European booksellers launch geoblocking petition

European booksellers launch geoblocking petition

European booksellers have launched a petition asking the European Council not to “force” bookshops to sell e-books across borders, for fear it will drive them out of the digital book business.

While retailers “fully support” the EC’s Digital Single Market (DSM), they are calling for more time to assess consumer demand for e-books in different countries and to solve technical problems which still hamper cross-border sales before the policy comes into effect.

As part of the DSM, the EC has said that companies and retailers should not apply barriers and impose restrictions to consumers on the basis of their nationality or place of residence, such as blocking access to websites across borders and denying the possibility to complete an order, to purchase goods or to download content when accessing a website from abroad. An example of geoblocking is not being able to access BBC iPlayer outside the UK.

The booksellers’ worry is that small businesses do not have the technology and technical infrastructure to sell e-books outside the country they are based, and therefore instead they will choose to abandon selling e-books altogether.  

The European and International Booksellers Federation (EIBF) has launched an online petition asking the EU not to force bookshops “out of the e-book business” as a result.

Said Fabian Paagman, EIBF Co-President: “These new constraints will entail significant costs for booksellers. Some traders will just stop selling e-books because it is too costly. Others will have to make financial choices to the detriment of their offer and services to customers."

An EIBF spokesperson added: “Every business aims to grow and bookselling is no exception. However, even if the bookselling industry is looking forward to expanding its activity, and offer as many e-books as possible to its customers, wherever they are located, booksellers need more time to assess consumer demand and to solve technical problems, which, for the moment still hamper cross-border sales.”

The EIBF also reiterated its concerns about the inclusion of non-audio-visual copyright protected content, such as e-books, in the scope of the Geo-blocking Regulation, and called on the Council and the Commission to maintain their original stance of non-inclusion, accompanied by a five-year review clause.

“In a nascent market, the profitability of which still has to be demonstrated, forcing traders to offer e-books across borders at this point in time would, in the end, be detrimental to European consumers: many SMEs could be forced to exit the e-book market and far from opening up the single market to consumers, this would be highly detrimental to cultural diversity and consumer choice in the EU, and only beneficial to major non-European international platforms,” the EIBF said.

To sign the petition click here.