French and German book trades demand e-book action

French and German book trades demand e-book action

French and German publishers and booksellers associations have called for their governments to spearhead a common European Union (EU) book policy to ensure diversity and quality in the growing e-book market.

A common statement issued by the presidents of the Deutscher Kulturrat, Börsenverein des Deutschen Buchhandels e.V., the Syndicat National de l‘Edition and the Syndicat de la Librairie Française during a bilateral forum on the future of books in Europe held in Berlin yesterday (9th September) said that internet groups like Amazon and Google were the biggest challenge facing the book sector.

The domination of these "structurally monopolistic" non-European groups, for whom content and cultural value are secondary to hardware, would have "a major impact on our cultures", the statement added.

Until now publishers and thousands of booksellers have been able to provide a wide choice of titles, but their survival could be threatened without fair competition rules and appropriate legislation.   

The statement said the new EU policy should be based on four “cornerstones”: fixed retail prices, reduced VAT on e-books, an end to corporate tax loopholes and strong authors’ rights.

Fixed prices, now in force in 11 EU countries, should be introduced in the 16 other member states, and the European VAT directive should be adapted to allow a reduced rate on electronic as well as print books. Distortions to competition, particularly divergent national tax rates on multinationals’ headquarters, should be eliminated, and authors should have the same rights to decide whether to publish their works in physical or electronic form.

Google’s and Apple’s European headquarters are in Ireland, and Amazon’s are in Luxembourg.