BA president warns of trade's future "irrelevance"

<p>Failing to recognise the &quot;enormity&quot; of the Google Settlement, digitisation and Apple&#39;s entrance into the book market could result in &quot;the first steps to irrelevance&quot; for the book trade, the Booksellers Association president has claimed.</p><p>Hammick&#39;s Sharon Murray said that publishers and retailers need to work together in order to safeguard both their businesses. While accepting many publishers cooperate with retailers, she added they need to &quot;underpin not undermine&quot; independent and high street bookshops. </p><p>She said: &quot;Our current sales are funding the changes in your future business models. Don&#39;t lock us out. We want the opportunity to trade in these new formats. Bookshops and booksellers are still your most significant route to market and retailing diversity is important to our future.&quot;</p><p>Murray was speaking this afternoon (17th May) at the 2010 Book Industry Conference, held at the Hotel Russell in Bloomsbury, central London. She said the proposed Google Settlement represents a &quot;significant change&quot; for the book industry. She said: &quot;Google are looking to create a world where they receive protection from being sued, and can only be paid. Or having your cake, eating it and charging everyone for the privilege of the meal. Even as a bookseller, this was not my understanding of copyright.&quot;</p><p>She noted despite the imminent launch of the Apple iBookstore later this month as well as Google&#39;s work in digitising books, there were no representatives from either company at this year&#39;s conference. &quot;What does that tell us? I believe that it tells us that if we fail to grasp the enormity of what is happening then our first steps to irrelevance will be taken for us.&quot;</p><p>Amid numerous digital advances, Murray claimed there was a fear among booksellers that they were being cut out of the digital supply chain. A recent example of this was the proposal in the DCMS Public Library Review that e-books be made available to borrow for free.</p><p>Retailers need to get involved in selling new formats, Murray advised, or run the risk of being &quot;bypassed&quot;. <a href="../news/118626-ba-launches-digital-guide.html" target="_blank">This morning, the BA released a guide</a> to multi-channel bookselling, for those wishing to get involved in selling e-books.</p><p>However, she suggested e-books&#39; current importance may be overstated. She said: &quot;But let&#39;s put this into context. E-books are new and shiny and exciting and important but they aren&#39;t the whole story. They are still not the heart of our current business. If the internet accounts for 18% of sales, that means that more than four books in every five are not bought through this channel even now and digital sales are an even smaller part of our industry.&quot;</p><p>Murray noted that the likes of creating the ISBN and initiatives like World Book Day were examples of &quot;impressive and successful&quot; collaborations between publishers and retailers. She said both the BA and PA needed to lobby the government to fight off VAT on books. She added booksellers needed to back the publishing industry. </p><p>She said: &quot;We should support publishers and authors in keeping their businesses profitable and helping them to reach the widest consumer market. These challenges to intellectual property and rights-holding undermine us all equally.&quot; </p>