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European book bodies create election 'manifesto'

Three European-wide book trade bodies have created a manifesto for books calling on four main priorities to be considered ahead of the European Elections later this year.

The Federation of European Publishers (FEP), The European Booksellers Federation (EBF) and the European Writers Council (EWC) have joined together to call for fair competition in internet retail, low and equal VAT on print and e-books and “balanced and fair copyright conditions” for authors and readers.

They have created the "manifesto" ahead of the elections to the European Parliament, which take place between 22nd-25th May this year.

In a statement, the groups said: “Books convey ideas, feed the mind and make freedom of expression a reality. European citizens need to have access to books in order to understand the European democratic values which are underlying the European process.”

The organisations believe that books are key to European citizens’ participation in economic, social, cultural and political life. “This is especially true given the emergence of the knowledge economy and the increasing demand for literacy skills this has brought about,” the statement said.

They argue that books are the “first cultural sector in economic terms”, attracting a turnover of €22.5bn for publishers in 2012 and producing 535,000 new titles a year.

As well as tackling VAT levied on books and arguing for fair copyright, the manifesto calls for any reforms of the educational systems in Europe to take into account the fundamental role of professionally published materials in guaranteeing quality, fit for purpose content, and the freedom of choice.

It also demands “a level playing field and the strengthening of choice for European readers” in internet retail. “There should be full interoperability enabling consumers to be able to read any e-book on any device and, moreover, to have the freedom to purchase e-books from any supplier – and not be locked into one supplier’s ecosystem,” the campaign bodies said, in a reference to Amazon and its Kindle e-reading device.

There is also need to encourage innovation by supporting intellectual property and copyright, so that authors could “create and be rewarded, publishers can invest, and booksellers can bring the finished work to book stores for the benefit of the reading public,” according to the manifesto.

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