the “Author-Publisher Dialogues” featuring Jean Dufaux, scriptwriter and François Pernot of the Lombard and Dargaud Benelux (Franco-Belgian publishing group), the Swedish writer Åsa Larsson with Eva Bonnier representing Bonnier (the largest Swedish publishing group), as well as the Italian author Donato Carrisi, and his publisher Mauri Spagnol (third largest Italian publishing group) represented by Stefano Mauri, will be held in Brussels on the 19th September 2012;
  • We also organise “Publishers’ lunches” where a publisher dialogues with guests over his/her work. This permits decision-makers and opinion leaders to better understand the role of the publishers;
  • In the framework of its campaign “Get caught reading”, FEP is inviting key decision makers and opinion leaders to be pictured with their favourite book. All the gathered pictures will be displayed during an exhibition in the European Parliament beginning 2013.

If you are interested in those initiatives, please let us know and we will keep you informed.